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A change in direction for the EZLN

category north america / mexico | indigenous struggles | feature author Tuesday June 21, 2005 21:27author by Anarkismo Editorial Group - Anarkismo Report this post to the editors

Follows the process from the Red Alert to details of the new campaign

The EZLN declared a Red Alert in Chiapas in June taking a number of steps including closing down the Caracoles and the Good Government offices, evacuating the civilian delegates who make up the zapatista structures of regional self management and creating a clear distinction between the military side of the organisation and the civilian healthcare side. This looked a lot like preparation for war but a communique released the following day revealed that the red alert was just a precautionary measure to allow a consulta to take place.

The 6th Declaration of the Selva Lacandona was then released - it outlines the new strategy

and the communiques which follow it add more detail. brought you news and analysis of this situation as it developed. Here we carry the Zapatista communiques and background materials and links that help explain who the Zapatistas are, what they stand for and what are the causes of the conflict in Chiapas.

Complete EZLN communique - 6th Declaration of the Selva Lacandona (English)
EZLN reveal new strategy
The EZLN announced the end of its consulta which had trigged the red alert (see feature) and that a ' Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona' was on its way. These declarations in the past have been key strategy announcements. This is the declaration which ends with a call for a new international encounter and an alliance with the non-electoral left in Mexico who want to build from below.
Sesta dichiarazione della Selva Lacandona (Italiano)
Sexta Declaración del la Selva Lacandona (Castellano)

More details

This set of communiques includes the re-opening of the Caracoles and details of the "Sixth Committee" which is to meet with people or organizations who do not participate in elections to form 'the other campaign'. Meetings will then be held in Chiapas of various sectors with the aim of issuing a common statement agreed by all on September 16.

The communiques in this batch are

Marcos on responses to the 6th declaration
A Penguin in the Selva Lacandona
Macos of the EZLN responds to some of the responses they have received to the text of the 6th declaration. He goes on to ask what impact all the international and national solidarity has had on the children who have grown up during the Zapatista rebellion

Zapatista Consultas are long processes that involve every community in discussions that frame questions that all will then vote on. The first article below written before the red alert perhaps gives some clues as to why this process is taking place. The articles 'What is it that is different about the Zapatistas?' includes an outline of the consulta process in more detail.

Zapatista's - 11 years on, a retreat and a consolidation
What has been happening in Chiapas in recent years?
This article was for publication in Red and Black Revolution, Autumn 2005. News has just come through through of a Zapatista communique that appears to be a preparation for a return to war. At this stage it is not clear what is about to happen so I am releasing the article as I think it provides a useful background of events in the last couple of years and the sort of reasons why the Zapatistas might have decided to return to armed struggle.

EZLN communique - The reasons for the Red Alert
EZLN reveal that the reason for the Red Alert is to allow a consulta to take place on the future direction of the organisation. During a previous consulta the army attacked them so this is a precautionary measure.

EZLN - A letter of explanation...and/or, perhaps, farewell
A letter from Marcos
Marcos summarises the work of the Zapatistas to date and the betrayal of the peace deal by all the political parties. He says the results of the Consulta process should soon be known. "Now we shall decide whether we are going to do something else, and we will make the results public at the proper time. We are now making clear - in order to end the speculations - that this "other thing" does not entail any offensive military action on our part. We are not, on our part, planning nor discussing reinitiating offensive military combat."

EZLN communique -Zapatista Red Alert declared in Chiapas
Zapatistas preparing to go underground once more, requesting peace observers to leave the communities, closing carocols and Goood Government Councils. This appears to be preparation for war!

EZLN communique - Zapatistas can survive a decapatation attack
Communique from EZLN saying that they have put the structures in place which would allow the organisation to survice even if the government or its paramilitaries eliminate "some or all of its publicly known current leadership."

What is it that is different about the Zapatistas?
The EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army) came briefly to the worlds attention when they seized several towns in Chiapas on New Years day in 1994. Since then most of the support the Zapatistas have received is strongly based on the idea that the Zapatistas are different. Different not just from the neoliberal world order they oppose but, more fundamentally, different from the armed revolutionary groups that exist and have existed elsewhere in the world. This study on the Zapatistas written by an Irish anarchist in 2001 explains why they are different in more detail.

What is happening with the Zapatistas?
The following piece explains in some detail what is happening with the building of the Caracols ('Good Governement Councils') in Chiapas. It looks in detail at the areas of education, health, economy and justice.

Indigenous Autonomy and Revolutionary Resistance
A text from the now defunct Mexican anarchist group Amor y Rabia (Mexico) that analysis the indigenous basis of the Zapatistas

El Anarquismo Revolucionario y la Sexta Declaracion
Análisis por la Alianza de los Comunistas Libertarios
Mexican anarchist communists on the 6th declaration - in Spanish (translation required_

author by oliver - capital terminuspublication date Tue Jun 21, 2005 18:00Report this post to the editors

Originally posted here Tue, 28 Jun 2005 17:46:05, date changed is that it appears as the first comment

Originally published in Spanish by the CCRI-CG of the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa

Communiqué from the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee -
General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.


June 26, 2005.

To the People of Mexico:
To the Peoples of the World:

First - The CCRI-CG of the EZLN is informing you that it has finished
consulting with tens of thousands of support bases. Between June 20 and
June 26, meetings and assemblies were held in more than one thousand
indigenous communities in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas.

Second - Participating in these assemblies were only 100% indigenous and
100% Mexican men and women, adults, EZLN support bases, who listened to
reports from the zapatista leadership. There was also an analysis of the
national situation and of the proposal for a new step in the struggle.

Third - After analyzing and discussing the advantages and disadvantages,
the dangers and the risks, everyone expressed themselves, through
individual, free votes, concerning the proposal.

Fourth - The results were that more than 98% approved the new step, and
less than 2% decided not to support the proposal.

Fifth - In this manner, with the approval and backing of the wide
majority of its members, the EZLN shall undertake a new political
initiative that is national and international in nature.

Sixth - In order to report on what was analyzed and discussed in the
internal consulta - in addition to explaining and calling for joining in
with the new initiative which has been approved - the CCRI-CG of the EZLN
will, over the next few days, make public a series of texts which are part
of the "Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona."


From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

By the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee - General Command of
the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico, in the sixth month of 2005.

author by lucas - NAFpublication date Wed Jun 22, 2005 06:49Report this post to the editors

whats the background on this? why are the zapatistas going up in arms? is it offensive or is it defensive?

author by Oliver - Capital Terminuspublication date Wed Jun 22, 2005 13:20Report this post to the editors

is it public information whether or not they've kept themselves armed, and to what degree?

author by Andrew - Anarkismopublication date Wed Jun 22, 2005 18:21Report this post to the editors

I've talked to someone down there but there is not much to report beyond that this has taken everybody by surprise. One thing to note though is that the harvest isn't due for a couple of months which would make this a very odd time for the Zapatistas to initate anything.

It's worth remembering that in the past Marcos has claimed to have got links from within the Fox cabinet (I quote it in my article).

The best speculation about what might be happening I have seen to date was contained in an article by Rafael which I quote below

may of 2005 the Zapatistas released a communiquee in which they announced to send a delegation to Europe. Their spokesman, “Subcomandante Marcos” ended with a post scriptum:

"P.S. in the tone and volume of a sports announcer – The Sup, using the tactics of the Uruguayan Obdulio Varela in the final against Brazil (World Cup, Maracaná Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, 7/16/1950), ball in hand, having traveled as if in slow motion (since May of 2001), from the zapatista goalpost. After complaining to the referee about the illegitimacy of the goal, he puts the ball in the center of the field. He turns around to look at his compañeros and they exchange glances and silences. With the scorecard, the bets and the entire system against them, NO ONE has any hope for the zapatistas. It starts to rain. A watch reads almost 6. Everything appears ready for the game to resume…"

And the game resumed last Sunday. Today on Tuesday, when I’m writing this article, it is still unclear what prompted the red alert. There are a few possible explanations:

A peaceful solution to the conflict seemed impossible to the Zapatistas. The Zapatista support bases have decided to restart the shooting war to achieve their objectives. This explanation seems highly unlikely to me. The past ten years the Zapatistas moved away from armed struggle to achieve their goals. Furthermore, they lack the military capabilty to confront the Mexican federal army in a full-out war.

The Zapatistas have been alarmed by troop movements of the federal army. They foresee a possible attack and prepare to defend themselves. According to spokespersons of the Mexican government there have been no troop movements that can be explained as such. Moreover, the Zapatista spokesperson wrote ended the communiquee of last Sunday with: “Vale. Health, and pay attention, because down below the watch reads six”. This might mean that back in may the Zapatistas already knew they were preparing for this red alert”.

The Zapatistas fear an attack by a paramilitary organisation. The pas eleven and a half years, hundreds of civil Zapatistas and members of the civil society have been assassinated by forces that were trained, armed and directed by the federal army and the political parties. Although the murderers and the intellectual authors of these murders were rarely prosecuted and convicted, the Zapatisata have never retaliated these crimes. They denounced the murders by the official government and waited for justice.

A fourth possible reason is to my opinion the most probable. About six months ago a communiquee was released in which the Mexican justice department was urged to arrest and trial the murderers of unarmed civilians in Chiapas and end the impunity that had reigned Chiapas for eleven years. They warned the government that if justice would not be achieved, the zapatistas, after turning the other cheek for 11 years, would arrest and trial these murderers themselves. It is very likely that they are about to do just that. And they expect retaliation by the paramilitaries and the army who are intimately connected.

As to arms - well the Zapatistas never disarmed but they were never that well armed in the first place. The Mexican army on the other hand is armed with recent vintage US army stuff.

author by Andrew - Anarkismopublication date Wed Jun 22, 2005 18:46Report this post to the editors

The latest communique

EZLN communique - Zapatistas can survive a decapatation attack
Communique from EZLN saying that they have put the structures in place which would allow the organisation to survice even if the government or its paramilitaries eliminate "some or all of its publicly known current leadership."

Would hint that they expect some sort of government/paramilitary attack.

author by Andrew - Anarkismopublication date Wed Jun 22, 2005 19:04Report this post to the editors

It turns out the red alert is just a precautionary measure so that a consulta can be carried out. I'm updating the feature to reflect this and pasting in the text of the old feature here to preserve a record of the original sense of panic

Text of old feature followes

On you can see from the newswire the EZLN has declared a Red Alert in Chiapas and taken a number of steps including closing down the Caracoles and the Good Government offices, evacuating the civilian delegates who make up the zapatista structures of regional self management and creating a clear distinction between the military side of the organisation and the civilian healthcare side. This looks a lot like preparation for war.

Everyone seems to have been taken by surprise by this announcement although the communique was rapidly translated and circulated on the internet. The only apparent immediate possible cause were army raids in the Los Altos area in which allegedly the army "destroyed a total of 9 acres of marijuana plants". However even here it should be noted that Zapatista law forbids the growing of marijuana and the Good Government Councils are tasked with the job of ensuring any found growing is destroyed. will be bringing you news and analysis of the situation as it develops - we start off here by carrying the Zapatista communique and background materials and links that help explain who the Zapatistas are, what they stand for and what are the causes of the conflict in Chiapas.

This feature will be updated with links to new material as it arrives

text of feature continues

The LA times is reporting Ernesto Ledesma Arronte of the CAPISE Indian rights center as saying "Something like this could only be caused by an important military mobilization. I think it has to do with the army," but the Mexican's government peace commissioner for Chiapas, Luis H. Alvarez is saying "it can be affirmed categorically that the border zone of Los Altos and the Chiapas jungle are in a state of full normality"

According to Reuters "The Defense Ministry in Mexico City said in a statement that almost 200 troops from infantry and armored units joined federal police in destroying marijuana plantations in three rebel-held zones." but the Chiapas state government said federal troops had recently pulled out of the area. "Some military bases have been withdrawn. Only two days ago one pulled out so we don't know what is happening,"

author by Marcospublication date Thu Jun 23, 2005 07:26Report this post to the editors

We are not.

author by oliver - capital terminuspublication date Thu Jun 23, 2005 08:47Report this post to the editors

I don't think anyone called them anarchists on this site - however we all think that they are fighting for a libertarian communist world - "Everything for everyone", "Lead by obeying", "A world where many worlds are possible" etc., all symbolize a desire for a free society in which property and the market system have been abolished.

author by ??publication date Thu Jun 23, 2005 23:37Report this post to the editors

The Zaps seem to have spent considerable time putting the Mexican (and American) government at east. They have repeatedly said they will not attempt to fight the central state. Their actions have backed this up. If they initiated fighting, it would be from a defensive position of weakness. In insurgencies, that's rarely a good plan.

For a few years, it's looked like the EZ is a "finite" movement. I hope they pick it up, a lot of us do. But I"m not counting on it. When the Acteal massacre happened, their response was to take it. The army and paramilitaries established that the EZ couldn't even defend their supporting communities and since then all the autonomous municipalities are effectively surrounded by Mexican federal troops.

It's hard to see the EZ changing their political orientation, even after they've failed to achieve their objectives.

author by Andrew - Anarkismopublication date Fri Jun 24, 2005 21:41Report this post to the editors

It is now clear (see letter from Marcos) that offensive military action is not one of the options being considered in the Consulta. As someone who has been in Zapatista communities, even if only briefly, I for one am relieved. Having seen the weapons they have on public display and the might of the Mexican army a return to war outside of some sort of mass upsurge throughout Mexico would be suicide.

The Zapatista communities were surrounded by the army long before the Acteal massacre and indeed that massacre was of refugees on the edge of the zapatista area rather than of a zapatisa base. More than that 'The bees' as they are called are a religious pacifist movement who share some common aims with the zapatistas but are seperate from them. The paramilitaries couldn't have picked a 'softer' target than a community of pacifist refugees.

Those who want the zapatistas to glorously die for them need to think things out a little further. There is no prospect of military success - the best that could be hoped for would be ambushes on an army that was busy over running the very communities that comprise the movement. The Zapatista militia can do that but what of the civilian base, the old and the children in particular. Your military adventure would make them refugees at best - the worst is the spectre of the counter insurgency across the border in the 1980's that left 100,000 dead - mainly civilians.

The answer is not a military one but a political one and unfortuantely it is not a political answer to be found in Chiapas alone. Any large step forward has to be a step taken outside of Chiapas which is a poor and isolated backwater in Mexico. The zapatistas have put huge resources into encouraging others elsewhere and although more than a few have sought them out it is still a tiny number in a country of 95 million.

Of course the political question is much bigger again than Mexico. If Reagan was unwilling to tolerate the Sandanistas in Nicargua how do you expect that Bush would tolerate a zapatista revolution in Mexico - on the very borders of the USA. The step forward that is required does not stop at the Rio Grande but also has to head north across it - at the very least at the level of a solidarity movement that could stop US military intervention. As the Iraq war shows that is not an easy task.

So rather than suggesting the zapatistas should launch a futile military campaign maybe you should prepare for the day when they might be successful and it will be up to you to have prepared such a movement in the USA. With that as your task I think rather than seeking rapid action you should hope for as much time as you can get!

author by oliver - capital terminuspublication date Sat Jun 25, 2005 04:03Report this post to the editors

good summation - although i don't know if a solidarity movement alone can stop a war - if there was a revolution in mexico that looked like it would win, the only thing that could hold back the US is if they needed all of their army here. A solidarity movement can play support for someone else, maybe dampen the US army's ability to fight and increase the Zap (or whomevers) ability to fight, but only widespread insurrection here would pull back the US army.

After all, the US army was in france, germany, russia, and mexico at the same time as the IWW was raising hell here in the 1910's, and the US army was much more second rate at that time.

However, the US army is currently built very heavily on latin american immigrants, and its very questionable what would happen to the morale if they were told to invade mexico - its more likely that there would be incredibly high arming of contras before they resorted to actual invasion.

author by Sean S.publication date Sat Jun 25, 2005 08:32Report this post to the editors

It seems from the marcos letter circulating about that the EZLN (and probably Marcos himself) are thinking about moving on to other projects and letting the indigenous communities and others continue on with their civil work. It'll be interesting to see what the decisions of the Consulta will be, and what exactly, these "other interests" that Marcos cites will be (will they move to another country? will they engage on some sort of world wide resistance movement?).

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