Southern Mexico’s Revolutionary Movements, and the Government’s New Plans to Crush Them

16 Dec

The Nor’easter, Issue # 1 – March 2008



On December 16, 2007, in Chiapas, Mexico, Subcomandante Marcos, military leader and one spokesperson of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) delivered a speech entitled: “Feeling Red: The Calendar and the Geography of War.” During the speech Marcos said, “The signs of war on the horizon are clear,” and that he would withdraw from the public eye in preparation for an impending government invasion of Zapatista territory.

Here’s some background: On January 1, 1994, the small and poorly armed EZLN rose from the jungles of Mexico’s incredibly poor and mostly indigenous southern state of Chiapas to fight for autonomy. After a few days of unproductive conflict with the Mexican army, Marcos and his rebel comrades turned to the international media—the blossoming internet especially—to halt the government’s attack and spread their call for “Peace, Justice, and Democracy.” A cease-fire followed and since then, although the Mexican Government has continued what they call “low intensity warfare,” the Zapatistas have been winning the information war: a battle for the hearts and minds of their fellow Mexicans, rebels, and activists worldwide. The Zapatistas now control at least thirty-eight autonomous municipalities in Chiapas, but their influence is surely international.

According to Naomi Klein’s recent article for The Nation entitled “Zapatista Code Red,” “researchers at the Center of Political Analysis and Social and Economic Investigations have been tracking with their maps and charts. On the fifty-six permanent military bases that the Mexican state runs on indigenous land in Chiapas, there has been a marked increase in activity. Weapons and equipment are being dramatically upgraded, new battalions are moving in, including special forces—all signs of escalation.” This, in combination with an increase of the government’s use of paramilitaries to threaten, rape, murder, and maim Zapatistas and their supporters, explains why the rebels sense “war on the horizon.”

The recent government escalation should come as no surprise. Besides maintaining autonomy for twelve years, the Zapatistas launched a campaign in 2006—the Other Campaign—to empower and coordinate radical democratic social movements across Mexico. Instead of supporting any of the presidential candidates in the national election, the Other Campaign spearheaded a grassroots organizational surge against the Mexican Government and its political parties. This coincided with the height of the popular rebellion in Oaxaca, a state next to Chiapas, and along with the contested Presidential election results, the campaign may have bought valuable time for Oaxaca’s movement to blossom that summer.

When the electoral confusion died down by late fall, the government used a brute-faced military strategy to reclaim Oaxaca City in December and crush the movement for Popular Assemblies (or at least to drive the international media out) at a time when Oaxaca’s beautiful example seemed poised to destabilize the entire Mexican governing system. Before the government invasion, the people of thirteen different Mexican states had started Popular Assemblies, and everyone looked to Oaxaca to take the lead. Today, the government still represses Oaxaca’s continuing movement, even using paramilitaries against a youth march on January 15, 2007. But with international attention no longer on Oaxaca, the government has re-set its sights on the Zapatistas.

This is serious, comrades. We must fight with all our hearts and energy to defend every successful example of direct democracy and horizontal society. Since 1994, the Zapatistas have been invaluable to the development of social movements everywhere. The death of their autonomy will be a serious blow to the international struggle for liberation.

So what can you do about it?

The Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement is calling for immediate action in solidarity with the Zapatistas as well as the people of Oaxaca. Please endorse, and more importantly, act (endorse with your feet!) our proposal for a coordinated effort to preempt Mexico’s invasion of autonomous rebel territory and end the police, paramilitary, and “low intensity” violence.

The first step is to inform the Mexican Government that we are aware of their plans and that we are prepared to act. Go to your Mexican Consulate, dress professionally, and ask for a meeting. Tell them your concerns, and give them the letter at the bottom of this article. Now, contacting the consulate is not always the most effective method, but if every consulate in the Northeast gets a visit, it’ll send a clear message. Also, mail or email a copy of the letter to the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Patricia Espinosa: This is a more direct way of letting them know we’re paying attention.

Step two is to prepare a coordinated response in the case of an invasion. Contact every local leftist, anti-authoritarian, grassroots, indigenous, immigrant, and community organization you can think of. Build a network, stay updated, and make concrete plans. Put up flyers and posters about the Zapatistas and Oaxaca to prepare the public community, so that when the war starts, they will know why we’re on the streets.

Step three is to plan and the implement creative direct action that will actually affect the Mexican Government. One idea is a campaign to discourage U.S. tourism to Mexico. You could also draw attention to companies with interests in Mexico. Please share these ideas as you come up with them. If you plan to hold protests or other traditional tactics, please consider your numbers, your message, and your audience to ensure maximum effectiveness.

According to Klein’s article, the Zapatistas feel “their calls for help are being met with a deafening silence.” The Zapatistas, through their dedication not only to their own liberation, but their tireless contribution to the global movements for freedom and equality, have inspired us all. They have reach beyond the borders of their autonomous rebel territory to spread the seeds of a bright future. It is time we return the favor and turn a “deafening silence” into a raging storm of action in defense of our southern comrades in struggle.


Zapatista Code Red!”

By Naomi Klein, The Nation. December 22, 2007.


Violence in Oaxaca:

Urban paramilitaries attack University”

By Simon Sedillo. El Enemigo Comun. January 15, 2008

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