Bellinghausen interviews Marcos about consulta

Hermann Bellinghausen, correspondent
I, Selva Lacandona, Chiapas
March 10

Subcomandante Marcos speaks to all of this.

A few hours before the zapatista delegates will be leaving to carry out the National Consulta, Marcos believes that the mobilization "is already a success," because of its extent and the number of participants all over the Republic.

He reflects on Rector Barnes' "idiocy" in imposing quotas on the UNAM and the serious threats hanging over national sovereignty with the privatization of the electricity sector. The military chief states that the zapatistas are leaving to meet with the people, to listen and to make themselves heard. The candidacies of the presidential aspirants seem like "virtual reality" to him, in the face of the country's real problems, and the presidential words of ' yes he will-no he won't' participate in the succession seem "absurd" to him.

But, before anything else, he insists on the new participation by civil society, in the signs that a better country is possible, one that is more tolerant, inclusive, where violent solutions have no chance, because civil society has enough influence to impose peace. That it, in short, is the new protagonist.

In a small clearing in the selva, under the branches of tall growth, in the hours just before dusk, the rebel leader says that, in order to approach the issue of the National Consulta convened by the EZLN, it's necessary to begin at the beginning: with the national situation. The one leads to the other.

"There is a war here, an armed conflict between two armies, the government's and the EZLN's; a suspended dialogue, which leaves all the spaces open for violent actions. In response to the circumstance of two confronting forces, on the one side is the federal government's strategy of making war without saying that it is a war and stating that it wants dialogue. On the other side is the EZLN's strategy, which is a response to January 12, 1994, when the people asked us to stop and we insisted on the path of dialogue."

"When the other party doesn't want to dialogue, or it feigns dialogue and in reality fights, we are appealing to all the people who do not belong to either of the parties, who aren't just zapatistas or government supporters, and who have said: 'We don't want this conflict to be resolved through violence, we want dialogue'."

His voice is calm, and, as the conversation progresses, it becomes more forceful. Subcomandante Marcos extends his hands in front of him, as if trying to shape what he's saying:

"Since then we have insisted on dialogue initiatives which build an interlocutor. If the government doesn't want to sit on the other side of the table, or if it sits down to deceive, and meanwhile it's protecting a military offensive like they're carrying out now with the paramilitaries, then we're going to invite other people to sit down on the other side. Not the old talk about whether the protagonist is Manuel Camacho, or Samuel Ruiz Garcia, or Marcos, or the one who stands in for the other one, but rather that that mass of civil society should take form and be the one to decide, that it finally becomes the weight that tilts the balance of the process towards the definitive peace."

Because of this, according to Marcos, the zapatistas are setting their National Consulta initiative "as one of peace," and he elaborates: "Our proposal for resolving the conflict is not a military one, it's a political action. Not a monologue, but rather dialogue. And it's not an action from the top: 'we're going to arrange this among the leaders.' It's an action that involves many sectors of society, and at many levels."

"But the political proposal of zapatismo is parallel with that initiative, which can be summed up in what seems like a slogan, but which points towards a political ethic: govern obeying. We say that the people from below, the governed, should have the primary role in all political processes or governmental activity. We are not directing ourselves to those who write the laws, or to those who say what has to be done, in this case the government. The one who should be doing that, and here is the basis of democracy, is the people, civil society, or however each one, according to their political leanings, wants to say the same thing. It is the people who should be given voice and the weight of opinion."

"One method of gauging that weight of opinion is through a consultation, a vote," the spokesperson for the EZLN points out." It's the case with the electoral processes, that's how it's measured. The opinion is quantified, the people's preferences."

For Subcomandante Marcos, "taking the conflict out of Chiapas, away from the two protagonists, who may or may not want a solution, who may or may not be sincere, would help to relieve the conflict in an extraordinary manner. We say we are sincere, and the government is the hypocrite, they say the opposite. Let's take the dispute out of there, then, and take it to society. Let it be they who decide if they want war or peace, and what kind of peace. We're not suggesting that the Consulta will end the conflict, but rather that the demands presented by this conflict should be resolved, which even the government recognizes."

"We're going to take the conflict out of confrontation and monologue, the give and take between the parties, and we're going to take it to society. But that opinion should have influence. That's what inspires the Consulta then."

A Large Mobilization

"In order for this to be possible, we conceived the Consulta as a mobilization, a movement, something that moves. That's how we thought of the stages to propose," Subcomandante Marcos states, and he lists them:

"First we announced that there would be a consulta, and what the consulta would be about. We called on the people to mobilize themselves for that. The next stage is that the zapatistas could meet with and dialogue directly with the people. It was no longer going to be through intermediaries or communiques. No longer through the presss, or whether the news items say bad or good, close to or removed from what was really happening. The people are going to learn directly from the zapatistas, just as they are. It's the way of knowing what they are thinking, and at the same time the zapatistas will know what the people are thinking regarding their problems."

A certain seriousness, which dissipates as the conversation progresses, and perhaps a certain wearines in the eyes, but not in the voice, do not keep a moderate optimism from emerging in Marcos:

"In this sense, the Consulta is already a success. We achieved what we wanted, and not for us. How much decision-making power can we have from the Selva Lacandona? We achieved it because civil society has memory, it knows what these five years have meant in the country's history, and it knows very well what led to the EZLN's appearance."

According to Marcos, more than 20,000 brigade members throughout the country have already been mobilized in the first stage. And he puts forward a preliminary assessment: "Up to now, the results have been a measure that civil society and the public have remained sensitive to the conflict in Chiapas, to the possibility of war and to the debt which still remains for the recognition of the rights of the Indian peoples."

This "sensitivity" is the product of many actors, in addition to the EZLN. "Among them, artists, intellectuals, social organizations, the press, non-governmental organizations and the progressive Church. They have contributed to relentlessly telling society: 'we have a debt yet to pay, we cannot forget about it'."

According to the Subcomandante, "the people are constantly organizing themselves better and in less time." "Civil society has evolved, since 1994, after the war. That group of persons with no party, to which the EZLN addresses itself, has grown and enlarged its reach. And their horizon is constantly wider. No one can any longer say that what is developing is a product of fashion or romanticism. Five years have gone by," Marcos points out.

"Today the people are more clear politically, and the enemy's arguments are being defeated and defeated. The people have memory, and now they are calling for an accounting. There is unfinished business to be resolved with the Indian peoples, and not through the path of arms."

Almost with gratitude in his voice, he adds: "We were fortunate then. Zapatismo's specialty is in opening spaces and convening actors. The great sign of progress in the awakening of awareness is the Encuentro with Civil Society in 1998, in San Cristobal. Young people and people without political renown attended, they weren't personalities, and together they delivered a great lesson to classic civil zapatismo - that has accompanied us since the beginning - about tolerance and inclusion."

And he recalls: "Before, civil society and political society used those spaces to resolve differences." And this is because it accepts that not all those who support zapatismo think in the same way.

"Since the Consulta, there are new people, in addition to those who were already there. A large number of women and young people have taken a more active role." This atmosphere, which is "more open and inclusive, brings a double benefit," Marcos says. "It allows more people to know about us, and the zapatista companeros can broaden their horizons."

"Now the zapatistas have people promoting their initiatives in 32 states of the Republic. But we cannot say: 'they are the EZLN.' The initiative is opening spaces of national mobilization, which can continue and can have influence on the historic events of the country."

Barnes' Great Idiocy, and Another One

Subcomandante Marcos sketches a "quick x-ray" of the country the zapatistas will be going out to: "In the economy, the material bases of national sovereignty are constantly being lost. Zedillo's proposal for putting electrical energy up for sale is serious in itself, and it's a precedent for privatizing the oil industry, which would do away with the possibility of the state being national and not a private initiative."

"In addition to this destruction, an economic crisis is occurring that is constantly more absurd. Just because the stock market falls in Russia cannot mean that the Mexicans standard of living goes down."

"Isn't it an international destiny?"

"No. That's the logic they are selling us. The world is globalized, we have no choice but to enter it and put up with all the disadvantages. We say that is false, the world isn't globalized, but fragmented. It's enough to just look at any geo-political map of the world. What it is, is a unipolar domination by the power of money, pure and simple, which is trying to enter everywhere. This is provoking an economic crisis."

"It's said to be easy," he adds. "It means you eat less, that your house is worse than before. Social services like health and education go down in quality and opportunity."

"That's the great idiocy that Barnes is trying to put over, to set quotas and to cleverly manage to deceive a few people. What is really going on there, is the intention to divide the University in two: those students who pay and those who don't pay. Two levels of education for socio-economic reasons."

Marcos mentions that there have been precedents, and "the mobilization of the students and university workers always stopped them." And he warns: "What could be destroyed is the very concept of the university, which is for everyone and is accessible."

Night draws near. The photographer asks Marcos to move to a better lit spot. We walk some thirty meters, and we sit down on the ground, on a hillside, where the rest of the conversation takes place, until it becomes completely dark.

He picks up the thread again and says that, with all these reductions, what is being seriously reduced is the hope for life.

"In the social sphere, and as a result of the economic crisis, crime is increasing. And I'm referring to the people who have to steal out of necessity, not to the politicians who steal for the sake of stealing."

"At the same time, the lack of political opening causes more armed groups to appear: the EPR, the EPRI and those which could posibly come about. If this continues to increase, it's because there is no economic solution or political escape."

Change of Light

As if he had been waiting for the darkness to light his pipe, he takes the first puffs of tobacco since the interview began.

"In the political arena, we have two great realities. One is the real reality, where the people are greatly disenchanted with politicians. But the opposition forces have also had election victories. They are creating expectations in the people, sometimes justified, that things can change. That's good. But the economic problems are continuously overwhelming everything."

On the other hand, Subcomandante Marcos points out "the virtual reality that most of the media creates." At this level, "the idea is peddled that what's important right now is who the presidential candidates are going to be," the Subcomandante says.

"Then the real problems are left aside: the loss of sovereignty, the privatization of the electical sector, the social and political deterioration. No, what is important is that Fernando de Cevallos fought with Fox, or whether or not Zedillo told the PRI he was going to be involved in the succession, in the most absurd speech I have ever heard. They're only trying to convince the people that this is important. And nothing is more indicative that something isn't important than when they tell you, over and over again, look over here, look over here, this is important."

In the midst of all of this, Marcos sees a greater expression of the historic memory of the Mexicans.

"The zapatistas are counting on the people listening to us, understanding us, talking to us, and we are going to learn from them. And these four things are what are going to have a definitive influence on what is most important: achieving peace in Chiapas."

"The zapatistas aren't leaving to do election propaganda, because none of them are campaigning. Nor are they going to be promoting a military solution, because they are not encouraging armed uprising. We are not going to fall in with any candidacy because we are not with any political party or candidate. The essential proposal which we are taking is: 'there is a war here, we want peace, what do you think?', and that they, the government, hear what's happening."

The Chiapas Factor

"In response to the resistance which exists in the world, some governments are closing ranks with the Mexican government, but other, more democratic, more generous governments - or those that are more sensitive to what could happen - are beginning to think: 'no, the problem with the zapatistas has to be resolved, because now the problem is impacting on me here; and if the Mexican government can't use violence, it can't be used here either.' It's better to seek a peaceful solution, a solution of dialogue."

"It's the opportunity that the Mexican government had, which it rejected and continues rejecting everyday, to create an international precedent: conflicts can be resolved like that. Because they pride themselves very much on having stopped the war on January 12 and of having opened dialogue. No, there could have been a movement there that stopped the war, the government could have taken pride in that if it had resolved the conflict through dialogue. And it's not true. It hasn't resolved it because its offer is a military one. If the Mexican government would give it up, it would set a very good world precedent."

"Then, peace in Chiapas would be a kind of equilibrium, and, in that sense, the Mexican government is a destabilizing factor?"

"If they had supported peace, they could have stabilized the entire policy line. The neo-liberal position is what is in crisis, and it's generating the rise of opposition parties and of alternative governments, especially in Europe, and other political proposals in the world. They are beginning to think: 'we can't be applying this brutal capitalism, we have to open political spaces.' A political solution in Chiapas would have set not only a precedent, but also the way for how government processes could extricate themselves from the problems they're in. Instead of zapatistas, in other countries there are other names and other social groups. In this sense, the Mexican government's attitude has international repercussions. Sooner or later they are going to be costly. If they had resolved it in that way, in this stage of neo-liberalism, that would have allowed there to be more political stability in the rest of the world."

"Then capitalism, neo-liberalism as we say now, is not necessarily violent, or is there no other way?"

"The only way to impose that economic system, of supposed political homogeneity, is through force. Why are they going to force the people to be in a certain way if they don't want to? They have to make them do so through force. The alternative to neo-liberalism, the only possible alternative they have, to which their historic alternative is leading, is to diappear. Ultimately, neo-liberalism is going to cause social chaos in all nations, an international chaos which is going to increase the number of nations in conflict."

"We are saying: instead of that, it is possible to build another world. Not someone who orders or who dominates. It's not about whether the Soviet Union or the United States is dominant. It's about that coexistence being present in each nation, that space, that relationship between worlds, the product of mutual agreement. It's not the best of all possible worlds, but we will be in one that's better than the one we have. And much better than the one neo-liberalism is taking us to at a world level. The worst nightmare that could occur: a civil war, but global. The global village, but with all the neighbors fighting, and that multiplied in all the barrios. A moment is going to arrive in which the number of conflicts and deaths will be as routine as the entertainment section, a film that is repeated over and over."

"The zapatista communities have completed five years of resistance. Don't you have a responsibility on your shoulders, a very heavy burden?"

"No, it's shared. Zapatismo discovered at the moment it went out into the world that it was not alone. Not just at a national level, like what happened on September 12, 1997, when there was the March of the 1111 to Mexico City who shouted: 'you are not alone.' But also at a world level. Yes, it is a very large task, but we are not alone in it. We are the tip of the iceberg which is constantly finding others alongside it."

"We are not the only ones and we are not alone. There are more emerging. What we are telling them is that that emergence is being built in a better way than the proposal we are criticizing. If it's not better, we will be repeating the same mistakes of any other political movement prior to neo-liberalism."

"The living conditions, the life in these communities, are not a secret, they are well known now. Now that they are going out, will the people in the country be able to confirm what they have seen all these years?"

"Or it will put them in crisis. There is the perception that the zapatistas are the bad ones, they want to divide the country. Everything put out by the electronic media or the government speeches. Finally, those who believe this are going to recognize them as Mexicans, the same as anyone else: having the same problems, the same history and that they want to be a part. They do not want to impose their will, they don't want to make the rest of the country indigenous."

"They want to continue being indigenous, and they want you to continue being mestizo. That part of society is going to discover zapatismo."

"Another part is going to rediscover it. They have built an image of what zapatismo is, of what it might perhaps be, around the figure of Marcos or the military part of the EZLN, or the spectacular events, the great zapatista mobilizations. Then, when they meet with these people on a routine level, they are going to rebuild zapatismo's image. And others, and they are not a few, who have been in contact with the communities, who know what zapatismo is, they are going to confirm it."

"In this sense, there will be no disillusionment. There are going to be meetings, rediscoveries. And, in some cases, meetings with old friends. They are the same ones that I met, who I know how they live, and now they are coming to my place, as I went before to visit them. Because the movement that was visiting the communities, the caravans, above all, the students', and before that, civil society's, met all these poeple. Now we say that we are going to pay the visit back, but we are going further, we are going to visit those who have not come, who know nothing more than what they've heard."

"Perhap a sign of hospitality..."

"A sign of meeting. We can meet with those who do not know us. We can meet with those who have an image of us that is not true; it must be rebuilt. And we can meet with those whom we have already met, but now on another terrain, a more egalitarian terrain. 'Perhaps you came to see me in order to help me, now I'm coming to see you so that we can speak as equals, in the same circumstances'."

"That is the great challenge for zapatismo: can we achieve this meeting? We are going to tell them: 'We are not inviting you to put on a ski mask or to rise up in arms. It is your terrain, that of political mobilization. That is where we are going to meet you.' We want to imagine that those proposals will be joined, will organize themselves and will create a new proposal."

According to Subcomandante Marcos, the zapatistas are going to meet "with all those who want Mexico to continue to be a nation, in the only way it is possible to continue being a nation, which is by making itself better."

Part II of Bellinghausen Interview With Marcos
Hermann Bellinghausen, correspondent Selva Lacandona,
March 11.

The primary difficulty facing the National Consulta continues to be finances. They lack money. Subcomandante Marcos says: "We're making constant calls for them to help with our transportation." And he justifies the project's relevance: "We want to be part of the nation as indigenous; that they recognize our difference. But it ends up that we want to be part of something that they want to destroy. Then what? Are we going to be included in a nation that will no longer be in existence?"

It is necessary to create the circumstances for this defense of national sovereignty, defending the communities themselves. "The objective of the Consulta is to build these circumstances," Marcos states, in an interview with La Jornada.

And the purpose of the millions of investments announced for Chiapas, that "do not reach the campesinos," is, according to Marcos, "so that Rabasa can have something to say, so that Labastida can have something to say, so that they can have something to put in the newspapers." Investment for "publicity."

A Nation to Defend

The meeting between the chiapaneco indigenous and the people who are leaving to receive them seems to be subject to the rules of a listening game, like the play of mirrors that the rebel chief likes to mention in his writings.

"There is a process of teaching and learning that, making memory, exists in our history. When the EZLN went into the communities, there was this give-and-take of teachings and experiences that changed all of us. We believe the Consulta will be like that, but at a national level.

"We zapatistas are going to learn a lot from meeting with the workers, with campesinos, housewives, cooks, neighbors, fishermen, taxi drivers, indigenous from other places, artists, intellectuals, who are all going to meet together, from all the social groups. We are going to learn a lot so that we can give shape and substance to that proposal we are speaking of, that we want a world where many worlds fit. The meaning of the recognition that the world of the homosexuals is one, and should have its place. The world of lesbians. And what the existence as indigenous means among all those worlds of the unemployed,of street gangs and of working women. Our proposal is to say to them, your world exists and it deserves recognition. And it has a place next to us, not above.

"The proposal the Consulta carries is that of the Mexican indigenous movement, not just of the EZLN. What is at stake is the fundamental proposal of the people: there is a nation that needs to be defended. This is why the San Andres Accords and the Cocopa's proposal are the most representative of the national indigenous movement, much broader and more important than the EZLN.

"We want to be part of the nation as indigenous, that they recognize our difference. The neo-liberal program in Mexico - with the governments of Salinas, Zedillo and the one that will follow, if it's still the PRI - will lead it to its destruction. We say we should support the nation, conserve it and open it up. Or are we going to be included in a nation that will no longer be in existence?

"The proposal by the people for autonomy is one of the ways, perhaps the most important one right now, to defend national sovereignty," Marcos believes.

"Unlike what the government says, that autonomy threatens unity. To recognize difference and to organize it, so that it can exist, is a way to save national sovereignty. The national indigenous movement is opening the wound right now: the country must be defended.

"The way to save it is to rebuild it as a nation, recognizing that there are different ones. No longer the homogeneous nation that has never existed, that the powers have used to justify their history, and that concept, very devalued today, of patria."

The Door Leading to other Doors

The darkness is complete. If it weren't for the small lamp hanging from Marcos' chest and the flashes from Pedro Valtierra, it would be the same as if ones' eyes were closed. There is no moon, and therefore the constellations can be seen with precision. One dazzles with just the flame from the lighter. But, nonetheless, something can be seen, despite the selva undergrowth. Black and its variations.

"Peace in Chiapas, is it Mexico's peace?"

"Peace in Chiapas opens the door to another Mexico. That threshold needs to be crossed, to go through that great room where there will be other doors and windows. It's an opportunity to settle historic debts peacefully and through dialogue. In the government they're counting on winning by resolving them through violent means. We also could commit to war," Subcomandante Marcos notes.

"But we are saying that what leads to the other historic room is peace, reached like this, through dialogue, and built in this way. It represents opening space for something else, but the demands of the indigenous and of all social groups will not be finished like that. Many will continue unresolved, but in another terrain. Peace here opens possibilities for young people, for artists, for intellectuals. For photographers," he adds, referring to Pedro, jokingly, and he continues speaking of the door.

"It will open many spaces which at the moment can't be touched, or they are focused on in an arbitrary and biased way, because the debt to Chiapas always exists. We're carrying a weight that, sometimes, like in Acteal, becomes impossible to bear. Only if we resolve this will we able to go on to what comes next. If there is anyone who is interested in its being resolved quickly - but well - it's us. We know that on the other side the possibility exists of building a country, with others and with those on this side."

"The same question, but reversed: what will happen to Meixco if the solution in Chiapas is violent?"

"The first thing will be that violence will do away with all social forces. The government would be saying: 'I can do without you, society, I don't care what you want or how you mobilize yourselves or how you present your demands. The only reason that operates here is force, and I have the force.' This means total obscurantism. They can change the title, but it would be the consolidation of a dictatorship. Or it would be closing the doors for all social groups, even those who who might applaud violent actions today, such as a certain group of right-wing intellectuals. They would begin to fall as well, because for a regime of this kind, obsurantist, even the slightest signs of intelligence are considered subversive."

The Price of Peace

"Would peace be a defeat for the government?"

"Yes, if they're supporting war, they would say: 'I didn't win because I didn't destroy them. I didn't win because I didn't deliver the insult, I had to admit that their demand was just, and I also had to meet it.' In that case, it's a question of pride. They would have to admit that they were wrong, and that everything that preceded it was wrong. Seventy years of dominance built on fallacies, hypocrisy, deception and crime. And the government has to admit it. 'And they also defied me at the most inopportune moment and in the most outrageous way: poorly armed, poorly dressed, poorly fed, not bilingual!' " Marcos exclaims in his play of voices, remembering how the rebels were first described. And he continues in another's voice:

" 'The lowest of this country, the bottom, rose up against us, we who opened the first world,' and they will not forgive us. That is why they don't want peace."

"Supposing peace were to be imposed, what honorable solution would the armed forces have?"

"It's the new task that's presented, since, if the conditions that created an armed movement end, the reason for that uprising disappears. Either the movement atrophies, or it's transformed under the new political circumstances.

"The armed forces, the zapatista Army as well as the federal Army, will have to come to terms with the new situation, and remake themselves into different actors, since their previous reasons for being have been done away with."

Mexicans of the World

When talking about zapatismo, one inevitably comes to the international aspect. The conflict in Chiapas, "which only Labastida sees in four municipalities," is the Mexican issue that holds the greatest interest for the world. Marcos talks about this.

"The International Consulta has two objectives. One is Mexicans abroad. We have discovered that there are many Mexicans in other countries, working, studying, living, many of them hiding from Immigration in the United States. And also that they are interested people, concerned about what's going on in their country. The majority of the time more interested than those in Los Pinos.

"The Consulta opened a space for those Mexican men and women to say: 'We are interested in Mexico, and we have an opportunity to make ourselves heard. I, even though I'm only one, and I'm in South Korea, Norway or the United States, am a Mexican, and there is someone in my country who is paying attention to my opinion.' This creates an invaluable movement. They can say that there are just so many of them. True. But who else has paid any attention to those outside the country?

"At the same time, the position of the Mexican indigenous transcends its borders, its own words, and touches other different ones whom they also want to homogenize. Either they resist, or they disappear. In place of indigenous, it's migrants in Europe, or women. Exclusion occurs everywhere.

"And resistance occurs. Without proposing to be so, we are tuned in to just one channel and we met many. In this way, navigating the Internet is like entering the waters of a great river where many other boats are travelling, and we discover we're going to the same place: a place where we will have space without having to cease being ourselves. This gives our word backing and support beyond what is stated. It is a movement on the five continents."

"But all these people, what do they have to win from the carrrying out of the San Andres Accords, if they are not going to benefit directly?"

"It's the other side of the mirror," Marcos responds, very characteristically. "If there's a financial problem in Singapore, all the cities are affected. The triumph of a resistance movement of those who are different would have repercussions in everything that globalization has called up as a network, not of financial control, but of international reistance. This positive vibration is going to produce vibrations that are also positive, among the others. One can resist and survive, a place can be created in the world where we are different."

The Circumstances are Also Created

According to Marcos, "evidently there is a group interested in the movement failing: the government."

"It's a serious questioning of their policies. 'You want to destroy the nation, but all these people don't want that.' Like a plebiscite. The number of votes isn't as important as what the mobilization means. There is another way for civil society to speak out, which is not just in the arena of elections.

"What is being organized is a set of conditions. The massive outrageous crime of Acteal created the conditions for mobilization. Now we are trying to be the ones who create the circumstances. One of the Consulta's objectives is to build those circumstances of mobilization.

"What effect can the Consulta have during these times of pre-election escapades?"

"There is a fight for the nation's political space, in two senses, over what kind of nation to build starting in 2000," believes the EZLN rebel chief.

"One, inside the political class, the main parties and the different wings inside them. That entire political class is vying for leadership of the nation's problems. It's what's important to them. For example, they are not interested in the democratization of the Congress of the Union, nor in the effective separation of powers. It's not important whether or not there is an effective, autonomous and independent Judicial branch.

"On the other hand, there are other political forces vying for space. We propose abandoning that logic and saying that the country's primary problem should not be the political class, but the people, the peoples and their place in politics. We want to tell the parties, and the different wings within them, the powers of the Union, that what will be at stake in 2000 is the people's influence and place. We are trying to build the conditions for 1999, and not for the political parties. That 1999 might be the year of civil society. The year of the political mobilization of the Mexican people. Not for a party or a candidate, not even for a political orientation. That will be the problem for 2000.

"With the Consulta, the people will be seeing each other, and the parties will be obligated to turn around towards the people. What Mexican society is proposing is that there be a change in the relationship between those who govern and the governed."

"And will that help or not help the political parties?"

"If they know how to look at them well, it will help them. They can't look down on an emerging movement, no matter how many there are. If it's capable of building the conditions, then it's a movement with great strength. It's not competing for votes. It's not looking for voters, nor is it aimed at the voters. They'll see that we are announcing a new politics, which the parties are going to have to live with, whatever happens to the zapatistas. The new movement is not vying for power, it is doing nothing less than announcing a new country. If they listen, the parties will be able to evolve into new forms of political relationships, and that will be the only way they'll survive."

A bete noir of the current state of things is the persistence of racism. According to the Subcomandante, there is still much of it. "Racism doesn't exist just in the government or on the right. Many groups in the left feel affronted if the Indians are talkers, proud, dignified, rebel, a pain, dancers."

That way of being was there. "We didn't invent it. We take the end of the thread and it's extended with the help of others, who were always there and who were always as they are, rebels by nature. Somehow they remained indigenous even after everything they've been subjected to.

"Each one drew back their own curtain, and the encuentro happened, ah, then, you were there, and we begin, back and forth, and dialogue, recognition comes and goes. That's how it was. The zapatista indigenous always make their own grounds: those of peaceful initiatives. We didn't meet with them in armed actions."

Through the Consulta, Marcos says, "the zapatistas are going to meet with all the people, and all the people with the zapatistas. The only thing necessary is for everyone to meet with everyone, without the baggage from the PRI or official forums."

"What is the status of the National Indigenous Congress?"

"What we know is that the National Indigenous Congress went through a period of internal growth, with few public, mass or national appearances. The CNI worked on the communities, on the indigenous peoples. The call for the Consulta brought the CNI to look outwards again. The moment came for them to break their silence as well. To say yes, here we indigenous are, and we want a place. The problem is a war of extermination against all the indigenous peoples."

Ready To Go

"A few hours before the zapatistas will be departing, what difficulties have you run into in carrying out the Consulta?"

"The primary difficulties have been financial ones, we think there are people willing to meet with us in all the municipalities in the country. The problem is getting the zapatistas from the mountains of the southeast to all the corners of the country. There are very distant places, with difficult access, or very expensive financially. That's why we are asking for financial help, we want this meeting to happen. The only thing that can come out of this meeting is a just, new, dignified peace. The war can't come from it. Anything done for this meeting will be done for peace. It's worth it, because it's gambling on the possibility of preventing this country from being divided.

"Right now we're battling with that. The companeros who are going to all the country's municipalities are studying, preparing themselves and practicing how they are going to be talking to the people, seeing themselves with workers, campesinos, neighbors and other indigenous. They are preparing themselves every day, until the 12th, when they'll be leaving. We're making continuous calls for financial support. Rosario Ibarra is in charge of that. And we're going to use that money for trucks, or for burros, for whatever."

"Is there a certain level of insecurity in this departure?"

"Yes, because everything has been very zapatista. A moment comes when, there it goes, there it goes, and then, suddenly, the avalanche comes, the snowball and you have to hide wherever you can. We're seeing that the relationship between the brigades and the brigade members grew disproportionately. The progress of the majority of the large coordinations is from one day to the next. From having nothing, to many proposals coming up. We're waiting until the last hour for more brigades and more brigade members. The registration of brigades is unrestricted up until March 21. Afterwards, the results have to be released, and after that, decisions made about what to do with them, all of us together."

"What other obstacles have there been to this departure?"

"Well, the obvious ones of the Army. Much harassment and pressure on the Aguascalientes, ever since the call for the Consulta. As if the Army doesn't like any peace initiatives; it seems more content when we were mobilizing militarily. Any peace initiative is answered with more military pressure. Now that the companeros are gathering in the Aguascalientes, the military pressure has been oppressive. Even with that, the companeros endure. With helicopters above, with the war tanks in front of them, with the planes and the low overflights. They continue preparing themselves, with a peace initiative, although everything is telling them that what they up there want is a war."

"Can you disclose anything about what the atmosphere is like in the communities?"

"If I were to describe the average feeling of the delegates, it's a bit like that feeling you get in your stomach when you're about to visit someplace you don't know and that you want to know. A mixture of nervousness, enthusiasm and fear about what's going to happen. Very concrete problems, what will I do if I get lost, where am I going, who will I be talking to. The enthusiasm of meeting more people, of one talking oneself, of not having another talk for one. To be in the foreground, as the indigenous communities are on their own. It is the communities who are going to the dialogue, not the leaders.

"What one notices the most is the responsibility with which they are taking their work. They are taking on a mission as serious as the one on the first of January of 1994. With all the risks, with all the need to be well prepared. And they take their notes, and they write their essays, and those who are going to a particular state, what is that state like, they find out how they live there."

"The country also will see that they are indigenous, perhaps illiterate, with problems speaking Soanish."

"And, nonetheless, with very clear thinking. They are not going to do battle there, because the people know on their own how to understand. When it goes through mediators, everything becomes complicated."

"Assuming the Consulta has good results, what will be the next step in the peace process in Chiapas?"

"Well, if it turns out well, a party, at the least, no? Dancing to the marimba of San Jose and all that. The next stage is planning how it is to be presented, because what is being demanded, among other things, is that the legislative proposal be presented in the Congress of the Union. Then we will have to address ourselves to the Congress of the Union: these people think this about the proposal, you have to take it into account. We have to see about the method, the form, the time. In addition, there are also the lessons about non-partisan organization that this mobilization generated."

"Once more, an apparently million dollar investment was just announced, right in the so-called conflict zone. What effect have these investments had?"

"It's ridiculous. The corporate structure that built the PRI and the various governments of Chiapas is a funnel. They can't put in ten million pesos, I believe that's what Moctezuma is saying he's going to put in, if what arrives in the community is just a little drop. That way, that counterinsurgency strategy fails, not just in historic terms, it is impossible to purchase an historic reason. Also in practical terms. The money they say they are going to invest remains with top, middle and low level officials, until there's nothing left for the indigenous. The enthusiasm of Bobby Albores and those people over many zapatistas leaving, makes no sense. Not only are they not leaving, not only are those returning who left. Communities that were PRI are coming over, they are not giving them anything."

"Or, rather, zapatismo has not fallen off in the communities, it has grown, in terms of territories, in quantitative terms, and, above all, in qualitative terms. The great tour de force of the counterinsurgency strategy is 'how many can we break down.' The answer is no. 'Not only am I unable to, but we have to give up more contingents, because my proposal is without merit.' They're defrauding their own people. They believe they are buying time with that money, but they're not even getting that."

"Then why is the government spending so much money?"

"Publicity. To see who can still fall into the trap that they are trying to resolve the conflict. So that Rabasa can say something, so that Labastida can say something, to get something in the newspapers." Investment for "publicity."

"If the San Andres Accords are carried out, will there be benefits for more than Chiapas?"

"Certainly. Ultimately, in that sense, zapatismo is national, I don't know why the government insists on the four municipalities. What is it going to mean at the moment when a PRI indigenous in Oaxaca meets with a zapatista and realizes that they are asking for the same thing? In this sense, there are not going to be any misunderstandings. We are not going to discuss armed uprisings versus the peaceful path, we are going to discuss the indigenous demands."

"Are party people going to be participating in the Consulta?"

"Of course. The PTRD and the PT are participating in many municipalities, and, in some cases, like in Puebla, so is the National Action Party. It's just the PRI we don't know about, not yet. But they could be, I suppose."

"The Consulta has been emphasizing young people, so much so that an age level has been set that includes the very youngest: what is that about?"

"The fundamental issue, what the war is about, is something which doesn't affect only those who are older, ultimately, those who are twelve years old are going to be 18 or 20, they are going to be living in the country later. Then we have to ask for their opinions. Why not open those spaces so that they can begin meeting with that reality that they are going to be living? As we say here, one has a judgment, the right to give one's opinion, to know what is going on. If there is ultimately a war in Chiapas, that war and what it means, who it's going to affect in 6, 10, 20 years."

"In the campesino communities all over the country there is a maturity that is very common within those groups."

"Also in the urban sector. Those who are 12 are not boys and girls, they are adolscents, they already have a broad political culture, with knowledge, with much socialization. It's there where the possibility has to be opened of another reality, where their opinion can have influence. What is a democratic culture? Not just to have an opinion or to know something; but also that opinion having some influence and being organized and achieving some effect."

"Mexican political culture is not accustomed to children having opinions."

"I don't see why not. What is at play here is not an electoral issue, it is larger. It's the country: why should we not ask as many as we can, who are going to be living in this country in the future, who are going to be governed? But what is being decided here is not a presidency, it's not a Congress or a government, the possibility of another country is being decided. And that will be a while."

"And will it turn out well?"

We think so. The Mexico that is corrupting and destroying is the one above. The problem i s that it's being turned into a whirlpool that sucks in everything around it. What we need is not just to distance ourselves from that whirlpool. We need to build firm ground on the other side, in order to resist those storms and others which could come about. It's what we have to do. If resistance is not allowing oneself to be taken by the whirlpool, the building of an alternative is to build firm ground. What could be the minimum age for having an opinion on the future? For a future that directly concerns you."

In order to end the interview, Subcomandante Marcos stands up, puts out his flashlight, moves away from the interview with his guard, and is almost immediately out of sight. We go back through the undergrowth from which we had arrived. There are a few more words remaining on the tape recorder, on the hard bargaining of the process of peace and war in Chiapas.

"The possibility exists that the mobilization will have strength and will be difficult to turn back," Marcos believes.

"That's what we're counting on. That's why we're calling to the people. If we achieve a mobilization that is so large that it is unmoveable, it will put off the war once and for all."

Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translated by irlandesa
Bellinghausen Interviews Marcos
Civil Society, Protagonist in the Search for a Better Society:  Marcos
Part 1 - La Jornada
March 11, 1999.
Finances, the Biggest Obstacle for the Consulta 
Part 2 - La Jornada
March 12, 1999.

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