Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Penguin in the Selva Lacandona, Part 1

Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa

A Penguin in the Selva Lacandona I/II

(The zapatista is just a little house, perhaps the smallest, on a street called “Mexico,” in a barrio called “Latin America,” in a city called the “World.”)

You’re not going to believe me, but there’s a penguin in the Ezeta Headquarters. You’ll say “Hey, Sup, what’s up? You already blew the fuses with the Red Alert,” but it’s true. In fact, while I’m writing this to you, he (the penguin) is right here next to me, eating the same hard, stale bread (it has so much mold that it’s just one degree away from being penicillin), which, along with coffee, were my rations for today. Yes, a penguin. But I’ll tell you more about this later, because first we must talk a bit about the Sixth Declaration.

We have carefully read some of your doubts, criticism, advice and debates about what we posited in the Sixth. Not all of them, it’s true, but you can chalk that up, not to laziness, but to the rain and mud that’s lengthening the roads even more in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast. Although there are many points, I’m only going to refer to some of them in this text.

Some of the primary points of criticism refer to the so-called new intercontinental, to the national Mexican nature of the Sixth, and, along with this, to the proposal (it’s still just that, a proposal) of joining the indigenous struggle with that of other social sectors, notably with workers in the countryside and the city. Others refer to the definition of the anti-capitalist left and to the Sixth’s dealing with “old issues” or using “worn out” concepts. A few others warn of dangers: the displacement of the indigenous issue by others and, consequently, the Indian peoples being excluded as the subjects of transformation. The vanguardism and centralism that could arise in the politics of alliances with organizations of the left. The replacement of social leadership by political leadership. That the right would use zapatismo in order to strike a blow at López Obrador, in other words, at the political center (I know that those observations speak of AMLO’s being on the left, but he says he’s in the center, so here we’re going to take what he says, not what they say about him). The majority of these observations are well intended, and they seek to help, rightly warning of obstacles in the path, or rightly providing opinions as to how the movement which the Sixth is trying to arouse might grow.

Concerning cutting and pasting

I will leave aside those who are lamenting that the Red Alert didn’t end with the renewal of offensive combat by the EZLN. We are sorry that we didn’t fulfill your expectations of blood, death and destruction. No way, we’re sorry. Perhaps another time…We will also leave aside the dishonest criticisms. Like those who edit the text of the Sixth Declaration so that it says what they want it to say. This is what Señor Victor M. Toledo did in his article “Overweening Zapatismo. Sustainability, indigenous resistances and neoliberalism,” published in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada (July 18, 2005). I believe one can debate the aims and methods posited by the Sixth Declaration without needing to be dishonest. Because Señor Toledo, utilizing the “cut and paste” method, has edited the Sixth in order to note that it lacks…what he cut. Toledo said: “It is surprising that (the EZLN in the Sixth Declaration) decided to join forces with campesinos, workers, laborers, students, women, young people, homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals, priests, nuns and social activists, and that it does not make one single reference to the thousands of indigenous communities devoted to the search for sustainability.”

Well, the parts which Señor Toledo edited out of the Sixth stated the opposite. For example, in the part which recognizes the existence of resistances and alternatives to neoliberalism in Mexico, and in first place in the enumeration of them, it notes: “And so we learned that there are indigenous, whose lands are far away from here in Chiapas, and they are building their autonomy and defending their culture and caring for the land, the forests, the water.” Perhaps Señor Toledo was expecting a detailed account of those indigenous struggles, but that is one thing, and it’s another very different and dishonest thing to say that there was not one single reference. In the account made by Señor Toledo of the efforts of those with which the EZLN decided to join, he has cut out the first social group to which the Sixth refers, which says, verbatim: “And then, according to the agreement of the majority of those people to whom we are going to listen, we will make a struggle with everyone, with indigenous, workers, campesinos, etcetera.” In addition, the first point of the Sixth precisely states: “1. We are going to continue to fight for the Indian peoples of Mexico, but now no longer just for them nor just with them, but for all the exploited and dispossessed of Mexico, with all of them and throughout the country.” And, at the end of the Sixth, it says “We are inviting all indigenous, workers, campesinos…etcetera.” In sum, I imagined there might be, among those irritated by our criticisms of López Obrador and the PRD, more serious, and honest, arguments for the debate. Perhaps they might be presented some day. We’ll wait, that is our specialty.

Concerning we don’t want you in this barrio

There are also those criticisms, although more hidden, that the Sixth Declaration makes reference to some international issues and the manner in which they are addressed. And so some people criticize the fact that we refer to the blockade which the US government maintains against the people of Cuba. “It’s a very old issue,” they say. How old? As old as the blockade? Or as old as the resistance of the Indian peoples of Mexico? What are the “modern” issues? Who can honestly look at the world and pass over - “because it’s an old issue” - an attack against a people who are doing what all peoples should do, that is, deciding their direction, path and destiny as a nation (“defending national sovereignty” they say)? Who can ignore the decades of resistance of an entire people against US arrogance? Who, knowing that they can do something - even if it’s but little - to recognize that effort, would not do so? Who can ignore that that people has to lift itself up each time after a natural catastrophe, not only without the aid and loans enjoyed by other countries, but also in the midst of a brutal and inhumane siege? Who can ignore the US base of Guantánamo on Cuban territory, the laboratory of torture which it has been turned into, the wound it represents in the sovereignty of a Nation and say: “Go on, that’s an old issue.”

In any event, does it not seem natural that, in a movement which is primarily indigenous like the zapatista, sympathy and admiration would be evoked by what the indigenous in Ecuador and Bolivia are doing? That they would feel solidarity with those who have no land and are struggling in Brazil. That they would identify with the “piqueteros” of Argentina, and they would salute the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. That they would perceive similarities in experiences and organization with the Mapuche of Chile and with the indigenous of Colombia. That they would warn of the obvious in Venezuela, namely: that the US government is doing everything possible to violate the sovereignty of that country. That they would enthusiastically applaud the great mobilizations in Uruguay in opposition to the imposition of “macroeconomic stability.”

The Sixth Declaration does not speak to the institutions of above, good or bad. The Sixth is looking below. And it is seeing a reality that is shared, at least since the conquests made by Spain and Portugal of the lands which now share the name of “Latin America.” Perhaps this feeling of belonging to the “patria grande” which is Latin America is “old,” and it is “modern” to turn one’s gaze and aspirations to the “restless and brutal north.” Perhaps, but if anything is “old” in this corner of Mexico, of America and of the World, it is the resistance of the Indian peoples.

Concerning we don’t want you on this street

There are also (I shall note and summarize some of them) those criticisms for trying to “nationalize and even internationalize” our discourse and our struggle. The Sixth, they tell us, falls into that nonsense. Therefore recommending that the EZLN remain in Chiapas, that it strengthen the Good Government Juntas and that it confine itself to the waterproof compartment that is their lot. That once that project is consolidated, and once we have demonstrated that we can “put into practice an alternative modernity to that of neoliberalism in their own lands,” then we can set forth on the national, international and intergalactic arenas. In the face of those arguments, we present our reality. We are not trying to compete with anyone to see who is more anti-neoliberal or who has made more advances in the resistance, but, with modesty, our level and contributions are in the Good Government Juntas. You can come, speak with the authorities or with the peoples, ignore the letters and communiqués where we have explained this process and investigate, first hand, what is happening here, the problems which are confronted, how they are resolved. I do not know before whom we have to demonstrate that all this is “putting into practice an alternative modernity to that of neoliberalism in their own lands,” and who is going to characterize us con palomita o tache, and then, yes, allow us to come out and attempt to join our struggle with other sectors.

Besides, we had the premonition that those criticisms would be praise…if the Sixth had declared its unconditional support of the political center represented by López Obrador. And if we were to have said that “we are going to come out in order to join with those citizens’ networks in support of AMLO,” there would be enthusiasm, “yes,” “of course you have to leave, you don’t have to stay shut away, it’s time for zapatismo to abandon its hideout and join its experiences with the masses devoted to the one-in-waiting.” Hmm…López Obrador. He just presented his “Alternative National Project” to the citizens’ networks. We are suspicious, and we don’t see anything more than plastic cosmetics (and which change according to the audience) and a list of forgettable promises. Whatever, perhaps someone might tell AMLO that he can’t promise “the fulfillment of the San Andrés Accords,” because that means, among other things, reforming the Constitution, and, if my memory serves, that is the work of the Congress. In any event, the promise should be made by a political party, noting that its candidates will fulfill it if they are elected. The other way there would have to be a proposal that the federal executive would govern above the other branches or ignore them. Or a dictatorship. But it’s not about that. Or is it?

In the politics of above, the programs seek, during election periods, to add as many people as they can. But by adding some, others are subtracted. Then they decide to add the most and subtract the least. AMLO has created, as a parallel structure to the PRD, the “citizens’ networks,” and his objective is to add those who aren’t members of the PRD. AMLO has presented 6 persons for those citizens’ networks who are going to coordinate, at a national level, all those non-PRD lopezobradoristas. Let’s look at two of the “national coordinators.”

Socorro Díaz Palacios, Under Secretary of Civil Protection in the Carlos Salinas de Gortari government. On January 3, 1994, while the federales were perpetrating the Ocosingo market massacre, he stated (I’m citing the Department of Government Press Bulletin): “The violent groups which are acting in the state of Chiapas display a mix of national as well as foreign interests and persons. They demonstrate affinities with other violent factions which are operating in Central American countries. Some indigenous have been recruited, pressured by the chiefs of these groups, and they are also undoubtedly being manipulated as regards their historic claims which should continue being dealt with.” And further on: “ The Mexican Army, for its part, will continue acting with great respect for the rights of individuals and of peoples while giving a clear and decisive response to the demand for order and security…blah, blah, blah.” In the days that followed, the Air Force bombarded the indigenous communities south of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, and the federal army detained, tortured and assassinated 3 indigenous in the community of Morelia, at that time in the municipality of Altamirano, Chiapas, Mexico.

Ricardo Monreal Ávila - In January of 1998, just a few days after the Acteal massacre, the then PRI deputy and member of the Permanent Commission of the Congress of the Union “commented that the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) is a paramilitary group, the same as those who killed the 45 Tzotzil indigenous on December 22, 1997 in Chenalhó, Chiapas. ‘Because everything that acts like an Army without being one and arms itself as civilians is paramilitary. They all must disarm, because they have all contributed to this unnecessary, unjust and stupid violence which has had all Mexicans in mourning,’ he stated” ( “El Informador” of Guadalajara, Jalisco. 3/1/98). Days later, after moving to the PRD because the PRI didn’t give him the candidacy for governor of Zacatecas, he was to state (I am citing the note by Ciro Pérez and Andrea Becerril in La Jornada, 1/7/98) that the Chenalhó episode (referring to the Acteal massacre) was indeed planned, “but not by the one stated by the white leader of the dark-skinned indigenous,” he opined that the EZLN’s position regarding the massacre had to do with “securing an preemptive justification for Marcos and for those interests he is protecting,” and he finished by warning that the EZ serves foreign interests which seek “to obtain control of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, its resources and its strategic location, an objective which is suitably served by Marcos and the armies which are fighting for the indigenous flag.” Hmm…it sounds like, like…yes, Point 28 of AMLO’s program which reads, verbatim: “We will link the Pacific with the Atlantic, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, through the construction of two commercial ports: one in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, and the other in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, as well as container shipment railways and the widening of the existing highway.”

López Obrador has defined himself with those individuals. He has added some, and, with them, he has subtracted, among others, the “neozapatistas.”

But, on another hand, why is there nothing in that program about the political prisoners and disappeared in the dirty war of the 70s and 80s? Nor about the punishment of former officials who enriched themselves illicitly. Nor about serving justice in the cases of the massacres of Acteal, El Bosque, Aguas Blancas, El Charco. I am afraid that, as to justice, López Obrador is offering “wipe the slate clean and start anew,” which, paradoxically, is not new. Before returning to the criticisms of the statements the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona makes on Mexico, Latin America and the World, allow me to tell you something:

That we are going to come out

We are going to come out. We are going to come out, and they had better get used to the idea. We are going to come out, and I believe, there are only 4 ways of stopping us.

One is with a preventative attack, so fashionable in this neoliberal period. The predictable steps are: accusation of ties with drug trafficking or with organized crime in general; invocations of the rule of law and rubbish to that effect; an intense media campaign; a double attack (against the communities and against the General Command); damage control (that is, distributing money, concessions and privileges among the “spokespersons of public opinion”); the authorities call for calm; politicians state that the most important thing is that the election takes place in peace and with social tranquility; after a brief impasse, the candidates renew their campaigns.

Another is taking us prisoners the moment we come out, or during the course of the “other campaign.” The steps? Clandestine meetings among the leaders of the PRI, PAN and PRD in order to make agreements (like in 2001, with the indigenous counter-reform); the Cocopa states that dialogue has broken off; the Congress votes to overturn the Law for Dialogue; the PGR activates the arrest warrants; an AFI commando unit, with help from the federal army, takes the zapatista delegates prisoner; simultaneously the federal army takes the rebel indigenous communities “in order to prevent disorder and maintain the peace and national stability;” damage control, etcetera.

Another is to kill us. Stages: a hired assassin is contracted; a provocation is mounted; the crime is committed; the authorities regret the incident and offer to investigate “to its fullest extent, regardless of outcome….” Another alternative: “a regrettable accident caused the death of the zapatista delegation which was on its way to blah, blah, blah.” In both: damage control, etcetera.

Another is to disappear us. I am referring to a forced disappearance, as was applied to hundreds of political opponents in the PRI “stability” period. It could be like this: the zapatista delegates don’t appear; the last time they were seen was blah, blah, blah; the authorities offer to investigate; the hypothesis is ventured of a problem of passion; the authorities state that they are investigating all leads, and they are not discarding the possibility that the zapatista delegation has taken advantage of their departure to flee, with a quantity of bitter pozol, to a fiscal paradise; INTERPOL is investigating in the Cayman Islands; damage control, etcetera.

These are the initial problems which the Sixth could run up against. We have been preparing for many years to confront those possibilities. That is why the Red Alert has not been lifted for the insurgent troops, just for the towns. And that is why one of the communiqués pointed out that the EZLN could lose, through jail, death or forced disappearance, part or all of their publicly known leadership and continue fighting.

(To be continued…)

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico, July of 2005.