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(en) Chiaps, Time to Celebrate, Time to Stay on Guard, Dec 02

From "Harry M. Cleaver" <hmcleave@eco.utexas.edu>
Date Sun, 3 Dec 2000 06:09:49 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

> From: Chiapas 95 Moderators <chiapas@eco.utexas.edu>


A Time to Celebrate

Fox's order for a withdrawal of military forces from Zapatista
communities, and the rescinding of the immigration citation of the
Italians bringing a generator to La Realidad should not only be seen as 
steps in the right direction --toward the reversal of the Mexican
government's terrorist policies in Chiapas-- they must also be seen, and 
appreciated, as victories for the Zapatista communities that have held out
with so much courage during these long years of repression. 

Whatever happens next, these current actions, that reportedly include the
dismantling of military checkpoints on roads and a pull back from Amador
Hernandez, should be celebrated as the fruits of these years of struggle.
Let us give credit where credit is due: to the communities, to the EZLN
and to everyone everywhere whose actions have staved off worse repression
and forced these reversals in government policy.

Assuming these first steps are followed by continued withdrawal and that
Fox sends Cocopa's version of the San Andres Accords to the
Mexican congress and it passes, the Zapatista movement will gain greatly
enhanced room for manoeuvre and autonomous activity. At the very least, we
can hope for the level of freedom from repression the Zapatistas enjoyed
before the February 9, 1995 military assault. Hopefully, there will be
more than that. If the military withdraws to its positions before 1994,
rather than before February 9, 1995 things will be even better.

A Time to Stay on Guard

At the same time, however, not only has that withdrawal not yet taken
place, but there are a whole panopoly of other forces arrayed against the
Zapatistas that need to be "withdrawn" --from the corrupt local, state and
national police forces to the paramilitaries they have financed, armed and
allowed to act with great impunity. The dismantling of this apparatus of
repression and state terror must be accomplished, and, as with what has
been achieved so far, it is likely to be accomplished only through
continued pressure on the Mexican government. While we should savor each
victory in this process, it is only through vigilence and continued
mobilization that victory will follow victory. It is way too soon to

Moreover, while Fox has given the orders, he is also firmly committed to
the pursuit of the very economic policies that led to the uprising in the
first place: neoliberal policies that subordinate the desires of people to
those of business for profits and social control. The Zapatistas rose up
in response to such policies, including NAFTA, and they have continued to
denounce them and oppose them. The encounters they organized, beginning
with the Continental and Intercontinental Encounters in 1996 (that begat
the Geneva, Seattle and Prague protests) were Encounters "For Humanity,
Against Neoliberalism." The reduction of direct police and military
repression will not remove the more subtle repression of neoliberal
economic policies. The struggle will continue in Chiapas as it is
continuing in the rest of the world. And we can be certain that such state
repression is not about to be removed from the capitalist bag of tricks,
neither in Mexico, or elsewhere as the police arrests and beatings in
Prague made quite clear, as so many examples of continuing repression
constantly remind us.

Fox's policies vis a vis Chiapas, and the grassroots movements
throughout Mexico, seem likely to take the form of a mix of
repression (currently we hope being reduced) and cooptation --just like
those of the PRI before him. His embrace of "free market" policies (an
oxymoron of course) may involve support for small business in an attempt
to differentiate people and communities, a la Hernando de Sota, buying
time for the final enclosure of the countryside to take place (whose basis
was laid by Salinas who ended protection for ejidal lands). Fox's man in
Chiapas, Pablo Salazar, due to take over as governor of Chiapas, has
toured the US soliciting business investment in Chiapas, offering peace
and cheap labor for maquiladora development, another arrow in the quiver
of neoliberalism, another arrow aimed at the heart of indigenous
communities and everything non-capitalist about them.

It is impossible to say, at this point, exactly how Fox et al will pursue
their goals (which were also those of Salinas and Zedillo and Wall Street
and the IMF) but they WILL pursue them. Assuming their tactics shift
from police state repression to more subtle means, so must ours. Unless
"human rights" advocates shift their understanding of repression in such a
manner as to grasp economic repression as well as police state repression
as a problem, such changes in strategy may well strip the Zapatista
support network of many of its militants. At the moment it seems unlikely
that those who have volunteered as international observers to stand
between the Zapatista communities and their oppressors will know how to
replicate something like that role vis a vis neoliberal economic
development. Up to the present, and probably for some time to come, their
role has been vital, but if Fox really carries out these kind of shifts,
then other strategies and other kinds of action will be needed.

Beyond the problem of resistance, however, is the more appealing problem
of building better worlds. Reduced pressure on the Zapatista communities
will mean greater latitude for pursuing their own agendas, and greater
ease for others to support those agendas. Beside inspiring through their
courage, the Zapatistas have inspired through their vision of and efforts
to create alternatives to the current subordination of humanity to
capital. In domains as diverse as agriculture, education and politics they
have pursued, as much as circumstances have allowed, alternatives paths.
There is no reason to assume that any strategy by Fox to undermine such
efforts will succeed. On the contrary, evidence suggests that despite all
the repression and expenditures by the PRI, Salinas' efforts to undermine
collective land in Mexico has mostly failed and indigenous communities
everywhere continue to carve their own roads into the future. With less
repression it will be easier for those of us elsewhere to learn about and
learn from such efforts, as well as to share our own efforts with those in
Mexico. Such accelerated circulation of experience should strengthen the
struggle against capitalism everywhere as it becomes clearer and clearer
that very real alternatives are possible.

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