Le Monde/Front / Zapatista rebel leader sticks to his guns / Bertrand = de la Grange in Mexico City
Zapatista rebel leader sticks to his guns
Bertrand de la Grange in Mexico City
FAITHFUL to the strategy he has implemented since organising the Indian = uprising in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas in January 1994, the Zapatista=
guerrilla leader, Subcomandante Marcos, has pulled another surprise. He has announced that he does not intend either to lay down his arms or = to join the Zapatista National Liberation Front (FZLN), a new political organisation= set up by his supporters in Mexico City on September 16. Marcos was responding to opti= mistic statements by government members, who had welcomed the formation of the = FZLN. "We have made a mistake," he said in a message from Chiapas to activists= who had converged on Mexico City to adopt the FZLN's programme and statutes."Whe= n we called for the FZLN to be set up we thought that peace was round the cor= ner and that our rebellion ought to seek other forms of struggle. [But] the gove= rnment has refused to answer our just demands, thus preventing us from turning ours= elves into a political, civilian and peaceful organisation in order to continue the struggle."Marcos said that the war was continuing in the south and that the Zapatista Nat= ional Liberation Army (EZLN) would not lay down its arms until its demands had= been met.The rebel! leader, a former philosophy student who gained considerable support in = leftwing Mexican and international circles when he defended the Indian community = and attacked neo-liberalism, did, however, say that the FZLN should go ahead= , "to strike fear into the powerful".Javier Elorriaga, a former political cadre in th= e guerrilla movement and now the leading light of the new organisation, stressed tha= t the FZLN would be "autonomous" and should not be regarded as the "EZLN's politica= l wing". "We shall be two brothers, but we shall be different," Marcos said. Does this mark a U-turn by Marcos, who in the past has used his sometime= s bellicose, sometimes poetic communiques with consummate skill to fight a= government that has incomparably greater fire-power but does not know ho= w to deal
with his dialectics? Marcos says it does not, pointing out that he has always said that the g= uerrilla movement would not disarm until the government had learnt, under pressur= e from "civilian society", to "command while obeying" -- the Zapatista rebels' = now celebrated slogan. It was Marcos who, in January 1996, first mooted the idea of setting up = the FZLN,
and who, in a text published last month, defined its structures, dogma a= nd aims (which are a carbon copy of the EZLN's). The FZLN, like the EZLN, intends to keep its distance from political par= ties, with which it refuses to collaborate. It says it is not interested in taking = power, but instead prefers to concentrate on mobilising the most underprivileged sections o= f the population so that democracy can be exercised "from the bottom" and the =
government forced to "obey" civilian society. How exactly it intends to do so is not made clear, but Marcos's decision= to maintain an active guerrilla movement in southern Mexico may be regarded as a way= of putting pressure on the government. Marcos's latest change of direction has thrown the Mexican far left into= greater confusion. It had already been seriously jolted by constant infighting a= nd the recent electoral successes of the legal left, which won the local and mayoral c= ontests in Mexico City and increased its representation in parliament at the expens= e of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has been in power = since 1929. According to the organisers of the FZLN's founding conference, barely 40= 0 people participated in its 14 "idea workshops". The workshops took place in a c= haotic atmosphere and were conducted largely in the absence of the 1,111 EZLN "observers" who had travelled from Chiapas to break out of their "politi= cal and military encirclement".Whatever the future of the FZLN, events of the past few da= ys have once again spotlighted the conflict in Chiapas and the appalling plight = of Mexico's 9 million Indians. The Zapatistas have been able to use the local press as a mouthpiece to = denounce the "militarisation" of various regions and to demand that the governmen= t come up
with a constitutional reform package that takes account of the accords i= t signed with the EZLN in February 1996.A difference of interpretation over the concep= t of Indian autonomy, which led to talks being broken off in August 1996, caused the= present deadlock. However, recent statements by President Ernesto Zedillo and th= e interior minister, Emilio Chuayffet, pledging to show "flexibility in order to re= sume the dialogue", suggest talks could start again soon.
World Copyright by =A9 Le Monde, Paris The Guardian Weekly Volume Issue for week ending , Page 13
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