"La Jornada", March 14, 1997
Zapatista Army of National Liberation,
Mexico, March 9, 1997
To the Comission of Concordance and Pacification (Cocopa):
After many setbacks (among them overcoming the siege, military surveillance, constant air and land patrols, bad weather, isolation, and the etceteras that the war and the rain forest add and multiply) we were able to receive your open letter dated March 4, 1997, that is to say almost two months after, if memory serves us right, that we asked you to define your position in relation to the terminal crisis provoked by the government with its counterproposal of constitutional reform concerning Indigenous rights.
However, your letter is filled with imprecisions, omissions and half truths. Because of this, I will take the liberty of drawing up a brief summary of the facts, in order to try and avoid, in the midst of the disinformation campaign which the government has unleashed during the past days, that its text contributes to the current confusion. Over and out ("Sale y Vale"):
At the end of August, 1996 (8 months after some accords had been signed and not complied with), the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) bases of support ordered the CCRI-CG (Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee of the General Command) to suspend its participation in the San Andres' dialogue. The suspension came about due to the lack of a serious committment to the dialogue on the part of the government. The nonfulfilment of agreed upon accords, the political prisoners, the military and paramilitary harrassment, the keeping of a racist and incompetent delegation, and the lack of serious proposals on the subject of Democracy and Justice, are but a few samples of the gigantic proof that the government played, and plays games, with the war against the Mexican Indians. Our five demands to reiniciate the dialogue were expressed then. (By the way, the EZLN demanded then, and demands now a governmental interlocutor with a capacity to make decisions, with political good will and respect for the Zapatista delegation, and not the "strengthening of governmental interloction", as you state in your letter. The fact Mr. Zedillo ignores the accords his delegation arrived at confirms that Mr. Bernal, and Mr. Del Valle didn't have, nor presently have any decision making capacity. As to their lack of political good will and their lack of respect, their history speaks for itself.)
The Cocopa then set up a series of iniciatives to resume the dialogue. The so called "three-way" meetings were agreed upon between the Conai, the Cocopa and the EZLN to discuss and agree upon solutions which would not only solve that crisis, but which would redefine the structure of the dialogue and would render it more expedite. In reality, the governmental delegation had been displaced, and a new actor, the Cocopa, appeared on the scene. Mr. Bernal, and Mr. Del Valle had taken the process from crisis to crisis and their method's failure had already been proven.
After accomplishing the installation of the Commission of Continuation and Verification (not without first having succeeded in defeating serious obstacles interposed by the gentlemen from "Gobernacion" (the State Department,) the Cocopa dedicated itself to solving the point of the enforcement of the accords signed by the government and the EZLN at the table on Indigenous Culture and Rights. The EZLN accepted the proposition that the Cocopa elaborate an iniciative of constitutional reform, a task its role as coadjutant facilitated. Then, in order to built that iniciative, the Cocopa assumed itself as courrier at that stage (in spite of our warning that it would not succeed) and presented the proposals of each group to its counterpart. After this method failed (as it had already failed at the San Andres' table,) the two parts agreed that the Cocopa would write a document about the accords and that, based on that document, both the EZLN and the federal government would pronouce sentence.
You will remember that, having reached that accord with both parts so that the Cocopa could write a single document ("so as not to keep on exchanging proposals forever", your exact words) and that based on that document the respective positions would be defined, you came up with a proposal of a law iniciative. You presented your document on November 29, 1996 warning us that that would be the Cocopa's last effort, that you would only accept a yes or a no to the document, and that, if any of the two parts were to come up with a negative answer, the Cocopa would consider that it had failed in its task as coadjutant and would disintegrate itself. On that date you told us that you had given the federal government an identical warning. We recognized that the Cocopa's effort was useful and that, in spite of the fact it did not incorporate the totality of the San Andres' accords under that subject, it meant a step forward.
Afterwards (let's keep on askin our memory for help), as you will remember, the Secretary of Gobernacion (I believe it is still Emilio Chuayffet Chemor) accepted the document and only asked that you wait for Mr. Zedillo's return (he was then traveling) to make his acceptance public. Afterwards came Mr. Chuayffet's cowardice and his lack of honesty, when he denied having accepted the text, claiming that he hadn't even read it and that his answer had been affirmative because he was at the time under the influence of the well know (for him) alcoholic drink called "chincho'n" (or something like that.) Then Mr. Zedillo talked to you and asked for time to give us his response (or perhaps to allow time for Mr. Chuayffet to recover from the chinchones.) Two weeks later, the government responded with an authentic couterproposal which not only ignores the Cocopa's proposal, but which pretends to renegociate the whole table on Indigenous Rights and Culture. We read the government's document and, of course, we rejected it. Then two months ago,already, we asked the Cocopa to define its posture before those pretentions from the government.
The Zapatista no to Zedillo's couterproposal unleashed an intense and rich national and international debate on the subject of Indian rights. The issues dealing with autonomy, normativity, and political participation of the Indigenous peoples particularly provoked interesting and clarifying interventions and opinions. Mr. Zedillo found no intelligent support to his already weak arguments against the recognition of the historical rights of the Indian peoples.
Aside from that of the new ideologue of Mexican fascism, Ignacio Burgoa Orihuela, no voice dared to play echo to the phantom of balcanization. This provoked Zedillo himself to pick up the ragged flag of racism and, followed by the Ministry of the Interior (with or without chinchones, "who knows?") (in English in the original), he insisted that he would not keep the agreements that his representatives had signed on February 16, 1996.
In less than two weeks the government lost the national debate and could no longer sustain any solid reason to reject the Cocopa's proposal. Then came the silences and the intents to minimize the final crisis of the dialogue between the government and the EZLN. It soon became clear that the government didn't have, nor does it have now, any arguments to reject the Cocopa's proposal and not to keep its word. The real reason: It came out loud and clear, there never was any intention on the part of the federal executive to keep the agreements and to solve the conflict by peaceful means. Only authoritarianism, prepotence and blindness, which are intrinsic to presidentialism, brought the crisis to its worst point, the one which now outlines your answer, gentlemen legislators.
There is more, gentlemen legislators, your letter omits the main question. What is your position in respect to the federal government's counterproposal? It might be convenient to learn about it now, when you have practically been set aside of the process by the federal government.
Your open letter says that you back the 29 november, 1996 proposal. But the reasons you give contradict that assertion, because they don't develop it and, furthermore, they propose to reopen the negociation. No? Well, it's true, they don't propose to reopen the negociations. In reality they propose that everything starts all over again, that we pretend as if nothing happened, as if there had been no war, no dialogue, and no negociation, treason, harrassment, persecution, lies, deciet, blackmails, racism, and etc. You propose that we back-up. How far back? Back to February 9, 1995's betrayal?
You point out that the "procedure set forth by the Cocopa did not reach its objective because the parties involved did not accept the proposed text" (point 5 of your letter). The truth is that the parties did accept the text proposed by the Cocopa, but one of them (the federal government) retracted its word, and backed up, giving as an argument the head of the (Ministry of the Interior) Secretaria de Gobernacion's alcoholism.
It is recommended, precisely now that the federal Legislative Power is about to be renewed, that you bring about what you note in point 6 of your letter: "The Cocopa considers that sending the original proposal unilaterally as an iniciative to the Union's Congress, is an option which would lack any viability of legislative approval." Chilling. Here the Cocopa recognizes that the Legislative Power is not independent from the Executive. If they recognize that inviability, what are their political parties going to debate during the electoral campaign which will culminate on July 6, 1997? Why participate in the elections for Congress if no iniciative which does not stem from the Executive can pass?
In your letter, gentlemen legislators, one forgets that it is one of the parties, the federal government, which refuses to keep its agreement and, for that matter, renders the peace process impossible. The Cocopa asks for a meeting, pretending to ignore that the military conditions have changed, that the persecution against members of the EZLN has increased (details: new military positions which close the tactical siege around the area of the Aguascalientes of La Realidad, increased harrassment, large artillery land columns (three times larger in number and three times more frequent) on the road to La Realidad; constant night patrols; insolent alliance between the white guards and the police in the North of Chiapas; increased land evictions; special army units obtaining data and searching for the Zapatista leadership; increased number of desertions from the federal ranks because of the certainty of an imminent governmental offensive,)and the fact that confidence has received a mortal blow.
Cocopa's positions are arrived at by consensus. Does this means that the four political parties represented in the federal legislative commission agree with their defeat and their subordination to the executive? Why and how was such consensus reached? Where did the "healthy distance" betwee Zedillo and the PRI go? What could they have offered the opposition parties so that they would back-up this rendition of the Cocopa and second the PRI and Zedillo in their annihilation plans?
You have taken almost two months to establish your position vis-a-vis the governmental refusal to honor the San Andres' accords. You respond until now, when the last rains disappear from the forest, when the government troups have the best climatological conditions for a military attack.
The presidentialist coup who pushes you aside, gentlemen legislators, added to the hunger conditions that the so called "drought period" imposes upon the Indian communities of Chiapas, assume that they will force us to accept Mr. Zedillo's pretentions that we back up from the keeping of the accords which your delegation signed in San Andres more than a year ago. The government pretends to use the Cocopa as a helpful means to war.