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The Zapatista movement
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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Land and Liberty !

What is the Zapatista movement ?
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (in Spanish : Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) is a revolutionary group established in Chiapas, one of the poorest states in Mexico. EZLN claim to represent the rights of the Indigenous people whose diverse ethnic groups represent 40 % of the population of Chiapas. It is also an anti-globalization symbol. The group was named after Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. The Zapatistas consider themselves as Zapata’s heirs as well as the heirs of 500 years of Indigenous resistance to imperialism.

Brief historical report

On January 1st, 1994, when the agreement NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) came into force, the EZLN attacked San Cristóbal, 3rd city in Chiapas as well as a dozen other cities. After a few hours fighting, they took over the city hall defended by a few policemen incapable of a withholding the rebel forces. These rebels silently prepared the first uprising of the modern times in Mexico. The disturbing revolt on the Indians of Chiapas had a double goal : require fraud-free elections to end the absolute domination of the PRI (Institutional Revolution Party) founded in 1929 and protest against the NAFTA signed by the USA, Canada and Mexico because they feared to bear the brunt of it.

The group “the Zapatistas” was named after their model Emiliano Zapata, « the hero of the peasants » killed in 1919. Zapata is still the symbol of the peasant fight against poverty and for an equitable repartition of the land.
E.Zapata was born in 1879 in Morelos State in a peasant family. He has been confronted to the poverty of the Mexican peasants since his childhood. This poverty was generated by an agrarian system controlled by landowners. The revolutionary movement ELZN draws its inspiration from his work (the Z in the acronym means Zapatista).

The Other Compaign is a political initiative that promotes the EZLN in order to coordinate the people's struggles throughout the entire country. This organizational proposal began on January 1st of 2006 with the tour of Sub Commander Marcos appointed as Delegate Zero to promote the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona, a document that raises its political proposal at a national level.
The tour was suspended on May 3rd of 2006 due to the repression of the town of Anteco, which is part of this movement, and was resumed later.
At present, the Intercontinental Reunion of the Indian Towns of America in the state of Sonora in the month of October is being prepared. In the time that this movement has lasted, it has been a victim of many of its members being in prison or facing legal problems, Human Rights groups such as Amnesty International and the International Civil Commission of the Human Rights.
The Other Campaign has an organizational proposal at an international level named Zezta Internacional.

Land and Liberty of E.ZapataThe repartition of the land is a theme that often recurs in the declarations of the Indians of Chiapas. They condemn the landowners who resort to front men to exceed the authorized limits.

Left picture : Land and Liberty of E.Zapata

The Mexican army finally restores order but 150 people die, most of them Zapatistas. After twelve days of fight, President Carlos Salinas proposed a truce and open the negotiations on two fundamental themes : The politic and economic rights. These negotiations came to the agreements of San Andrés signed in 1996 between the Zapatistas and the government. The agreements gave rights to the Indigenous but they were never ratified by the PRI, the only party in power. The consequences were more fights in 1997 and 1998.

The mystery about the identity of enigmatic «Subcomandante Marcos » (former University Teacher) contributes to feed the more diverse rumors. This rebel never took off his balaclava while occupying San Cristóbal. This « robin of woods » speaks in the name of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). His true identity was revealed only in 1995 (he is the only one who is not indigenous among the Zapatistas).

The rebels decided not to use military forces but communication tools such as Internet and the media to draw the international attention on the sad fate of the Indian peasants : . You can also find interesting information on this site in English :
This conflict didn’t arise overnight. It was the result of a huge and complex process of organization in view of an unfair historical situation. We can identify some factors leading to the creation of the EZLN :

The conflict is based on the paradox of a rich state with the poorest people in the country. The state generates 35% of electrical energy but 34% of the houses don’t have electricity. This zone is rich in gas and natural and farm resources but 60% of the population survive with barely minimum wages. 60% of school age children don’t go to school and the rate of analphabetism reaches 30%. Only 57% have drinking water. These numbers date from 1994 but more recent statistics would show the same tendencies.

This is a situation of high racial discrimination even if the indigenous population represents 30% of the whole population and almost the population of the zone « of conflict ».

The signature of agreement ALENA.

The reform of article 27 of the Constitution of 1992 : It weakened the « ejidal » system, fundamental structure of the Indigenous community organization, by making easier the commercialization of lands.

March of Subcommandante Marcos with his troops Hope came back with President V. FOX (PAN). From his assumption of duties, Fox asked the Senate to examine a project of law founded on the agreements of San Andrés. The Zapatistas imposed three conditions to resume the negotiations : withdrawing the army forces from one part of Chiapas, the liberation of the Zapatistas in jail and the approval of the project of law by the Congress. Marcos and his Zapatista movement obtained only partial satisfaction. So they started a huge march to Mexico City (3000 km or 1863 mi) in February 2001. Marcos made a speech in front of the representatives of the People. Unfortunately, the Zapatistas considered unacceptable the modifications to the Agreements of San Andrés brought by the law. They decide to terminate the negotiations and start resistance.

     Right picture : March of Subcommandante Marcos with his troops
     (site : www.ezlnaldf.org)

Since September 2003, there is a less aggressive and more pragmatic strategy. The Zapatistas know this «the power has never been listening to them for 500 years. Time plays in their favor». President V. Fox never stops reminding that the Indian problem was one of his preoccupations but the problem remained unsolved when he left the power.

Chiapas is a very rich state in natural resources (gas and biodiversity in the Selva Lacandona). They produce a huge part of national electricity with one of the most important hydrographical systems in Mexico. However, the population of this region is one of the poorest ones in Mexico. The autonomy wished by the EZLN includes the control of these resources by the local population.

In July 2007, a second meeting was held between the Zapatistas and the people from all over the world (el secundo encuentro de los pueblos zapatistas con los pueblos del mundo). For one week, more than 2000 sympathizers come from every continent, attend conferences and meet the Zapatistas in their self-managed communities.

What is the SIPAZ ?

The SIPAZ is an international program of observation created in 1995 to ensure the follow-up of the conflict in Chiapas after the uprising of 1994. It encourages the search for peaceful solutions and the construction of a culture of peace, dialog and tolerance between the political actors in Chiapas, and more recently in other regions (Oaxaca and Guerrero States). Log on to their website in different languages including English : .

The website of the Human Rights Center, created by Lord Samuel Ruiz for the defense of the rights of the Indians in Chiapas is www.frayba.org.mx. You can also log onto the website of the Indigenous National Congress : www.laneta.apc.org/cni - These websites are only in Spanish.


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