**** Who are the EZLN ****

mark_c (mark_c@geocities.com)
Mon, 11 Nov 1996 12:12:14 +0000

Ya Basta! A brief history of the EZLN
(from the Irish Mexico Groups information pack)

Declaring enough was enough (Ya basta!), the Zapatista Army =

of National Liberation (EZLN) took four towns in Chiapas in =

the early hours of New Year's Day 1994, taking the world by =

storm. =

Although the Federal Army had clashed with a small armed =

group in the Lacandona Forest the previous summer, the =

Mexican government, at that point trying to convince the =

U.S. Congress of its internal stability in order to get the North =

American Free Trade Agreement passed, had denied the =

existence of a guerrilla movement in Chiapas. Now, on the =

very day the NAFTA came into force, a small force of men =

and women wearing scruffy wellies and armed with =

peashooters had declared war on the government. In the =

poorest state a group of indigenous people were claiming the =

right to defend themselves against a government and a social =

order which offered them nothing and wanted their land. =

The rebels caught the imagination of the world. They quickly =

withdrew from the towns they had taken, making a stand =

only in Ocosingo, where they had to fight their way out of a =

Federal Army trap . The behaviour of the official forces =

contrasted with the Zapatistas' apparent disinterest in killing, =

but national and international protests forced the =

government to agree a truce on the 12th of January (1994). =

Samuel Ruiz, the Catholic bishop of San Crist=8Bbal, Chiapas, =

offered to mediate. He described the rebels as follows: =

The Zapatistas do not want to represent all the people of =

Mexico, but rather to make an appeal to the whole nation =

from the perspective of the marginalized indigenous people =

-- so that all sectors of Mexican society can participate in =

building a better country ... after all this is over, the Zapatistas =

do not want to become a political party or a movement. =

Rather, they want those in power to open the system to the =

participation of all. They want power to no longer be based =

on domination, but on service and participation. =

The rebels, it turned out, had been organising in the jungle =

for ten years. The supreme command rests not with a general =

or a Chairman, but with the Indigenous Revolutionary =

Clandestine Committee (CCRI), a large body made up of =

delegates from all the Zapatista communities. The delegates =

are in turn bound to reflect the wishes of the village =

assemblies, open forums where everything from land use to =

war on the government is declared. The EZLN are the first =

grass roots controlled army of the 20th century - perhaps of =

any century? In addition, 35% of the Zapatista Army are =

women, who are treated as complete equals by their male =

comrades - as required by the Women's Revolutionary Law. =

The poetic communiqu=8Es of the EZLN, usually issued by =

enigmatic spokesman Subcommandante Insurgente Marcos, =

and the empowering sight of the Zapatistas, who always =

appear masked either by balaclavas or bandanas, taking on =

the powers that be with the power of the imagination and =

guns that had been begged, borrowed or stolen, brought the =

world's press and television reporters to Chiapas. But in =

February 1995 the government, under pressure to crush the =

rising before it spread (Chase Manhattan Bank sent them a =

memo 'advising' that future investment would depend on =

the elimination of the Zapatista challenge), rushed forty =

thousand troops into Chiapas. =

After another storm of protest, including demonstrations of =

over 100,000 in the capital and protests to Mexican embassies =

throughout the world, the offensive was halted. But =

although the peace process has resumed, and even made =

some progress, at least on paper, the troops remain. Often =

camped right beside a village, they and the police carry on a =

'low-intensity' war against the peasants who dared to =

challenge the government. International human rights =

monitors from groups as respected as AMNESTY =

INTERNATIONAL and Human Rights Watch have =

documented many cases of unlawful detention, torture, rape =

and murder. The systematic abuse of human rights, =

prevalent throughout the country, is compounded by the =

massive army presence. =

In the face of this provocation, the EZLN have continued =

resolute in their search for justice, rebuilding what has been =

destroyed and looking for new ways to tackle the old =

oppression. On New Year's Day 1996, two years after they hit =

the headlines, they announced the birth of the Zapatista =

Front for National Liberation (FZLN), a movement open to =

all not affiliated to a political party, seeking to write a new =

constitution for a new nation. Although the EZLN do not =

intend to give up their guns, the new FZLN is to be an =

unarmed organisation, based on but not controlled by the =

EZLN. And its aims go further than reform of Mexican =

society. The Zapatistas have issued an invitation to the world =

to join them in the Lacandona Forest for a World Meeting of =

people struggling against neoliberal economic and social =

politics (Thatcherism and Reaganomics for the 90s). It could =

be the start of something big ... =

-- =

Find out about the Revolution in Mexico

This summer 4,000 people from 43 countries met
"for Humanity and against neoliberalism" there