To National and International Civil Society
To Whom it May Concern:
There has been an increase of late in pro-government statements which seek to create confusion concerning what is currently happening in Chiapas, and concerning the current situation of the dialogue process between the EZLN and the federal government. For this reason I am writing you this perhaps over-long letter. The companeros asked me to do so in order to try to clarify things. Sale and vale.
First, allow me to give you a quick run-down of the 5 minimal conditions which we presented more than a year ago in order to renew the dialogue with the government, and I will tell you the status of each of them:
As you know, the Cocopa presented the EZLN and the government with a proposal for constitutional reforms. This was a year ago, on November 29, 1996. This proposed legislation (or "Cocopa law," as we call it) was first accepted by the Zedillo government, and later rejected, with the argument that the proposed legislation was, in reality, a proposal for the "destruction of the Mexican Nation." You certainly remember the debate in the media and how, in that debate, the government position was defeated with the demonstration that the indigenous' demand for autonomy would not only not lead to the fragmentation of the Mexican State into many "little nation states," but rather to the inclusion, with full rights of citizenship, of the Indian peoples with their own particular nature. Everyone in the debate agreed that the Cocopa proposal captured the principals of the San Andres Accords, and those who were opposed to their acceptance argued that those accords (and not the Cocopa proposal) were those which promoted the "balkanization" of the country. If the San Andres Accords were an attack against the Nation, why did the government sign them? Was it not, in the best of cases, irresponsible for Zedillo to sign such criminal accords? But it was not like that, the government signed the accords because it had to recognize various issues, which were:
1. - That the autonomy demanded by the indigenous is inclusive and not exclusive.
2. - That it is a demand of all the Indian peoples of Mexico, and not just the zapatistas (the EZLN had invited to Table 1 the most honourable of the national indigenous movement and those best versed on the indigenous question in Mexico).
3. - That this demand is recognized as just in Mexico and in the world.
4. - That the govenrment has no rational argument with which to oppose this demand.
5. - That the EZLN is authentic and legitimate in its demands.
Then, what the government did was to sign these accords, yes, but without having the slightest intention of complying with them. They were counting on your forgetting and weariness, and on our apathy and irresponsibility. We waited patiently for the paper to be converted into deeds. When we saw that it was not going to happen, we decided not to continue on until they were carried out. It was for demands such as these that we rose up in arms: are we doing wrong by not giving in, in not letting ourselves be deceived, in remaining firm?
The formation of the commission which was to be in charge of watching over the fulfilment of these accords (this commission is established in the law passed by the Congress of the Union in March, 1995: we did not make it up) was another of Zedillo's shams. First he wanted to send, as his representatives, a group of unemployed second rate players; later, in the face of opposition from the Cocopa, the Conai and the EZLN, he had to change and raise the level of his representation. But, at the moment of acting, or at the moment the Cosever (which is the acronym for "Commission of Monitoring and Verificaiton") had to carry out their work and to verify that the accords would be carried out (such as those of Table 1), the government then withdrew their people and thus paralyzed this body of peace.
Everything which has to do with peace (whether the Conai, whether the Cocopa, whether the peaceful initiatives by the EZLN or by you) ends up being attacked by the government. Should we believe Zedillo when he speaks of peace and acts by attacking the peace?
This was the table on "Democracy and Justice." We did the same as we had in Table I, that is, instead of just sitting down ourselves and proposing what we wanted, we invited many social and political organizations, intellectuals, artists, unsung citizens, those who were not in agreement with us, and also those who were against us. The government representatives were frightened, because they had no experience in speaking with intelligent people (they had only spoken with members of Salinas' and Zedillo's cabinents, which is the same thing). They did not speak one word during the discussions, and, at the moment of the accords, they only repeated one: "no." And so, we reached no accords as a consequence of this table. The government did not even bother to argue their refusal to agree to anything, what they did was to dialogue with the upper echelons of the political parties and to re-sell an old and worn out product (which certainly no one is buying now) to public opinion: State reform (then dressed up as "definitive" electoral reform). And so we demand a serious proposal on this issue, because, if we stopped fighting in order to talk, then we have to talk with seriousness, because we fight with seriousness. But time passes, and not only is there no serious proposal, now they want to discuss State reform once again, excluding civil society.
Everyone knows, because it is daily news in the press, that in the north of Chiapas there is a permanent campaign of unfettered violence. Every day there are deaths, dislocations, jailings, disappeared. The majority of these have to do with us, with the zapatistas. Those reponsible for these deaths, dislocations, disappearances and jailings are sometimes called "Peace and Justice," sometimes "Chinchulines," other times "Red Mask" or "Mira," other ones are "State Public Security," others "Judicial Police," a little less, "Federal Army."
But the names are of the least importance, because those who act, those who finance, those who train, those who order, are the same. And behind them there is a power, that of the Mexican government, and a decision: the total annihilation of everyone who is suspected of zapatismo. In sum, here there is total deterioration and open war. We demand that it be stopped, one cannot have a dialogue of peace on the one hand, while war is suffered on the other. But what has happened is, as a response to our demand, not only is there no detente, but rather it is extended to other regions in Chiapas. Now the bloody "experiment" in the northern part of the state is moved to Los Altos and the municipality of Chenalho, inhabited by indigenous tzotiles (zapatistas or zapatista sympathizers, primarily).
In response to these attacks we lack neither arms, nor combatants, nor decision. The certainty that a war between the indigenous (which is what the government is looking for) would help those who do not want a true solution, and a patience which is beginning to run out, is what has kept our weapons silenced. Because we believe that "when kindness and cruelty fight for a Nation, the kind opponent will win most quickly." And this was not said by Lenin, but rather by Shakespeare ("Richard V").
For the government it is a crime to be, or to appear to be, a zapatista. It matters little that there is a law which prohibits the persecution of the EZLN, with the Federal Army and police of all sizes and groups fighting over the zapatistas as if they were hunting prey. In Veracruz there is still a presumed zapatista prisoner, one of those from February 1995, and in Chiapas, the Cerro Hueco jail has so many that we are in the majority there as well. How are we going to dialogue if they treat us as criminals?
We do not ask that someone pleasant or nice sit on the government side (we doubt that there is anyone in the government with those qualities), we only ask that the person who sits on that side does have the power to make decisions, is responsible and conducts himself with seriousness and respectfulness. The Bernal-Del Valle pair left their place to Pedro Joaquin Coldwell. What we know about this last one is what he has said, and it reveals that, not only does he not have decision-making powers, but also that he is trying to make up for that by usurping the role of mediation!
And now, in addition, the government returns to its same old "the zapatistas do not want to dialogue", "the zapatistas are intransigent". For example, the Cocopa legislators are said to be waiting for our response to their invitations to renew dialogue. Forgetting everything we explained above and calling on the EZLN to renew dialogue as if nothing had happened, does nothing but reinforce the government strategy of presenting us as "intransigent", a step prior to a military action.
The Cocopa was created as a body of the Federal Legislative branch, it worked and acquired commitments which it should honor. The fact that some of their members have left, and others have arrived, does not absolve the Cocopa from carrying out their word, nor subject their responsibilities to negotiation. There can be no "making a fresh start" of this, as some of the legislators' plentiful and disorganized statements to the press might suggest.
All these public statements suffer from amnesia: they forget Zedillo's unkept word, they forget the Cocopa's commitment to remain firm in their position and to not take a step backwards, they forget our dead, they forget the militarization, they forget there is a war in Chiapas...and they forget Herberto Castillo.
"Don Herberto" (as his companeros in the CCRI called him) was the one who confronted, first, Chuayffet, and, later, Zedillo. The Cocopa legislators will remember him, indeed, they will give a myriad of details to whomever wants to hear them. Don Herberto Castillo also reproached those who are now arguing that the San Andres Accords signify the destruction of the Mexican State, and which, nonetheless, they signed in February 1996. He reproached their lies.
But that was before, now Don Herberto is dead, and there are new members in the Cocopa. Now you have some of its legislators walking around declaring that we zapatistas "are tying their hands" and - did you guess? - that we are intransigent. Those who are saying that should remember history. In those days of Herberto, the Cocopa went from one side to the other, they visited the conflict zone several times, they freed prisoners, they stayed firm in the face of government pressure, they did not intervene in the mediation work and, in their commitment to co-advising peace, they offered to untangle the dialogue and to try to have the EZLN's 5 minimum demands met. A lot of work and few press statements. In payment for their efforts, the Cocopa earned our respect and recognition in those days, and contempt and humiliation from Zedillo and the Secretary of Government.
It is the government who is making a joke of the Cocopa and their proposal, it is the govenrment who is not keeping their word, it is the government who is persecuting us and killing us, it is the government who is refusing to dialogue with seriousness and responsibility. It is the government whom they must accuse of "tying their hands", it is they of whom they must demand that the war which they are making against us be stopped, and the path of dialogue be retaken.
If the Cocopa is going to honor their commitment, and "the memory of the deceased Herberto Castillo", it is not with us whom they must meet. They have already received from us, a year ago, approval of their document on proposed legislation. If they are going to be consistent, then it is up to them to demand a response from the Federal Executive which honors their word, given in the first San Andres Accords.
But if the Cocopa is not going to carry out their commitment and their role - how are they going to come and offer anything to those who believe that carrying out one's word is the measure of human quality? For what are we going to meet?
Peace shall not be reached, nor obstacles resolved, with historical amnesia and empty calls to dialogue. Here - is it necessary to repeat it? - there is a war. We have the dead, and the govenrment has their press statements...and the assassinations. There, I am almost ready to say goodbye. I only also wanted to tell you that, behind that absurd stubborness of the government in not carrying out the San Andres Accords, a fundamental problem is hiding. What it is, deep down, is that there are two models of dialogue which are at odds.
The one, which the Mexican political system likes, is a dialogue between elites, they do not, nor will they, take either you or us into consideration.
The other, the one which gives real results, is a dialogue among everyone. This second model of dialogue is what we tried to build at San Andres Sakamch'en de los Pobres.
The other dialogue, that of those of above, is closer to criminal conspiracy than it is to democratization, and it is the one practiced in the governing classes.
It is true that we are not talking about the same thing when the government says "dialogue," and when you and we say "dialogue."
The government refuses to carry out the accords because they are the result of a new model of dialogue. To accept them would be the end of the dialogue scheme of the "ticket office," where one asks the government for something and it decides yes or no, a dialogue between elites, without social participation. Carrying out the San Andres Accords would mean the government's recognizing that another type of dialogue is possible, one in which the answers are constructed by all the participants.
In Table 1 at San Andres, the indigenous became actors and exemplary creators. They participated in building their own destiny, and not in asking, receiving, or bargaining. The National Indigenous Congress, born out of this meeting of thoughts and struggles, today represents a network of hopes and struggles.
The San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture are inalienable for the EZLN. They represent the best aspirations of the Indian peoples of Mexico, and not just of the zapatistas. We cannot pass them on up, or avoid their being carried out in the name of a pragmatism that goes against our political ethic.
Our commitment in the indigenous struggle is not to the government, nor even to ourselves, it is to all the indigenous peoples of Mexico, to their history, to their struggle and to their dignity.
This is our political duty, and we will accept nothing which implies its not being carried out or its carrying out being watered down.
The outcome of the San Andres Dialogue will be the outcome of a model of participatory and inclusive dialogue.
That is why the government is counting on its defeat and promoting violence and impunity.
That is why you and we are struggling against violence and impunity, and why the dialogue will be true.
That is why we are determined that the indigenous demands be carried out. That is why we demand that the word be kept.
Vale. Salud and may the struggle for the truth win.
>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
|Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, November of 1997
P.S. AN ENCORE FOR "YA BASTA!". - Next Saturday, November 29, 1997, delegations of zapatista support bases from the regions of Los Altos, La Selva, the North, Sierra, Frontera and the Coast, will carry out a peaceful march in the city of San Cristobal de las Casas. "Against violence and impunity" is one of this mobilization's banners, and a bridge with the march which civil society in the Federal District will hold from the Angel of Independence in the Zocalo at the same day and time. Dignity and rebellion once more join two Mexicos of Mexico.
P.S. POST MORTEM. - As late as December of 1996, Comandantes David, Tacho, Zebedeo and I were talking with Herberto Castillo in one of the patios. We were just about to leave to return to the mountains, and we already knew that Zedillo had asked for time in order to "think", prior to going back on his acceptance of the Cocopa proposal. The other legislators had recounted the histories of the meetings with Chuayffet and Zedillo to us, and all of them emphasized Don Herberto's courage. Ans so we asked to speak with him alone, a bit in order to learn his version, and even more in order to thank him for his posiiton. He met with us, greeted us, and we told him that we appreciated the firmness and courage of his position. He responded that he was not with us, but rather with justice, and what we were demanding was just, and that was why he was supporting it. "As to the other, what can I say, there is very little time left to me, and I have nothing to lose," he said to us when we were saying goodbye. Did he know then that he was dying? I do not know, but I do know that he remained firm and honorable in those, his last days. Why am I relating this? Well, a bit in order to remember it, and even more in order to pay the yet ungiven homage to a man who was consistent, even as a politician.
Originally Published in Spanish by the EZLN ______________________ Translated by irlandesa