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(en) Chiapas - In A Time Of Silence

From "Anarchist News Distribution (Platform )" <platform@geocities.com>
Date Thu, 06 Aug 1998 11:26:24 +0100
Organization http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/inter.html


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      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E
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The Irish Mexico Group has built links with the
Zapatista community of Diez de Abril. This letter
from an Irish observer is a personal reflection of
life in this Zapatista community.

In A Time Of Silence - July 1998

The silence began in early march as the EZLN decided
there was no point in engaging with a government that
was not listening. The San Andres Accords signed in
1996 remained derelict, the government failing to
comply with even the most basic agreements reached.
The months passed and not a word was heard from
Zapatista headquarters, nor the Clandestine
Committee, nor even the irrepressible literary wit,
Sub Marcos. He's dying of malaria, rumoured the
counter-insurgent spin-doctors, they captured him
gun-running in Guatemala, leaked the government
press. The silence riveted the political environment:
silence as a tactic of strength or silence as a sign
of weakness?

             -----------------------
   Forwarded News 'of interest to anarchists'
  see bottom of post for source of this item
              -----------------------

Meanwhile the military launched offensive after
offensive on the Zapatista base. Dozens of military
incursions into Zapatista communities- among the most
notable the Flores Magon Autonomous Municipality in
Taniperla, April 11, a thousand troops swooped in at
dawn, detaining 9 people and deporting 12
international observers. Then in the community of 10
de Abril, 800 troops invade on April 13, deporting
international observers and detaining 1 villager. May
1 the Tierra y Libertad Autonomous Municipality at
Amparo Aguatinta, 53 detained, 8 Guatemalans
deported, 3 June, Nicolas Ruiz 167 arrests, and then
a week later, June 10 the military attack against the
San Juan de la Libertad Autonomous Municipality in El
Bosque, where the troops, some carrying bazookas
opened fire, mortared the surrounding hills, and
pursued the fleeing villagers into the mountains
killing 9.

Ominous signs came on June 7 when Bishop Ruiz's Conai
mediation commission dissolved itself saying they
could not serve any useful mediation role in a almost
dead peace-process. The bellicose Governor of
Chiapas, Roberto Albores Guillen could be heard every
5 mins on the state controlled radio and television
stations threatening more repressive action against
'law-breakers' - he has 70,000 troops stationed in
the state awaiting his orders. UN High Commissioner
on Human Rights Mary Robinson, recognising the
critical condition the situation suggested opening a
human rights office in Chiapas. The repression
increased and the silence of the Zapatista leadership
remained, an anxious, uncertain, potentially
explosive silence: people waited uneasily.

And in 10 de Abril, beneath the ubiquitous helicopter
over flights, the villagers set off each morning with
their hoes to rake up the hard, dry ground of their
milpa (cornfield) . The rain finally came in May,
months late, as people reseeded the fields for a
second or third time. By June the maize appeared,
growing slowly and still the people doubted that it
would be a successful harvest. "Can't fight a
revolution if your hungry" said Jose a militia member
making plans to seek work in the towns and cities.

The first groups of youths set off to the beach
resorts in search of labouring work. News started
drifting back of men working 12 hour days at less
than a $1 an hour. But that was incentive enough;
others started packing their bags. By July, the
majority of the men and a few women had either
returned or just left to go to these resorts for 1-
month or two-month work periods. The irony; luxury
hotels in neo-liberal tourist resorts built by the
Zapatistas for miserable wages.

20-year old Palestino went to save up 2000 pesos
($230) so he could marry Adelina who has their 6-
month-old child here in 10 de Abril. The 2000 pesos
is a kind of dowry which he has to give to the family
of Adelina so they can get officially married. In the
meantime they live in 'sin' which the older people in
the community disapprove of.

Alfredo returns from his month-long trip with bad
news of Palestino. At the end of work Palestino hit
the town, went dancing, got extremely drunk
and...lost all the money he had worked 12 hours a day
for a month to save.

The mood in his mother's house is one of
exasperation; Dona Petra is extremely sick, her other
son, the roguish Jaime has disappeared, rumoured to
be in a blaze of drugs, and Adelina holds the baby
Rosa-Angelina and worries about the future. His
little sister Lupey wanders around calling him
terrible names. Still they all laugh, despite the
times.

Alfredo on the other hand, did not lose all his
money; this is the same Alfredo who got worked over
badly by the Seguridad Publica a few months previous
who, as a result was unable to work efficiently for
months after. He really had to make sure he held onto
his bit of hard earned cash...What did he think of
the gringo beach resort?- Its a pretty place he said,
but he didn't like it because all the Mexicans work
like slaves for the gringos. He was happy to be back
in the mountains with his family.

Drama and tragedy in the glen . One night Antonio is
out hunting rabbits. He stumbles across two young
robbers in the night making their way away from the
Chicken coop with a few chickens. He apprehends one,
but the other escapes. The youth is put in the
community jail next door to the peace camp. It
emerges that the youth who got away was none other
than the wayward Jaime, son of Dona Petra. Apparently
he had returned to see his sick mother, but fearing
that he would be castigated by the community for
previous wrongdoings, he hid in a derelict house in
the hills and awaited the right moment to come down.
He and his mate, a bloke from another community got
hungry, hence the mission to take the chickens.

This is very serious business for the community. A
justice committee is convened and discussion
continues day and night as all the effected people
come and go arguing their case. The owners of the
chickens, Jaimes' family, the apprehended youth and
the community responsible and elders engaged in deep
discussion. Dona Maria, the victim of the crime, was
distraught, in tears and calling for full justice to
be melted out- flogging, fines, the works ... In the
end, the youth is given two days hard labour doing
community work. Nevertheless the people continued to
greet him, shake his hand and chat as he laboured.

Around this time, a delegation of People of Colour
from the USA were staying in the community. One of
the delegates, a Chicano woman from South Central, LA
had a brother serving time in prison there for
robbery. It made for an interesting contrast, the
workings of community justice system as opposed to
the unhuman process her brother faced, finally ending
up in a prison that mostly served as training school
for further crime...

This latest delegation brought to a head the problems
and contradictions of the outside presence in the
delegation. They were presented to the community
assembly and spoke as to why they came here. They
expressed the desire to 'help'. Can you give us
money, asked one man at the back. No, they said, we
too are poor people in our own country, and so we
were given funding by a NGO to come here. That causes
a stir. If you want to help us, why not stay in your
own country and send us that money, said one man. A
women said- why do you all come here when you are
always sick and unhappy up there in the Casa Grande?
And another said - Why do you want to work in the
fields when all you do is injure your hands? Just
give us money, was the bottom line of this factions'
arguments.

We came invited by the EZLN to monitor the human
rights abuses perpetrated by the military and police.
We came in solidarity as observers to see how you
live and to witness the repression, so to avoid what
happened in Guatemala or other countries. What
happened in Guatemala and other countries?, asked
some of the villagers. They killed all the rebels and
burnt down all the communities. We came to be a voice
beyond and to learn and exchange ideas of resistance
and struggle. And if we can gather funds, we will
help in that way too sometimes.

There is clearly a faction that is not enamoured by
the outside presence. 3 or 4 families, no more,
assures Miquel the community adult literacy teacher.
Nevertheless, the US delegation is shook up. A couple
of them feel like packing their bags and leaving,
others see it as healthy democracy in the assembly
that demonstrates people can openly debate such
issues. Some villagers come up and explain their
positions later, that they value the presence, and
yes, there are problems but in a assembly after the
Norwegian expulsions in April, the community voted
strongly to keep the peace camp.

The church is almost finished; it shot up in super-
quick time. It's an impressive building situated on
the top of the hill overlooking the valley. "It's the
same work as building the hotels at the beach," says
Constantino, "only its voluntary, for the community
and look how fast we've done the work.."The hotels?
"Oh they'll fall down in a few years!" he laughs...

And the Zapatista silence? People answer guardedly-
who knows? but most felt confident something good
would come of it. And so on 17 July, the silence was
broken ... A 24 page document from Marcos outlining
how the government had smashed the peace process, and
a large communiqué from the Clandestine Committee
introducing the 5th Declaration of the Lacandon
Jungle, and calling for a nation-wide plebiscite on
the San Andres agreement.

Some people had been expecting some kind of guerrilla
'spectacular' to announce the end of the silence.
Guerrilla war in the time of Famine?. Instead the
Zapatistas will be sending representatives out to
every municipality in the country to argue their
case. From the silence blossoms a new grass-roots
political initiative, the struggle continues,
broadening the battlefield.


More on Diez de April including links to the
documents mentioned and pictures at
http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/mexico/diez.html

 Whats new on Revolt
   http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/new.html

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