(en) Mexico Barbaro #56 3/8/97]

Esneider (esn@blythe.org)
Sun, 16 Mar 1997 13:54:47 -0500

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Weekly News Update wrote: >
> John Kenneth Turner wrote MEXICO BARBARO as the Diaz dictatorship
> was crumbling back in 1910. John Ross reincarnates MEXICO BARBARO
> as the PRI dictatorship comes tumbling down nearly 90 years
> later. Copyright 1997 by John Ross. Please do not reproduce
> before end of period in head.
> Distributed by WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE ON THE AMERICAS. 48 articles
> per year; for subscription (postal or email) contact: Weekly News
> Update on the Americas, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012,
> 212-674-9499, fax 212-674-9139, email wnu@igc.apc.org, home page
> http://home.earthlink.net/~dbwilson/nsnhome.html
> Period: March 3-15, 1997, #56
> like the government wants the war," frowned Andres Santis, the
> leathery-skinned first judge of this Tzotzil Maya highland town.
> Santis sat cross-armed on a bench planted squarely in front of
> the sealed doors of the solidly built meeting house where, a
> little more than a year ago, the Zapatista Army of National
> Liberation (EZLN) and the Mexican government signed an historic--
> if never acted-upon--agreement, recasting Mexico as a multiethnic
> nation.
> "This president doesn't want a dialogue," Santis mused,
> using the word that has become synonymous with months of peace
> talks here. "There is no dialogue now." The men braiding belts on
> the benches all around the first judge mumbled their agreement.
> "No one comes here anymore. Why should they?" Don Andres gestured
> at the abandoned, sunlit plaza, once filled with eager reporters
> and satellite dishes, poised to transmit the slightest
> permutations, during 17 months of fruitless rebel-government
> negotiations, to the nation and the world.
> Now with the talks virtually annulled by President Ernesto
> Zedillo's refusal to honor the agreements signed here in February
> 1996, the huge doors behind which ski-masked Zapatistas and
> officious government negotiators once stared each other down
> looked like they would never open again.
> The 40 pages of agreements signed here Feb. 16, 1996 defined
> protections of Indian culture and civil rights and awarded
> Mexico's 56 distinct indigenous nations a degree of
> administrative autonomy from federal and state strictures. The
> process of converting this landmark accord into legislation fell
> to the congressional commission that oversaw the peace talks, the
> COCOPA, which envisioned changes that included amendment of at
> least five constitutional chapters--the trickiest would involve
> the Zapatista notions of autonomy, to which Zedillo's
> representatives had unexpectedly affixed their signatures.
> The EZLN autonomy proposal was gathered and synthesized
> during a series of colloquies with representatives from most of
> Mexico's indigenous peoples (now organized as the National
> Indigenous Congress) in late 1995-96. The Zapatista position
> focused on control of administrative, political, and judicial
> spheres of daily life through the mechanism of municipal
> government, in the more than 700 majority-indigenous
> municipalities that dot the Mexican countryside. Although the
> autonomy principle that was agreed upon by the rebels and
> government negotiators here in February 1996 respected the
> territoriality of indigenous regions--in conformity with
> International Labor Organization parameters, recognized by the
> Mexican government--the EZLN's position was nonexclusive and did
> not challenge the federal government's right to exploit strategic
> resources in areas projected to be under indigenous
> administrative control.
> Also agreed upon by government and EZLN negotiators that
> February day: the continued right of indigenous communities to
> work the land in a collective manner, under the "ejido" and
> "comunidad" systems, both of which have been seriously
> compromised by revisions to Article 27 of the Mexican
> Constitution, governing agrarian reform, which had been the
> bedrock of Mexico's 1910-1917 social revolution.
> The surprise agreement between the Zapatistas and Zedillo's
> representatives here in San Andres came almost a year to the day
> of a presidentially ordered military offensive that forced the
> EZLN to retreat into deep jungle and all but canceled the rebels'
> armed options. Nonetheless, capitalizing on widespread national
> and international support, the EZLN forced Zedillo to call off
> the army assault and sue for peace. Talks were launched in April
> 1995 and sputtered along for 11 months with little success, until
> agreement was suddenly reached on the themes of Indian Rights and
> Culture, the first phase of a projected six-stage peace
> settlement.
> Why Zedillo's negotiators reversed fields and yielded to
> Zapatista proposals they had previously rejected is inadequately
> explained--some observers, like Reforma editor Miguel Angel
> Granados Chapa, suggest that the flipflop was a product of an
> economic collapse that gave the President little room for
> political maneuvering.
> The agreement seemed to stun the EZLN, and the comandantes
> refused to allow the press into the meeting house to photograph
> the actual signing, charging that Zedillo just wanted the
> pictures to wave at Central American and European heads of state
> on upcoming junkets around the world. The text of the agreement,
> actually four separate agreements, has never been published.
> Zapatista skepticism as to the government's true intentions
> increased from month to month when no legislation was ever drawn
> up and submitted to the Mexican Congress--the Zedillo
> administration considered political reform more critical to its
> interests in 1997 midterm federal elections and, despite pledges
> to carry the Indians' initiative to Congress, it was postponed
> from session to session. Meanwhile, when EZLN and government
> negotiators moved onto the next round of peace talks, dealing
> with Democracy and Justice issues, Zedillo's representatives sat
> mutely across the big table behind the closed doors and failed to
> respond to the rebels' multiple proposals. In late August 1996,
> after the Popular Revolutionary Army put in an armed appearance
> in Chiapas, the Zapatistas decided they had had enough of this
> frustrating charade and suspended talks indefinitely.
> The slogan that had been painted on whitewashed walls around
> the state earlier in the year--"1996, the Year of Peace and
> Reconciliation in Chiapas"--faded fast. Virtual civil war broke
> out in the north of the state between Zapatista and PRI
> supporters, continuing to take dozens of indigenous lives, which
> made promised pacification a grim joke.
> In a flawed effort to restart the "Dialogue of San Andres,"
> the COCOPA was finally green-lighted to draw the agreement into
> legislation and, in December, forwarded the project to President
> Zedillo for submission to Congress. But instead, the President
> returned the project to the COCOPA, rejecting the agreements that
> his own representatives had signed 11 months earlier. Zapatista
> commanders, who had been awaiting Zedillo's response in San
> Cristobal de las Casas, stormed back to the jungle and took up
> positions in the mountains. They have been largely silent since.
> Now, with an improving economy that seems to give him more
> political breathing space, Zedillo has gone on the offensive
> against the agreement, hopscotching Indian communities across the
> nation, calling the Zapatistas "false saviors" and charging that
> their autonomy proposals threaten to create a "Bosnia" in
> Mexico's southeast. Sowing such fears appears crucial to the
> PRI's electoral ambitions in 1997--Zedillo won the presidency in
> 1994 by promoting widespread trepidation about the Chiapas
> rebellion.
> At the heart of the President's rejection of the February
> agreement is the thorny issue of autonomy--and, particularly, how
> autonomy would affect Indian land ownership. Both the Salinas and
> Zedillo administrations have been adamant in refusing to yield to
> rebel demands to restore the original language of Article 27, now
> revised to promote the sale or "association" of ejido and
> communal land to transnational agribusiness, concomitant with the
> North American Free Trade Agreement. For the Zapatistas, the
> revision of Article 27 was "the detonating blow" that produced
> their declaration of war against the federal government, explains
> Subcomandante Marcos.
> One functionary who was instrumental in crafting the 1991
> revision of Mexico's agrarian policies is then Under-Secretary of
> Agriculture Luis Tellez. Today, Tellez is Zedillo's chief of
> staff (some say, Svengali). Zapatista advisors, like Luis
> Hernandez Navarro, hold Tellez responsible for rejecting the
> texts of the COCOPA legislation. Tellez's good relations with
> U.S. forest product giants (see next week's issue) have been
> pointed to as an ulterior motive for Zedillo's turnaround on
> honoring the February 1996 agreement with the rebels.
> The president's campaign of vilification has had plenty of
> echo in the Mexican press. In one particularly effusive outburst,
> influential Television Azteca news director and Reforma columnist
> Sergio Sarmiento accused the Zapatistas of "Stalinism" because
> they advocated the "collectivization" of the land, a process
> that, he claimed, had cost 30 million Soviet lives in the 1930s.
> The EZLN's response to Zedillo's rejection of the agreement
> has been laconic. Not unlike Don Andres Santis, the comandantes
> sit cross-armed and resolute in their mountain hideaway. "Here we
> await you," Subcomandante Marcos wrote on the first anniversary
> of the unfulfilled accords. "As always, we are ready for war or
> for peace."
> But if the Zapatistas have not been very vocal, other
> advocates of indigenous autonomy have shown no reluctance to
> reclaim their independence. "It doesn't matter if there exists
> war or dialogue. It doesn't matter if Zedillo accepts or doesn't
> accept the constitutional reforms--we are going to keep
> consolidating our autonomous regions," insists Margarito Ruiz,
> who sits on the general council of Chiapas' self-proclaimed eight
> pluriethnic autonomous regions, or RAPs.
> [JOHN ROSS is the author of Rebellion from the Roots--Indian
> Uprising in Chiapas, a 1995 American Book Award winner. His The
> Annexation of Mexico--From the Aztecs to the IMF will be
> published by Common Courage Press this fall.]
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> 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012 * 212-674-9499 fax: 212-674-9139
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