Because there is so much geographical and cultural difference between us and the reality of the Zapatistas, there are times when it is difficult to understand their analysis and rationale. For this reason alone, it is necessary and useful for us to visit the area, and build the kind of relationships which will allow us to interpret correctly the political direction which they are taking.
The Mexican people have stated clearly that they do not want a war, and have organized successfully to avoid it. For this reason the Zapatistas seek a political solution, because in order to retain the trust of the people of Mexico they must obey their direction. Recently the Zapatistas took two very clear and public actions;
1. The Centers of Resistance
These are Zapatista villages, typical of the community base which protected and helped the EZLN grow during ten years of clandestine development. These centers, named the "new Aguascalientes" have been designated in order to respond to the need for a closer more open relationship with civil society on a national and international level. Hopefully, economic and social projects can be developed from their like production cooperatives, schools, cultural activities, etc. They also serve to provide a focal point for humanitarian solidarity efforts who wish to take money, food or supplies directly to those civilians affected by the war.
The inauguration of these centers was met with suspicion and accusations on behalf of the government. In its angry response to the centers, the government reveals its disinterest in a political solution--if civilians are not free to associate with other civilians and peacefully resolve their problems, then what alternative do they have? If the government continues to impose its policy of isolation and harassment, how can these communities work towards peace?
For these reasons, it is important to support the centers of resistance, because they enable a political process, a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and thwart the government's militarization. It is important to support these centers of resistance because it also thwarts the government's policy of isolation, their recent use of Mexican immigration to harass international visitors is concrete proof that they are so weakened politically only force is available to them in order to continue to marginalize the EZLN.
2. The Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle
This new proposal comes on the heels of the results of the National Plebiscite wherein the EZLN asked specifically if it should become an independent peaceful political force. This proposal is once again intended to gather up peaceful civilian efforts to build a transitional government. The EZLN does not believe that the existing system must first be destroyed and then a new one constructed.
The EZLN believes that the organizational process of a transitional government should begin now. And so the Zapatista Front of National Liberation, which will organize local, regional, and national committees of dialogue which will develop proposals and plans of action for this transitional government will be its civic arm. Once again, the EZLN takes the government at its word, and it remains to be seen what kind of harassment and repression will be meted out to those who become members of the Front.
If the government is serious about a political solution, the FZLN will provide a transition point for members of the EZLN, which has a different set of operating principles from the CND and the MLN. If the government only wants war, the EZLN will continue to be their military option. The FZLN provides a way for civilians, who agree with Zapatista principles, to work peacefully.
The Front is an organizing mechanism, public, pluralistic, prohibited from any possibility of becoming an official political party, designed to be a pressure point, and specifically built from the thought and practice of the EZLN. The Front must keep a political space open, and make the public work of the EZLN something which can engage the ordinary people of Mexico.
These two developments are historic. They represent an advancement in the political program of the EZLN, which can only be brought to fruition IF AND WHEN A WAR IS AVOIDED. They represent the implementation of their proposal to a transitional process to democracy. These developments have been confusing to some, and there are those who believe the EZLN has become entrapped in the government's negotiation process. It is clear to us from both private and public meetings, which the press has deliberately played down, that this is not the case. The EZLN is struggling to find a way to keep a political space open while at the same time, maintaining their military character in response to continued government deception.
Subcomandante Marcos has stated clearly and specifically that the government is preparing a "war of extermination", using the peace talks to buy time to prepare a genocidal war intended to wipe out any remnant of resistance to the government line. Therefore we cannot interpret the EZLN's program as concessions to a negotiations process, but as political challenges to an imminent war. We must continue to prepare for the war, to prepare the civilian resistance to that war, and the rationale for peace.
It is for these reasons that we think it is important to begin a Campaign for a Pledge of Resistance. In view of this imminent war, we think it is irresponsible to do anything else but attempt to build a large enough base to provide a pressure point in favor of peace and against a genocidal war. The EZLN has already inaugurated the national possibilities for a transitional government. It is our responsibility, as that international civic movement, to secure peace.
CAMPAIGN FOR A PLEDGE OF RESISTANCE
The Campaign for Pledges of Resistance includes 2 basic strategies:
SUPPORT FOR CENTERS OF RESISTANCE-
Given that the EZLN has now officially inaugurated four Centers of Resistance we recommend that each committee commit time once given to other humanitarian aid or solidarity efforts to support these Centers and take delegations to visit as well as recruit humanitarian aid.
Reports of ongoing harassment of international supporters continue to emerge, and Mexican immigration is establishing migration checkpoints at the entry to each of the communities--Oventic, La Garrucha, La Realidad, and Morelia. Therefore we think it is important to develop a campaign to support these centers, and perhaps recruit specific kinds of humanitarian aid to be taken there.
The existence of the centers gives us a rationale for continuing to highlight the need for humanitarian aid. There is an excellent film about Oventic available through NCDM's National Office which can be used to explain the centers, and to illustrate the amount of militarization in the area.
PREPARATION OF EMERGENCY PLAN- PLEDGES OF RESISTANCE
Because the Mexican government continues to prepare itself for a military attack that may occur at any moment, it is important to make a long-term proposal, and a short-term one, and work hard this year to accomplish them.
We suggest that each committee recruit a minimal of 1,000 people to sign a Pledge of Resistance. The Pledge consists of the following:
"I am aware that the Mexican government is preparing a military attack on an area with a large and defenseless civilian population. Given this situation I pledge to participate in an emergency response by doing the following:
-Pledge $25 to support an emergency response plan
-Participate in whatever action the local committee may have designed to respond to this possibility
-Participate in whatever national action may be deemed necessary by the national coordinating committee."
It may take us all year to acquire 1,000 pledges but it will be a year well-spent. These 1,000 people should minimally receive regular information from the local committee, but should not be worn out by constant activities. The local group should be responsible for keeping the contact list current, and should organize a phone tree capable of mobilizing this number should it be necessary.
National Center for Democracy, Liberty and Justice 601 N. Cotton Street, #A10 El Paso, Texas 79902 (915) 532-8382 phone/fax <firstname.lastname@example.org>