June 29th, 2005

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Something big is happening in Chiapas.

EDIT: Links to Enlgish translations of the complete three-part Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona are now available.

On January 1st 1994, the day that NAFTA went into effect, a group of Indigenous Mayan rebels in Chiapas, Mexico, who had been secretly training in the Jungles of the Lacondon rain forest for over a decade, rose up and declared much of the territory of Chiapas to be under the autonomous control of the indigenous people. These people called themselves the Zapatistas, named after Emiliano Zapata who fought in the Mexican revolution of 1910 and helped establish indigenous common land rights in the Mexican Constitution. Those land rights would become illegal barriers to trade under NAFTA, effectively stealing the homes of tens of thousands of Indigenous in this remote region. Since their uprising in 1994 the Zapatistas have faced a decade long "Low Intensity War" waged upon them by the Mexican government (both under the old corrupt PRI and the neo-liberal reformers of the PAN).

The Zapatista movement in Chiapas has long been an inspiration for radical activists worldwide. It is seen as an anarchist success story. The army (headed by a "subcommander") is controled by direct consultation of the people of the autonomous villages of Chiapas (known as "commanders"). It is a radically democratic army of self-defense. The movement as a whole has provided AMAZING social services (medical, educational, communications infrastructure, etc) to the people of Chiapas and the impact on the quality of life there has been dramatic. The Zapatistas eagerness to do outreach to other social movements throughout the world has been one of the major driving forces behind the formation of the highly organized but completely decentralized "movement of movements" that has grown tremendously in the last decade. The roots of the worldwide anti-corporate globalization movement can in large part be tied directly back not just to the convergence of social movments in Seattle in 1999 but to the Zapatista uprising in 1994 (do you remember how in 1992 the only people making a splash by arguing against NAFTA was a crazy billionaire running for president?).

Last week the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) released a dramatic General Red Alert which announced that all Zapatistas serving in both Good Government and Military roles would be moving out of established positions and into shelter/hiding. The Red Alert also released all allies of the Zapatistas from further obligation to, association with, or responsibility for future actions of the EZLN. The Red Alert invited those allies to leave or to stay freely but required that non-Zapatista allied minor children leave the rebel territories.

A day later the General Command of the EZLN released a communique stating that the EZLN had been reoganized so that it could withstand an attack which wiped out its entire public general leadership. They also released a statement on the motives for the Red Alert in which it was stated that a general consulta of all the indigenous peoples of Chiapas had been called and that they would be considering taking their struggle in a fundamentally new direction. The statement clarified that they would be willing to risk their lives to take this new direction but that launching an offensive war was NOT under consideration.

A day later Subcomandante Marcos released a letter thanking all the allies of the Zapatista movement throughout the world and vaguely suggesting that as some Zapatistas would be leaving. He also suggested that upon liberation of the Zapatista people they would look forward to participating in World Cup soccer. (EDIT: The letter doesn't actually mention World Cup, that was my own error in translating the translation. See below).

Two days ago, the EZLN released the results of the consulta which had taken place among tens of thousands of Zapatistas in meetings and assemblies and support bases throughout the rebel territories. It revealed that 98% of those consulted agreed on the "new step".

Today, the Sixth Delcaration (link to Chiapas Indymedia because no English translation is yet available from the official EZLN site) released by the EZLN since 1994 was released. It gives a history of the movement to the present, noting both successes and failures, and begins to outline the plans for the "new step". I really can't figure out from the text of the Declaration if they have revealed what the "new step" is yet. But something big is definitely happening in Chiapas.

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