and Liberty !
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
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
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
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.
was born in
1879 in Morelos State
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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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