Interview with Marcos - August 1995


La Jornada August 25

Carmen Libra, writer, Part 1, somewhere in the Lacandon jungle, in August

Surrounded, harassed, in almost total physical isolation, Marcos insists in talking about the nation, in knowing "what its heart wants".

The plebiscite on this Sunday is one form, but there will be many others, he says, because a "push" has to be made towards the construction of an alternative that avoids having the country "go to shit like it is doing now".

This is clear to everyone, he stated, "except the government, which believes that it can still handle the crisis", a crisis that in addition to being economic, is now political, clearly, but --pay attention!--"not necessarily revolutionary", which, instead of leading to a transition to democracy, could be converted into a "reactionary crisis" and "take the country into fascism, without necessarily a military coup".

The warning was made by the subcomandante of the EZLN in the first personal interview given to the media since February 9th, when, --after the Attorney General of the Republic revealed his alleged identity--he was converted into the most wanted man in the country. No one has seen him, besides his supporters, since that day in February when the Attorney General insinuated, showing a photo of Rafael Sebastian Guillen Vicente from Tabasco, that he had "unmasked Marcos".

"By the way", he added with his particular sense of humor which is hard to explain how he still has it, " this story about the guy from Tabasco who has so ruined my correspondence with women, is not true. Write, write there that I am taller, stronger and more handsome than what the Attorney General says, so that the girls will start writing me again. Okay?"

Just a few weeks before the National and International Plebiscite, which the EZLN called for, Marcos left one of his refuges of the past few months to meet with the reporters from La Jornada and to send a message to the country's civil society, which is who, according to the judgment of the Zapatistas, should start to determine the direction that the nation will take.

"The people have to understand that they have to participate, since if they don't, we will lose, and if we lose, they lose; they have to understand that if we are defeated, they are defeated", he said insistently.

"The democratic proposal should be made a reality, or instead, everything is going to be even worse, if a coup takes place, which I talked about with you before and that--I insist-- can be expected not from the federal Army but rather from the fascist right".

--In whom are you thinking?

--In the most organized structure of the right which is the National Action Party (PAN), not the Army--he said again and then expanded--the alternative of the right for resolving this political crisis is not a coup in the classic sense of the word, which is to say, that the military take power and begin to administer the government, which is what is understood to be a military coup. No: the most organized and best prepared option of the right to capitalize on the crisis and carry out the reactionary alternative is the National Action Party. And they (the PAN members) are preparing already, not for the year 2,000, but before. The National Action Party is betting that the regime, not just the PRI party-state, but the PRI regime will not last six years.

--In your judgment, how would the transnational capitalists view this?

--They are will to bet on a change in the regime, so they are supportive. For this reason the National Action Party winks at this sector, and appears to be saying: "I can guarantee the same economic process and resolve the political crisis". This is the bet of the "slow, negotiated transition", and as examples there are Baja California, Guanajuato, Chihuahua, Jalisco..."

Marcos held his pipe at the same time as his voice hardened: "With the imposition of the fascist solution, people will lose hope, and when they kill your hope, they don't have to kill you ...If this happens, then they can do what they want with this country: take the oil, let's go..to the national toilet!"

The subcomandante guerrilla tried to clarify what the Zapatistas are hoping for from the civil society:

"Now we don't just want sympathies. That all of these men and women who since January 1994 have said NO to the war, understand that we are on the same side, and that whatever affects us, affects many others, in fact affects the struggle for a transition to democracy. In other words, the failure or the success of this plebiscite, among other aims, will not be ours alone".

--How will the success of the plebiscite be defined?

--In that it takes away the use of weapons from both sides, and that the discussion stay completely within the political terrain. In other words, by means of the plebiscite, neither one of the armies would be able to use weapons: this would be an achievement for the plebiscite, the Dialogue at San Andres, and the entire peace process in Chiapas.

--Is success also going to be measured by the number of participants?

Supporting himself against the trunks that make up the sides of the bench, constructed recently for the interview, Marcos explains:

--We will have two criteria to evaluate it: first, whether the plebiscite was really national, whether it includes if not all of the states in the Republic, then at least the majority of them at a significant level. This would be an achievement, even if it is less than the general election. And then, whether the level of voting in this plebiscite is greater than those of the last two (the one that was done against the government of Carlos Salinas, which had 600,000 votes, and the one on the National Plan for Development, which had 300,000 votes). For this reason it is important to the EZLN that the 10,000 tables for voting are set up, as planned by the Civic Alliance, throughout the country.

--I get the impression that this referendum, plebiscite, or consult, as all of you call it, has the aim of opening a new dialogue. Would this one replace the one that has been conducted with the government?

--Look, I think that the EZLN, and in general whatever opposition force, does not have any reason to dialogue with the government. It is not going to achieve anything, except put off the confrontation. In addition, the alternative that we are seeking is not going to come from the government or from the political parties or from the EZLN. It will come from something new. What is that? I don't know. For this reason we have to talk and talk and talk about these things, with those people with whom since January 1994 we are in synchrony.

--Marcos, then what is the plebiscite?

--The plebiscite is like a thermometer and makes up part of something that is going to start to function or that is already working: this type of dialogue is very primitive, as primitive as you talk--I listen to you--and I take it in. This is not to say that necessarily there has to be plebiscites, consultations or referenda constantly; perhaps we will find other ways. But when we omit the government and we begin to talk directly, perhaps we will find other ways.

--The process of a referendum, for example, is not considered as part of our laws. The government and the majority of the media, with their silence, could disparage it, arguing that the process is illegal, that it doesn't count.

--That's probable, but they can't stop it. They don't have any credibility to do that anymore. In addition I think that the principal force of the plebiscite is in its organization, in all of the efforts that are being made to carry it out. The other important part is that someone, whatever citizen, would take the time to get an ID and to spend the few moments on August 27th to answer some questions, with the confidence that his or her opinion was going to count in the final tally.

I noticed that the Subcomandante appeared optimistic, almost excited:

--Do you believe that many people are going to participate?

--I don't know how many is many people--he responded between laughs, I suppose because for the first time he did not respond with his classic "a shitload"-- Look, I see it in stages: if they begin to move to organize it, we will view that as a good sign. If we are able to bring together again the former Convention, that will be good too. Or in other words, if at least the six thousand who went to Aguascalientes again become active again.

--There are those who say that one thing is that the people sympathize with the Zapatista cause, and it is another if they become involved. Aren't you betting a lot on the "civic society"?

--And why not bet on it, if they have showed us on several occasions what they are capable of. In addition, look: we are at a point of indecision, at an impasse in which the society in general is going to determine who yes and who no...

--Don't you find this civil society still very disorganized and a little slow?

-And yet they move--he responded with a sly look--All you have to do is look at the young people. The young people, for us, have been a surprise. We thought that we were going to confront an urban youth who were completely brainwashed, selfish, completely alienated through years of being bombarded by the media. And contrary to the image that we had of them, we have found youth who are very aware, very critical and very committed.

"The same thing happened for us with the women, and as a result the largest part of the solidarity and sympathy with the EZLN comes from women, whom we also can not divide into strata: whether they are workers or middle-class. No: they are women. And a big quarrel that the Zapatista Army had was the participation of women, because of its indigenous base. This was a very hard struggle; there were no concessions. For this reason when the sixth question for the plebiscite was proposed, it gained support immediately among the companeras, and even among the companeros who have seen that the greatest help in the caravans, in the Convention and in the peace camps came from the women".

The women, he said with a certain air of satisfaction, share with the young people, in general, men and women, an altruism and an impressive capacity for work.

Marcos said that one time, watching them work, he commented: "I have not seen cadres more developed as cadres (which is to say more dedicated) than those who are not members of a political party. To many of the men and women--he said craftily-- we should have given them a military rank.

Marcos was going full speed, he'd gone a while without taking a drag on his old pipe.

In excellent humor, he played, posed for the photographer, and made fun, even of himself: "Now everyone knows that I am a mamon, no?"

But he also analyzed, improvised, proposed:

"We must organize the world (the country) in another way!...and quickly, see!" --he says, while he snapped his fingers.

"Because we have to change everything..before the end of the century".

--In less than five...?

--We are in a hurry, all of you aren't?--he interrupted, with irony.

--But do you think that the Zapatistas and the road that they have chosen is the future of the country?

--No: the future of Mexico is not a ski-mask, nor a weapon...but neither is it a necktie and a diploma from a foreign university.

"This mercantile criteria that they have learned in their advanced studies abroad, from De la Madrid to Zedillo, and those who will come later--the businessmen who administer countries instead of businesses or as if they were businesses--this is who has been applying this political lesson, with the consequential results, in Mexico.

But in addition, this political class creates a parallel economic class, of businessmen and bankers who think alike. Take a look at, for example: How could the Mexican bank be so stupid as to commit suicide with these usurious conditions that they have imposed and that have generated the most important social movement, in my way of thinking, of 1995, which is El Barzon, which is not indigenous, nor working class, nor political.

Marcos does not hide his admiration for this movement, and again asks:

"How is it possible that the stock market could animate--with the conditions that it imposes--a movement like that, and do what no one else has been able to do-- except fascism--which is to mobilize the middle class against the government and, in this case, against the stock market. Really, it takes being really stupid."

No--he insisted in his proposal--"for this reason I tell you that the future is in a new world".

--What will arise from where, if everything is in crisis?

--What is in crisis is the system, the government, the old things and the anachronous ways of doing politics. But the nation can survive with a new pact, with a new political class, and with new forms of doing politics.

--And the push? From where will come the push?

--It is not going to come from the left or the right. The right is going to again present another revolution but this time it is going to put the Great Inquisition or an equivalent.

--So?

--It will come from the social sector, whose political participation is what has characterized the last decade of the century in Europe, in the United States, and in the case of Mexico, during 1994-95, but that has its antecedents in 1985 and in 88. In 85 it was more than a land movement for Mexico, and in 88, which we did not know how to view it as an opportunity, and thus letting go by, what we know consider was an historic opportunity.

Marcos admitted the lack of capacity of his organization to "read" what was happening in 1988, with Cardenism; he regrets it because he says that perhaps, they, the Zapatistas, could have done something to help so that as a result at that time the country could have taken another direction.

And talking about the social "awakening" of 85, especially in the first hours after the earthquake, during which the people mobilized themselves, governed themselves, he suggested:

"A great social movement, without organic direction, about very specific simple demands, with creative forms of struggle, in large part as a response, as a rejection of the traditional forms of doing politics of the left or the right".

--And won't your proposal have to do with the dream of self-determination of 1968?

--Yes and no. I believe that what we are proposing is just the stage before that of self-determination.

--But if you are proposing something completely different from what rules the world now, and that the strongest impose...

--Yes. It is like the antithesis of neo-liberalism: a broader social participation that makes itself political, which is to say, the civil society becomes the political society, without having necessarily to go through the traditional forms of making politics.

--Or in other words, in one way or another, the society stops turning over the government to a representative, and assumes the responsibility of governing. In subversive words: the civil society takes over the government, takes power and gives it to someone. But it warns this someone that if he or she doesn't work, he or she will go.

"This is where the indigenous people of Chiapas have what I call a world proposal: we organize the world in this way, we exercise power, we give it to someone, but we continue being vigilant of that person, and when he or she doesn't work, we take him or her out. That's what is done in the indigenous communities."

--And if what they are proposing doesn't work?

--They are clear about this and say: Perhaps what we are proposing will work or perhaps it won't. We don't know, but what we do know is the other--what is there today--doesn't work. Because, look: how is it possible that after 20 centuries, the world--with neoliberalism--takes a step back of 300 years?

"And what is worse still for us: the government's proposal in the dialogue at San Andres doesn't want to go back 300 years, but rather 500 years! It wants to finish the Conquest of Mexico, not like the North Americans did, annihilating the indigenous. No they go beyond what General Custer did. They--the government-- are planning to continue a process of absorption and destruction of what is indigenous: their culture. That's the genocide, not in assassinating the indigenous, but in making them stop being indigenous. How so? By attacking their customs, their forms of government...in this sense they are more reactionary--or more revolutionary, according to the new political language".

--In this new world that you talk about, where does the EZLN fit?

--The EZLN has to disappear as such. It is part of the old, of what has to disappear. Don't forget that we are an army willing to die, but also willing to kill. In the new society that is going to be created, this does not have reason to exist.

No, he restated assuredly, the new world will not include the EZLN, it will include others.

--So the EZLN is not planning to take power?

--No--he responded, and in response to my gesture of incredibility, he further explained:

"We have come to realize that the problem is not that of taking power, but rather who exercises it. We could say: we are overthrowing the PRI, and now the Zapatista Party of National Liberation is in power. As President, Marcos. As Secretary of the Government, some one bland: Tacho, he says with sarcasm; for Secretary of Foreign Relations, a great diplomat: Moises; Education for Heriberto; for Secretary of Women's Action, Eva, in the end..."

Marcos amused himself, distributing roles.

It is perhaps for this reason--the lack of interest in power--"that the word of the Zapatistas has been well received in other countries across the globe, above all in Europe. It has not just been because it is new or novel, but rather because it is proposing this, which is to say, to separate the political problem from the problem of taking power, and take it to another terrain."

--What terrain?

--A more plural terrain, a more altruistic one. Where they do not jockey for positions of power, since you are not going to be able to hold onto power illegally. And so, in this new terrain, to construct something new, something where the ideas of the Zapatistas would have to be diluted or transformed in such a way that it would be irreconcilable." But this, he stated firmly--"has to happen also with the Party-State, with the other traditional political parties, and with all of the traditional forms of doing politics."

--And so, what is the EZLN going to be?

-- Our work is going to end, if it ends, in the construction of this space for new political relationships. What follows is going to be a product of the efforts of other people, with another way of thinking and acting. And there we are not going to work; instead, we would be a disturbance.

Part 3

Raul, like a good photographer, was the first to notice it. The only thing that I had seen on his brown shirt were the ammo belts with their rows of bullets, the standard- issue bandanna, and a small shield with the national flag on the left side of his chest.

--Did you see the other?--Raul asked me.

--What other?--I asked out loud.

Marcos happened to hear and immediately unbuttoned from the right side of his shirt a golden shield, and put it in my hands. In fact it was gold, and the shape of the eagle was very different from that of the modern eagle. I appeared to me to be a standard shield from the Mexican National Army, like those that only high-ranking officials receive, such as generals, for example. But the shape of the eagle intrigued me. If it had belonged to a general, it would have to have been a general from earlier times, I told myself.

--How did you get this?--I asked him.

--Someone sent it to me....and please excuse me for not telling who it was, but I am not authorized to do so--he said, making a face that could be seen under the ski-mask, like those that children make when they are proud that they have a secret.

"Just put--he said to me--that a great Mexican woman gave it to me, a struggler for her entire life". He then put it back on his impeccable shirt, which gave me such envy: Why did he only appear dirty from his knees to his boots, I asked myself after the many hours that he had been sitting in front of me. On the other hand, in this humidity and the other conditions of the place where the interview had been held, I felt disgusting from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.

And then this mixture of humor and rebellion that he kept up despite the isolation in which he was living; as well as having up-to-date information, which allowed him not only to talk about national questions, but also about the issues of globalization and its economic project, that is so in vogue... but also about the strategy of this project with regards to the armed forces of our countries.

I said to Marcos that, just when the transnational financial capital is celebrating its triumph with a great party, they, the Zapatistas, appear. What type of future then can the Zapatista project have?

--It is the only one with a future--he responded to me strongly--: the globalization project world-wide is a failure and has only generated its opposite. Not only have nation states not disappeared, (to be absorbed into a great global state), as was planned--this is the central thesis of neoliberalism and its native equivalents like Salinas or Menem--, but rather what it has done is to further fragment the national states into pieces. As a result, what it is succeeding in doing is to complicate even more the social problem, the economic issues, and the problem of global development.

"And now comes the issues about the military: regarding the military, this strategy continues along the same line: we incorporate one capital, one business: Earth, Inc., and this has just one army, one single security force, and one grand military police. We absorb all the armies, or in other words, a rehearsal of the NATO.

"But what occurs is exactly the opposite: the borders aren't erased, but rather multiplied, and the armies aren't simply absorbed into one large one, but rather they are divided into many. There's the example of Yugoslavia, and that of the former USSR, with the conflict of Chechenia. Military men who once fought together now fight against one another.

"I believe that what the process of globalization produces-- he said with assurance-- is to send the idiots to the dogs, since now they don't have a prisoner, they end up attacking themselves. And as a necessity the armies are contaminated. Because the function of an army to ensure the existence of the national State. If this national state begins to come apart, the army is not subordinate, but rather begins to turn on itself.

--And in the case of the Mexican National Army? The case of Mexico and the Mexican Army could be even more dramatic still, because in Mexico it is possible to distinguish various regions completely distinct from one another, like nation states. In general terms, the North, the Southeast and the Center. This three, at least, have very different problems. One could talk of even three different countries at the economic, political, cultural and social levels.

Marcos referred to the nationalist tradition of the Mexican National Army, and recognized the presence in it of "military men of honor".

"The Mexican army, amongst the armies of Latin America, has always had an attitude of relative autonomy, with regard to the North American military policy. As a fact the career military men, those whom we call "military men of honor" are military men because they believe in the military career, not because they are looking for a salary. They are or were proud to belong to the armed forces. A group very similar to the Mexican foreign service and their career diplomats.

"A few were very proud of the progressive and independent line that had been maintained. But precisely because of this line the Mexican military men have been a problem for the North American military men, that they are now seeking to resolve through its project to create a continental military force: the equivalent of NATO, but in Latin America."

--Could the United States or the Pentagon achieve its objective?

-- No, I believe that the result that it is going to produce is exactly the opposite, which is a delicate issue for the Mexican Army: "It was thought that Europe would unite more, and now it is more divided than in the Second World War. In the plans it was said: one sole world, one sole leader, one sole boss, the United States of North America. And now we have a world that is much more divided. There isn't even a military control over one or the other forces. And they have achieved what no one believed was possible: export Beirut (export the horror) to other countries: Yugoslavia, Russia, Europe... and soon others will follow, like Spain, Italy, and other countries, both developed and underdeveloped. All of this, under the guise or the argument that it is about inter-ethnic struggles.

"And this--restated Marcos--is the project of the right at the global level: a deferred crisis, permanent, until the crisis makes itself stable, which is to say that to be in crisis is to be stable, that you become accustomed to living in crisis. That you become accustomed to see deaths, assassinations, bombings, everything...Yugoslavia, but throughout the entire world, in Mexico.

--Why?--I asked, horrified.

--It is like this because the most powerful money is the financial one and it has no fatherland. To it it does not matter if the states are all one or they split up. It has nothing to lose, it does not have a factory, a piece of land; it does not have a business. It has money, and it can move it wherever it wants.

--Why did you mention Mexico?

Because in Mexico the governing class, the stock market and others have been very sensitive to the process of globalization, to the point of putting it above all values, or supposed ethics or morals, and I don't refer to ethical values or religious morals, but rather what used to be called a love of one's country or sense of nation.

"In this I believe that Chomsky is right when he says: the nation states are ending, the powerful classes or the national government leaders are disappearing; there no longer is a national political class; there are administrators of businesses with branches.

Marcos became serious, very serious, when he warned: "There the bet will be whether among the Mexican political class that is in power there are still groups or factions who still feel what has no explanation or what is felt here in one's chest: what is nationalism, the love of nationhood, of history, of fatherland...and then they put themselves on the side of their country."

It now was night, and the interview still had not ended. Our only light came from candles. Raul Ortega could hardly see to take his last shots, and used the flash. Marcos lit his pipe, keeping the flame of his match lit, and looking at it for awhile, giving Raul time to take the photo.

--How is Marcos and what is going to happen to him?--I asked him.

Marcos is in perfect health--he said rising from the bench and sticking out his chest, while letting go with a laugh.

--No, I'm serious. How do you feel? Seriously?

Well, I feel very persecuted. They want to kill me! And knowing that they want to kill you, believe me, is not a very agreeable feeling, we could say.

"In addition, now with the certitude, that of those from the other side, with whom previously one could talk with, now you can only expect betrayal.

"All of the military movements that are going on, including the ruses of the vaccination campaigns, humanitarian aid, have in reality the objective of finding us, of knowing where we are, in order to be able to carry out military action. Although according to them--he said shrugging his shoulders--the CIA already knows where I am and is only waiting for the opportune moment to strike the blow, or in other words, the surgical operation that for some time they have been preparing.

Marcos, denounced the intervention of the US in Chiapas: "We know that the North American government is very involved in the assassination project, to the extent that its satellites are interfering with our communications, and they are passing on the recordings to the Mexican government, which does not have the technology to intercept these communications. The North American government does, and is using it; this we have confirmed. Said in passing, as a greeting to Mr. Clinton...

--You probably feel very much under attack, is that true?

-- Yes, and look, perhaps it is for this reason that we have been so clumsy in certain things, like for example, in the criticism that we made about Aedepech, when they negotiated with Dante Delgado. This can serve as request for a pardon from the companeros. But, I insist to you, when you feel persecuted, you tend to think that everyone else is fine, and this isn't true: the situation of harassment, persecution and scarcities, is not just the condition of the EZLN, but also that of many other forces. The fact that the military is against us, makes us think that everything is against us, and it isn't like that.

The self-evaluation of Marcos surprised me. I told him that.

"Fortunately the Zapatistas have known to admit when they were wrong," he explained. "Perhaps there isn't any remedy for things now, but we do not have any hesitation in accepting that we screwed up. Regardless--he insisted-- believe me that there is nothing comfortable about having so many people looking to kill you."

THE POWER

--Talk to me about power: doesn't it appeal to you?

--No, it terrifies me, he responded opening his eyes widely.

-But, look: Why do people have to believe Marcos? Perhaps we are looking at a future "denier" of his past?

--What do you want me to say? That Marcos could end up in the Pronasol?", he asked, amused, and infecting the two officials of the EZLN who, although they had not identified themselves, had stayed by his side throughout the entire interview.

--When I tried to continue with the theme, he teased me:

"Wait! Wait!: And if Marcos does not become a renegade, huh?", he asked me.

--No, here the one who asks the questions is me, I said to him.

--No--he explained--we are asking anyone to believe in us. We are not ordering them to: Give up your idols, come with us, we are the right ones.

"What we are saying to the people is: destroy everything, make something new, Use us! Use even our blood. Because there is something more, more than where we were in 1985, more than in 1988, that is not Cardenas, more than in 94, that is not the EZLN.

--If the EZLN sees itself obliged to become a political force, what will happen to the weapons?

--A political force has to incorporate in an organized way other forms of struggle, that are neither armed struggle or clandestine, which is what makes an army like ours.

--But you have said that the weapons are not up for discussion, that you will not put them down...

--That's how it is, but then we would become a structure that without giving up our weapons, could lead other forms of struggle, but that are not necessarily looking to take power.

"For this reason I distinguish between a political party and a political force: a political party is in fact defined by the effort to take power. A political force doesn't, not necessarily.

--What would the EZLN offer, as a political force, to the other sectors of society, and not just to the indigenous people?

--What the EZLN has to offer to the Mexican society is someone who listens to their demands, and pays attention to them, that takes them into account. We constructed this culture, and we learned to do it, because that's how we grew, if not we would have continued only being eight or twelve people.

--And it the majority do not vote in favor of your becoming a political force, but rather that you unite with another party organization?

--We do not know what is going to happen: if we are going to become a political party, if we are going to vie for positions in popular elections or are we going to be a movement without being a political party, without becoming a legal entity, but rather simply mobilizing people, putting together demands, or in other words, acting as a counterweight to those in power in order to keep them in check, I don't know. What we do guarantee is that whoever comes to us, we will listen to them, we will take them into account like we are taking them into account now, with the Plebiscite, in deciding what we are going to do.

--And the weapons?

--We are not going to give up our weapons because they are our means of survival. But we are willing not to use them-- except in self-defense--if there is some other way. In other words, we will not resort to using weapons to obtain what we want.

--And is there another way?

--I don't know. The Plebiscite is the first step in finding out.

--What are you hoping for, you specifically, from the government?

--Death...

--But if the Plebiscite goes better than expected...

--No, look, nothing can be hoped for from the government:: Why didn't it dialogue with a force that has six million recognized votes, like the PRD, or the National Action Party (PAN), which had 17 million votes?

--Well, it has dialogued with some people, including all of you.

--Yes, it's spend seven months dialoguing with us, without any positive results. As a result the country is in uncertainty and distrust regarding the process of dialogue.

--However the dialogue continues.

--Yes, but it is because above all the government needs to appear that it is governing. And it can't even do this well, like Salinas did. Salinas was able to maintain the appearance of governing, even with murders and everything else that you could imagine... But Zedillo can't even maintain this appearance, and the murders continue...

--It is said that in his State of Nation, President Zedillo is going to announce a very ambitious plan for Chiapas. In what way would this plan influence or affect the communities?

--No, look--he responded softly--: the lies have never had an affect. In addition, regardless of what they say, they don't have any money."

--And the participation of the World Bank in this plan?

--The World Bank is not going to risk anything until it has the oil in its hands. But for this to happen, two things have to happen: one, eliminate the EZLN, and two, they have to dismantle the indigenous communities; which is to say, destroy them culturally. This is the government's project, the project of the Pentagon, or even higher than the Pentagon: the social and cultural destruction of the communities.

And this is when Marcos' expression changed. He lowered his voice. A heavy shadow fell over his face:

"Look, what is going to do damage is the prostitution that is coming in, the alcoholism...The incorporation of the indigenous world or of that part of the indigenous world that was isolated in the Canyons and the Highlands, from the worst of Mexico: the Mexico as consumer, the prostituted Mexico..."

--What can be done then?

--To trust, or bet on their tradition of resistance, like what is preserved in the Highlands of Chiapas, more than in the Jungle. Return to the teachings of Old Anthony which was what converted the EZLN into what it is today: a very flexible organization.

"The secret of the indigenous resistance since the Conquest- -says Old Anthony--is that it knows that when they are being beaten, they can't always take a hard line, that sometimes it is better to be flexible.

--In the face of the panorama that you described earlier, isn't the EZLN and even the civil society a very small force, a very weak one?

--No, no we aren't so small, you will see--and the light returned to his eyes--"Let's put things in perspective: How many of those on the other side are willing to die for what they believe, and how many of this side are willing to die for they believe in? You are going to see that there are many more of us on this side. The other side is not going to have many...

--Do you think that there are many Mexicans willing to die in defense of their culture, of their oil and the other resources?

--No, I am thinking of the small group of Mexicans in the EZLN who are willing to die, he said, amused in the face of my solemnity. And he explained to me:

--"Look, what's going on is that there is a difference between these and those: the difference is that we believe in what we are doing, and that's it".

--After the "retreat" of last February 9 or ...

--Say it, say it--Marcos encouraged me--"after we ran, isn't that what you wanted to say?"

"Yes, after not having confronted militarily the army's offensive, the military force of the EZLN shrunk a great deal.

--Look, the military force of the EZLN is intact, which is to say, we still have our weapons, we have experience in combat, and we have not been defeated.

--There are those who say that it has grown enormously.

--It has grown, but we say that it is not in significant amounts, which is to say, we maintain our balance. Where there has been very considerable growth is in the political arena.

--And if the military option is imposed over the dialogue?

--The first thing that would happen is to make a surgical blow at the head, to remove the tumor. Then they would massively expand the military presence: a camp in each community, and along with this military presence, continue forward with the social decomposition: prostitution, drinking, commercialization, the gradual loss of the indigenous identity, culture, and its project. A brain wash: erase history, erase that part that the EZLN talks about.

--This would be an intermittent war, but they could be so stupid as to opt for genocide. Because in the end, in war there is no control. There's the case of Ocosingo in 1994..."

--You really believe this?

--Yes, but not even like this are they going to beat us, because war, and especially modern war, is not just an armed confrontation. War is, above all, a political confrontation, and in some of its facets, but hardly ever in the determining ones, is it military.

--Where are the modern wars carried out, Marcos?

--In the communication media. It doesn't matter how much actual physical damage you do to the enemy, which is much more expensive, what matters is to appear to have destroyed him.

"This is the war that we are in today".

--What do you regret, Marcos?

--Of having given you this interview, he said laughing.


(translated by Cindy Arnold, Center for Democracy, Liberty and Justice)


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