Reasons for the Government Failure to Honor its Commitments


November 24, 1997.

To the National Civil Society
Planet Earth
To whom it may concern:

Lately, the pro-government declarations seeking to create confusion about what is currently happening in Chiapas and about the present situation of the dialogue process between the EZLN and the Federal Government have increased. For that reason I am writing this, perhaps, very long letter to you. The "compa~eros" have asked me to do so in order to try and clarify matters. "Sale y vale."

Allow me to draft for you a fast recount of the 5 minimal conditions that we set forth over a year ago to resume the dialogue with the government, and allow me to tell you about how each one of these conditions is doing:

1.- Carrying out of Table I on "Indigenous Rights and Culture" and Instalation of the Follow up and Verification Commission (Cosever). As you know, the COCOPA presented the EZLN and the government a proposal of constitutional reforms. That took place a year ago, on November 29, 1996. That law initiative (or "Cocopa law", as we call it) was first accepted by Zedillo's government and then it was rejected with the argument that the law proposal was in reality a proposal of the "destruction of the Mexican Nation." You must remember surely the debate that ensued in the media, and how, in said debate, the government's position was defeated when it was demonstrated that the demand for the autonomy of the Indigenous population not only didn't imply the fragmentation of the Mexican State in many "little national states", but the inclusion, with full citizen rights, of the Indian peoples with their own idiosyncrasies. Everyone involved in the debate coincided that the Cocopa's proposal included the main San Andres Accords, and those opposed to their acceptance argued that said accords (and not the Cocopa's proposal) were the ones which promoted, so they claimed, the country's "balkanization." If the San Andres Accords make an attempt against the Nation, why did the government sign them? Was it not, in the best of cases, an irresponsible action on the part of Mr. Zedillo to sign such criminal accords? Well, that was not the case, the government signed the accords, because it had to recognize several things, namely that:

1.- That the autonomy demanded by the Indians is inclusive and not exclusive.

2.- That it is a demand of all the Indian peoples of Mexico, and not only of the Zapatistas (in Table I, the EZLN invited representatives of the most dignified members of the National Indigenous Movement and the best scholars specializing in the Indigenous question in Mexico.)

3.- That this demand is recognized as being just not only in Mexico but around the world.

4.- That the government has no rational argument to be opposed to this demand.

5.-That the EZLN is authentic and legitimate in its demands.

Then, what the government did was sign these accords, yes, but without having the least intention of keeping them. They were betting on your forgetting and lazyness, and on our lack of responsibility and negligence. We patiently waited for what was on paper to turn into deeds. When we saw it was no going to happen, we decided not to continue until the accords were implemented. We rose up in arms because of demans such as the recognition of the rights and culture of the Indigenous populations, are we wrong in not giving up, in not allowing ourselves to be deceived, in remaining firm?

The installation of the commission which was going to be responsible for watching over the implementation of the accords (this commission, included in the law drafted by Congress in March, 1995, was not invented by us) was another of Mr. Zedillos simulations. First he wanted to send, as his representatives, a group of second hand unemployed (politicians), later, before the opposition of the Cocopa, the Conai and the EZLN, he had to make amends and raise the level of his representatives. But when it came time to act, that is to say when it came time for the Cosever (which are the initials of the "Follow Up and Verification Commission") had to accomplish its task and verify that the San Andres accords were met (as those from Table I), then the government withdrew its people and paralysed the peace process.

Everything that has to do with peace (be it the Conai, the Cocopa, the EZLN peaceful initiatives and you) ends up being attacked by the government. Should we believe Zedillo when he speaks of peace and acts attacking peace?

2.- Serious proposal of accords on table II. This was the table on "Democracy and Justice." We did the same thing as for table I, that is to say, rather than sitting only among ourselves and decide what we wanted, we invited many social and political organizations, intellectuals, artists, and not well known men and women citizens, those who disagree with us and also those who are against us. The government representatives got scared because they had no experience talking to intelligent people (they had only spoken to members of Salinas and Zedillo's cabinets, that is to say the same ones.) They didn't utter a word during the discussions and when it came to the implementation of the accords they only repeated one word: "no". So that as a result of this table on accords, we had no accord. The government didn't even make the effort of arguing about its refusal not to reach any accords, what it did was to dialogue with the heads of the political parties and resell to public opinion an old and worn out product (which, by the way, nobody buys any more): The State Reform (then disguised as "definitive" electoral reform.) So we demanded a serious proposal regarding this subject because if we stopped fighting in order to talk, well, we have to talk seriously because we fight seriously. But time goes by and not only there is no serious proposal, but now they want to discuss again the reform of the State but excluding civil society from that discussion.

3.- Military distension in Chiapas. Everybody knows it because it is everyday news in the press, in the North of Chiapas there is a permanent campaign of impune violence. Every day there are deaths, expulsions, people jailed and disappeared. Most of these have to do with us, with the Zapatistas. Those responsible for those deaths, those expulsions, disappearances and imprisonments are sometimes called "Peace and Justice", sometimes "Chinchulines", at other times "Red Mask" or "Mira", and at even other times, "State Security", "Judicial Police" and less often "Federal Army."

But the names are not important because those who act, those who finance, those who train, those who give orders are the same. And behind them there is a power, that of the Mexican government, and one decision: total annihilation of everything suspected of zapatismo. In other words, that here there is a total deterioration and an open war. We demand that it be stopped. One cannot dialogue for peace on the one hand, while one suffers from the effects of war on the other. But it so happens, that as an answer to our demand, not only is there no distension but war increases and extends itself to other parts of Chiapas. Now the bloody "experiment" in the North of the state has moved to the Highlands and the municipality of Chenalho, inhabited by Tzotzil Indians (most of the Zapatistas or Zapatista sympathizers), death shells its daily quota.

To answer those attacks we don't lack weapons, nor combattants nor decision. The conviction that a war between Indians (which is what the government is looking for) would be tantamount to helping those who do not want a true solution, and a patience which is beginning to wear thin, is what keeps our guns silent. Because we believe that "When benevolence and cruelty fight for a Nation, the benevolent rival wins sooner".* And this was not said by Lenin, but by Shakespeare. ("Henry V".)

4.- Liberation of Zapatista prisoners. For the government to be or to look like a Zapatista is a crime. It does not matter that there exists a law prohibiting the persection against the EZLN, the Federal Army and policemen of all sizes and corporations fight among themselves for the capture of Zapatistas as if they were hunting preys. In Veracruz there is still a Zapatista in jail from the group dating back to 1995, and in Chiapas, at the Cerro Hueco prison there are so many Zapatistas, that there too we are in the majority. How are we to dialogue if we are treated like criminals?

5.-A commissioner with decision making capacity, respect, etc. We are not asking that on the government side there sit a nice and cordial person (we doubt that anyone with those characteristics can be found in the government), all we ask is that the person who sits on the government's side have the power of decision, be responsible and behave with seriousness and respect. The couple Bernal-DelValle left their place to Mr. Pedro Joaquin Coldwell. What we know about him is what he has said and it reveals that not only he does not have the capacity to make decisions but that he tries to remedy this lack by usurping the role of the mediation!

And now, besides, the government comes back with its sing-song of "the Zapatistas do not want to dialogue", "the Zapatistas are intransigent." For instance, The legislators of the Cocopa say to be waiting for our answer to the incitations to go back to the dialogue table. Forgetting everything we have just said and putting out a call for the EZLN to return to the dialogue table as if nothing had happened, only reinforces the government's strategy to show us as being "intransigent", a step previous to a military action.

The instalation of the commission which was going to be responsible for watching over the implementation of the accords (this commission, included in the law drafted by Congress in March, 1995, was not invented by us) was another of Mr. Zedillos simulations. First he wanted to send, as his representatives, a group of second hand unemployed (politicians), later, before the opposition of the Cocopa, the Conai and the EZLN, he had to make amends and raise the level of his representatives. But when it came time to act, that is to say when it came time for the Cosever (which are the initials of the "Follow Up and Verification Commission") had to accomplish its task and verify that the San Andres accords were met (as those from Table I), then the government withdrew its people and paralysed the peace process.

Everything that has to do with peace (be it the Conai, the Cocopa, the EZLN peaceful initiatives and you) ends up being attacked by the government. Should we believe Zedillo when he speaks of peace and acts attacking peace?

2.- Serious proposal of accords on table II. This was the table on "Democracy and Justice." We did the same thing as for table I, that is to say, rather than sitting only among ourselves and decide what we wanted, we invited many social and political organizations, intellectuals, artists, and not well known men and women citizens, those who disagree with us and also those who are against us. The government representatives got scared because they had no experience talking to intelligent people (they had only spoken to members of Salinas and Zedillo's cabinets, that is to say the same ones.) They didn't utter a word during the discussuions and when it came to the implementation of the accords they only repeated one word: "no". So that as a result of this table on accords, we had no accord. The government didn't even make the effort of arguing about its refusal not to reach any accords, what it did was to dialogue with the heads of the political parties and resell to public opinion an old and worn out product (which, by the way, nobody buys any more): The State Reform (then disguised as "definitive" electoral reform.) So we demanded a serious proposal regarding this subject because if we stopped fighting in order to talk, well, we have to talk seriously because we fight seriously. But time goes by and not only there is no serious proposal, but now they want to discuss again the reform of the State but excluding civil society from that discussion.

3.- Military distension in Chiapas. Everybody knows it because it is everyday news in the press, in the North of Chiapas there is a permanent campaign of impune violence. Every day there are deaths, expulsions, people jailed and disappeared. Most of these have to do with us, with the Zapatistas. Those responsible for those deaths, those expulsions, disappearances and imprisonments are sometimes called "Peace and Justice", sometimes "Chinchulines", at other times "Red Mask" or "Mira", and at even other times, "State Security", "Judicial Police" and less often "Federal Army."

But the names are not important because those who act, those who finance, those who train, those who give orders are the same. And behind them there is a power, that of the Mexican government, and one decision: total annihilation of everything suspected of zapatismo. In other words, that here there is a total deterioration and an open war. We demand that it be stopped. One cannot dialogue for peace on the one hand, while one suffers from the effects of war on the other. But it so happens, that as an answer to our demand, not only is there no distension but it increases and extends itself to other parts of Chiapas. Now the bloody "experiment" of the North of the state has moved to the Highlands and the municipality of Chenalho, inhabited by Tzotzil Indians (most of them Zapatistas or Zapatista sympathizers), death shells its daily quota.

To answer those attacks we don't lack weapons, nor combattants nor decision. The conviction that a war between Indians (which is what the government is looking for) would be tantamount to helping those who do not want a true solution, and a patience which is beginning to wear thin, is what keeps our guns silent. Because we believe that "When benevolence and cruelty fight for a Nation, the benevolent rival wins sooner".* And this was not said by Lenin, but by Shakespeare. ("Henry V".)

4.- Liberation of Zapatista prisoners. For the government to be or to look like a Zapatista is a crime. It does not matter that there exists a law prohibiting the persection against the EZLN, the Federal Army and policemen of all sizes and corporations fight among themselves for the capture of Zapatistas as if they were hunting preys. In Veracruz there is still a Zapatista in jail from the group dating back to 1995, and in Chiapas, at the Cerro Hueco prison there are so many Zapatistas, that there too we are in the majority. How are we to dialogue if we are treated like criminals?

5.-A commissioner with decision making capacity, respect, etc. We are not asking that on the government side there sit a nice and cordial person (we doubt that anyone with those characteristics can be found in the government), all we ask is that the person who sits on the government's side have the power of decision, be responsible, and behave with seriousness and respect. The couple Bernal-DelValle left their place to Mr. Pedro Joaquin Coldwell. What we know about him is what he has said and it reveals that not only he does not have the capacity to make decisions but that he tries to remedy this lack of decision making capacity by usurping the role of the mediation!

And now, besides, the government comes back with its sing-song of "the Zapatistas do not want to dialogue", "the Zapatistas are intransigent." For instance, The legislators of the Cocopa say to be waiting for our answer to the incitements to go back to the dialogue table. Forgetting everything we have just said and putting out a call for the EZLN to return to the dialogue table as if nothing had happened, only reinforces the government's strategy to make us look as being "intransigent", a step previous to a military action. The Cocopa was born at the request of the Federal Legislative Power, it worked and acquired commitments it must honor. The fact that some of its members left and others came in does nor free the Cocopa from keeping its word, nor does it call for a negociation of its responsibility. Here we cannot "wipe the slate clean" as it were, as the abundant and disorderly declarations to the press made by some legislators seem to suggest. All of these public declarations suffer from amnesia: they forget the unkept word of Mr. Zedillo, they forget the Cocopa's commitment to keep firm in its position not to turn back, they forget our dead, they forget the militarization, they forget there is a war in Chiapas...and they forget Heberto Castillo.

"Don Heberto"(as the "compa~eros" from the CCRI called him) was the one who first confronted Mr. Chuayffet and then Zedillo. The Cocopa legislators may remember him, since they gave abundant details to those who wanted to hear him. Don Heberto Castillo threw in the Cocopa's face the fact that they were now arguing that the San Andres Accords meant the destruction of the Mexican State and that, nevertheless, in February, 1996 they signed them. He threw in their face the fact that they were lying.

But that was then, now Don Heberto is dead and there are new members in the Cocopa. There you have the fact that some of its legislators are declaring that we, the Zapatistas, " tied their hands", and guess what? that we are intransigent. Those who claim that should remember history. In those times of Heberto, the Cocopa went from one place to another, its members visited several times the conflict zone, freed prisoners, achieved military distensions, oxygenated a dialogue the Government was choking, kept firm before the government's pressures, did not intervene in the mediation work, and in its effort to help the peace efforts, offered to disentangle the dialogue and dedicated themselves to solving the EZLN's 5 minimal demands. A lot of work and few declarations to the press. As payment for their work, at that time, the Cocopa received our respect and recognition, and the scorn and humiliation of Zedillo and the Department of the Interior ("Secretaria de Gobernacion").

It is the government which makes fun of the Cocopa and its initiative, it is the government which does not keep its word, it is the government which persecutes and kills us, it is the government which refuses to dialogue with seriousness and responsibility. It is to the government that the Cocopa should complain for their "hands being tied", it is to the government that they should demand that it stops the war and return to the ways of the dialogue.

If the Cocopa is going to honor its commitment and the memory of the departed Heberto Castillo, it should not meet with us. From us they already received a year ago the approval of their document for a law iniciative. If they are going to be consistent, then they must demand an answer from the Federal Executive Power keeping its word pledged during the first San Andres Accords.

But if the Cocopa is not going to comply with its commitment and its role, with what right are they going to come and offer anything to those who consider that keeping one's word is a measure of human quality? Why should we meet?

With historical amnesia and with empty calls for a dialogue one does not achieve peace nor solve its obstacles. Here. Is there any need to repeat it? there is a war. We put up the dead, and the government the press releases...and the murderers. Well I am almost about to take leave. I only wanted to tell you also that, behind that absurd government stuborness not to comply with the San Andres Accords, hides a fundamental problem. What is behind all this is that there are two dialogue models which are coliding against each other.

One, that which the Mexican political system likes, is a dialogue among the elite, they do not take nor will they ever take us or you into account.

The other one, the one which gives true results, is a dialogue among everybody. This second dialogue model is the one we have been trying to build in San Andres Sakamch'en of the Poor.

The other dialogue, the elite one, is closer to a criminal complicity than to democratization and it is the one being practiced by the governing classes.

Isn't it true that we are not talking about the same thing when the government says "dialogue", and you and I say "dialogue"?

The government refuses to comply with the accords because they are the result of a new type of dialogue. To accept them would mean to put a stop to the scheme of the "ticket window" type of dialogue, where one stands in line to ask someting of the government and it decides whether to say yes or no, a dialogue only among the elites, without social participation. To comply with the San Andres Accords would mean for the government that another type of dialogue is possible, one where the answers are constructed by all the participants.

In Table I of San Andres the Indians became exemplary actors and creators. They participated to create their own destiny, and not to ask, receive or barter. The National Indigenous Congress, born of this encounter of thoughts and struggles, represents today a network of hopes and struggles.

The Accords of San Andres on Indigenous Culture and Rights are irrenounceable for the EZLN. They represent the best aspirations of the Indian populations of Mexico, and not only of the Zapatistas. We cannot ignore them or obviate their compliance in the name of a pragmatism which goes against our political ethics.

Our commitment to the Indigenous struggle is not with the government, not even with ourselves, it is with all the Indian peoples of Mexico, with their history, with their struggle, with their dignity.

That is our political duty and we will not accept anything that would imply not to meet it or to barter its compliance.

The success of the San Andres Dialogue will be the success of a participative and all inclusive dialogue model.

That is why the government is betting on its failure and is promoting violence and impunity.

That is why you and us are struggling against violence and impunity, and for the dialogue to be a true dialogue.

That is why we are obstinate that the Indigenous demands be met. That is why we demand that the word given be kept.

Vale.
Health and let the struggle for truth win.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
Insurgent Subcommander Marcos
Mexico, November, 1997

P.S. WHICH REPEATS "ENOUGH!" ("!YA BASTA!").-Next Saturday, November 29, 1997, delegations from the Zapatista support bases of the regions of Altos, Selva, Norte, Sierra, Frontera and Costa will organize a peaceful march in the city of San Cristobal de las Casas. "Against violence and impunity" is one of the slogans of this mobilization and a bridge with the civil society's march in the Federal District from the Angel of Independence to the Zocalo on the same day and at the same time. Dignity and rebeliousness once more unite two Mexicos of Mexico.

P.S. POSTMORTEM. Still in December, 1996 and in San Cristobal, Commanders David, Tacho, Zebedeo and yours truly talked with Heberto Castillo in one of the patios. We were about to leave to return to the mountains and we already knew that Zedillo had asked for time to "think", after going back on his word of acceptance of the Cocopa's iniciative. The other legislators had told us about their encounters with Chuayffet and Zedillo, and they all stressed Don Heberto's courage. So that we asked to talk to him alone, a litlle in order to get to know his version, and a lot to thank him for his position. He met with us, we greeted each other and we told him that we thanked him for the firmness and courage of his position. He told us that he wasn't with us but with justice, and that what we were demanding was just and that is why he supported it. "As for the rest, what can I say, I have very little time left, and I have nothing to loose", he told us as he bid us good bye. Did he already know that he was dying? I don't know, but I do know that he kept firm and dignified during those last days. Why do I tell you this? Well, a little to remember him and a lot to keep the pending tribute to a man who was consistent, even as a politician.


*Translator's note: I don't have Shakespeare's "Henry V" at hand, so you'll have to look for the original quote.   Tranlation: Monique J. Lemaitre

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