Chapter 8: The Dialogue
Report By Subcommander Marcos On the First Day
February 21, 1994
The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army speaks through my mouth for the purpose of informing the people of Mexico, the peoples and governments of the world, and the national and international press about what occurred today at the table of the peace conference.
Today, the representatives of the EZLN explained to the commissioner in what capacity they are here, how they were named by the various regions, by the towns, by the communities, by location.
The compan~eros explained clearly to the commissioner that they are not here to ask for forgiveness, that they do not regret having fought for their rights, but that they see that this may be a good moment for the true men who make up our Army to speak in words that come from their hearts, rather than with gunfire.
We listened attentively to the commissioner's position. He explained to us in what capacity he comes to these talks and what his position is: to listen, to patiently and with dedication learn the lessons that the compan~eros brought with them from their communities throughout the state.
Both parties agreed to be mutually respectful when addressing each other, and we expressed our willingness to hear the federal government's word, because we believe that the commissioner is willing to hear the Zapatista Army's word. In this way, we made all the necessary preparations for beginning the discussion of our list of demands tomorrow.
We spent practically the whole day today deciding on the agenda for
the talks that have begun this day, and which we hope will proceed in the
same spirit that has been present today.
Report by Subcommander Marcos on the Second Day
February 22, 1994
Good evening. This is going to take a while, so change your cassettes; censors, get your scissors ready, because the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army would like to say a few things, taking advantage of the fact that the major media are here, before speaking on what is happening at the dialogue table.
First, we have learned that there is a person claiming to be a member of our Army who is in the United States of North America, passing himself off as a spokesperson for and combatant in our Army. This is untrue. We don't have combatants in other countries doing this kind of work.
The second thing is that our Army's ban on the already-named newspeople of a certain TV network is still in force. Just remember: Just say no to piracy. We can't do anything about it--we don't have any satellites to jam the signal with--but at least let it be clear that it doesn't meet with our approval.
We would like to address Mexico and the peoples of the world again, now that you, the national and international press, are here.
The Zapatista National Liberation Army speaks through my mouth.
When we came down from the mountains carrying our packs, our dead, and our history, we came to the city to look for our country. The country that had forgotten us in the most remote corner of the land: the loneliest, the dirtiest, the worst.
We came to ask this country, our country: Why did it leave us there for all these years and years? Why did it leave us there with so much death? And we want to ask it again, through you: Why is it necessary to kill and die, to get you, and through you, the world, to listen to Ramona here say such terrible things as thatIndigenous women want to live, want to study, want hospitals, medicine, schools, food, respect, justice, dignity?
Why is it necessary to kill and die so Ramona can come and get attention for what she says? Why should Laura, Ana Mari'a, Irma, Elisa, Silvia, and so many other Indigenous women have had to pick up the gun, become soldiers instead of becoming doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers?
Why was it necessary for those who have died to die? Why is it necessary to kill and die? What is happening in this country? And we are asking everyone, the governors and the governed: What is happening in this country that makes it necessary to kill and die in order to say a few small, true words without seeing them lost in the void?
We came to the city armed with the truth and with fire, to speak through violence on the first of this year. Today we return to the city to speak again, but not with fire; our weapons of fire and of death have fallen silent, and the road has been opened for the word to rule again in a place it should never have left: our soil.
We came to the city and we found this flag, our flag. That is what we found. We didn't find money, we didn't find riches, we didn't find anyone to hear us again. We found an empty city, and we found this flag, and we saw that our country lives under this flag: not the country forgotten in books and museums, but our living nation, the one and only, the one that suffers, the one that hopes.
This is the Mexican flag, our flag. Beneath this flag lives a part of the country whose existence was ignored and dismissed by the powerful; deaths and more deaths have piled one on top of the other, without other Mexicans turning to see, without you turning to see.
Why do we have to sleep with our boots on and our hearts on a string, taking care of this flag? Why do we go marching through jungles, over mountains, through valleys and canyons, down roads and highways, carrying and taking care of this flag? Why do we carry it with us as our only hope of democracy, freedom, and justice? Why do our arms accompany and watch over this flag day and night? Why?
And we would like to ask you if there is another way to live under this flag, another way to live with dignity and justice under this flag. You have told us that there is, you have spoken to us with truthfulness, you speak to our hearts saying: Give peace a chance.
We have gotten your message and we have come here in an honest and truthful spirit. We do not bring two hearts: There are no dark forces behind us, nor do we come here seeking anything other than to talk and listen, unarmed.
When we sit down at the negotiating table with the mediator, Bishop Samuel Ruiz, and the Peace Commissioner, Mr. Manuel Camacho Soli's, we take our weapons off, we put them aside, and we go in and we speak man to man, without pressure tactics and without threats.
If we go armed now, or when we are not at the table, this is for our personal protection, to defend ourselves if we are attacked by someone who feels offended and threatened by our words of truth and justice.
You told us to give peace a chance, and we come here in the spirit of truth and honesty. If there is another road to the same place, the place where this flag will fly in democracy, freedom, and justice, show us that road. We will not toy with our people's blood. If it is possible to raise this flag, our flag, YOUR flag, with dignity, and without the death that makes the soil it stands on fertile, if this can be done, then let it be done. But if it isn't, if they close the door to us again? And if the world does not manage to climb the walls of arrogance and incomprehension? And if the peace is not a true and dignified peace, then who, we ask, who will deny us the sacred right to live and die as true and dignified men and women? Who will stop us from dressing in the garb of war and death and journeying through history again? Who?
It is up to you: the governors and the governed, all the peoples of the world. Answer; we'll listen. We ask you to make a place in your hearts for our thoughts: Don't leave us alone.
With you we're everything. Without you, we go back to being that dirty and forgotten corner of our country.
We, the Zapatista National Liberation Army, have come here with the same hopes that we came here with on January 1: not the will to power, but the hope for a peace with justice, dignity, democracy, and freedom.
That is why we became soldiers: so that one day soldiers will not be needed. We chose this suicidal path of a profession whose purpose is to disappear: soldiers who are soldiers so that one day no one will have to be a soldier.
And it was for the sake of this flag that we became soldiers. But if our people, if you, tell us that this can be done without blood and death, we came to listen to you and to learn from you.
Our country is not just an idea in books. The country that we all want has to be reborn. This flag must fly again over our broken bodies, over our dead, and over our hope.
Whatever happens, we know that we all have contributed something to this long, painful, historic beginning. Love and pain not only rhyme ["amor y dolor" in Spanish], they go together and they travel together. That is why we are soldiers who want to stop being soldiers, because the dead of yesterday and of tomorrow, the living of today and of always--all those we call the people and the country, those who have nothing, the eternal losers in the face of tomorrow, we who have no name, we who have no face--can grow the powerful tree of love, a wind that cleans and that heals; not small and selfish love, grand love, the love that makes better and makes great.
To grow among us the tree of love, the tree of duty, to put our whole life in this undertaking, body and soul, vigor and hope. You have told us that it is possible to achieve this without war, that it is possible that peace will open the door to hope for our people. We hear you all, governments and the governed.
We are willing to see if the door will open again, and if it is real, we will go through it. That is the frame of mind we came here in: with willingness and the desire to finally speak, and we have told the government what our demands are: democracy, freedom, and justice.
We see in them a willingness to listen and a willingness to look for a way. And that is what we are looking for now.
We want to say to the people of Mexico, and to the peoples and governments of the world, to you, the representatives of the national and international press, that the talks are going well. We have found ears to hear us and a real willingness to look for solutions.
I would like to talk about the concern that exists about our faces and weapons. We do not understand why you are so concerned with what our faces look like, when before the first you didn't even know they existed. On the first, this country didn't know that Ramona or Felipe or David or Eduardo or Ana María or any of the others existed.
But, if you want to know what the face behind the ski mask is like, it's very simple: Look in the mirror. We would like to say to you--those of you who have told the truth, not those who have followed the path of lies--that when death stopped the day it did, it was thanks to you and to the people behind you.
We ask you--as brothers and sisters--those of you who are speaking the truth, to go on speaking it, and, if possible, that those of you who are speaking lies not say them so loudly.
We want you to support this dialogue, we want you to report clearly what we say. What we are saying is the truth. It is not good to look for double dealing where there is none, because that can bring more trouble elsewhere.
I have already explained that we carry weapons not so much out of distrust of the government, but rather because of other forces, whose interests have been affected by our movement. But we think, on this second day of the talks, and now that our demands have been presented and have been weighed by the Commissioner, that we are making progress in finding the road to a solution, and thereby in arriving at concrete solutions, if in fact they are possible.
What the Committee has asked me to say clearly, and in so many words, is that it is truly willing to look for another road, if there is one. And to hear all of your opinions and to accept your support in this search for the peace with dignity that we hope for.
In my silence, the Zapatista National Liberation Army falls silent. Through my mouth, Marcos speaks again.
We would like to take this opportunity because we have been criticized a lot for talking to one person and then the other, or for talking to some people and not others. And we sincerely want to say to you that we do want to talk with everyone, and we will, but please give us a break; we just got here and we're struggling with the translation of the proposals, because we have four languages represented on the Clandestine Committee at the moment.
Any initiative we take or demand we raise, or any answer from the commissioner, takes a long time because we have to translate it. But we promise you, whom we owe so much to, to tell you with our ski masks off whatever you want to know about us.
That will be all, thank you very much.
Report by Subcommander Marcos on the Third Day
February 23, 1994
The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command speaks through my mouth to inform the people of Mexico, the peoples and governments of the world and the national and international press, about what has happened [today] at table of the peace talks in our state.
The Zapatista National Liberation Army has presented the list of demands for which it rose up in arms on January 1, 1994, with the Declaration from the Lacandona Jungle.
The Commissioner for Peace and Reconciliation in Chiapas, Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís, received and heard patiently and attentively our demands and the explanation [of the demands] given him by the compan~ero delegates from the Clandestine Committee.
He later presented a document in answer to our demands, or at least those that can be resolved here at the table in San Cristóbal, because both parties are clear in our own minds that we have demands that go far beyond anything that can be settled at the San Cristóbal table, and that must be discussed at the national level.
The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee has analyzed part of the commissioner's answer, and I say part because, please remember, our Committee is multi-ethnic, which means that we have to translate everything into the languages of the various groups it is composed of as we go along.
We can say that although there are still problems of wording, up until now our demands have received satisfactory answers in regard to the following issues: health care, education, accurate and timely information, housing, respect for the culture, the rights, the traditions, and the dignity of Indigenous peoples in Mexico. The rest of the points on our list of demands are still being studied and translated for the compan~eros on the Committee. But we have arrived at substantive agreements with the commissioner on the above points.
The Committee has asked me--has ordered me--to explain to you its position on the dialogue and on the peace.
When on January 1, 1994, war came to Ocosingo, Altamirano, Las Margaritas, Chanal, Oxchuc, Huixtán, and San Cristóbal de las Casas, the voice that came to declare war in these townships came from many places.
What they want you to understand, what the Zapatista Army is asking
you to understand, is that just as the war was a democratic decision, so
will the peace necessarily have to come out of the same democratic process.
They want me to explain to you that their power to make decisions is set
out for them by the democratic decision-
making structure of the Zapatista National Liberation Army.
This means that neither they nor I can take any personal initiatives with regards to any agreement worked out at the table of the Dialogue for Peace. And when I say this I mean that the negotiators have to comply with the conditions laid out for them by the compan~eros so they can come to the talks: They have to obtain a satisfactory response, and they absolutely cannot make any decisions on their own.
They have to go back to their regions, they have to go back to their communities and explain to the compan~eros the proposal for the resolution of the issues that caused our action on January 1, 1994. And the communities are going to answer yes or no; the final yes or no at this dialogue table will be a majority decision.
They want you, and the country, to understand that if the war was decided upon in this democratic fashion, the peace--if it comes at all--cannot help but follow the same road, if it is to be a real peace.
So the compan~eros are asking me to explain this to you. The compan~eros who have been named as delegates have been named by four groups of Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committees, which mainly control four ethnic groups.
They are the ones who command, and they in their turn have to ask the various regions their opinions, and the regions have to ask the communities theirs, and in the communities, the men, women and children meet and decide, on the basis of the information they have, how to proceed.
Then comes the reverse process: The communities send their representatives to the regional meeting, the regional group tells that ethnic group's Clandestine Committee, and the Committee tell its delegate what the answer is. It's a somewhat complicated process, but one we consider logical--one the Zapatista National Liberation Army finds logical--and in any case, it's the one that makes us invincible.
As long as we respect the agreement and reason of our people, there will be nothing that can destroy us; if we betray them, or follow a different path, begin to make decisions without consulting them, we will have no authority over them in any case. This is what we want to explain to you, so you can get more rolls of film, or cassettes, or ask for an advance to pay for your hotel room, because this is going to take a while. It won't be as fast as you might think.
But the Committee has also asked me to make it clear that we have received serious responses to our demands, some of which, as I said, have already been approved by our delegates and now must be approved by the communities, and others which we need to review and discuss with the team of legal advisors the National Commission for Mediation has provided for us.
This is what we wanted to say to you today. Tomorrow we will continue talking to the media, because we have received many requests for interviews. So, we're fitting them into the schedule of the talks, so they can interview us.[...]
What we are asking is that you respect the pace of the talks. The compan~eros don't understand your--or other people's--hurry to see results; and I don't mean you in particular, I mean the hurry another world may be in. They are in a process of reflection, of understanding what they are being presented with, because for them something very important is at stake: Whether they live as dignified human beings or whether they go back to the same old story.
So they are taking things calmly. I don't know how long it will take because I'm their subordinate and I do what they tell me. Right now we're on the fourth part, and the rest might take many or a few days, or maybe it will be resolved in a matter of hours. But they are asking everyone to respect the pace of the peace process, just as the timing of their decision to go to war was respected.
Thanks, again. There will be no more questions.
Press Conference with Subcommander Marcos on the Third Day
[La Jornada, 2/24]
February 23, 1994
Ricardo Alemán Alemán, correspondent,
San Cristóbal de las Casas
The problem of democracy in Mexico is a problem "that goes beyond the negotiations in San Cristóbal," said Subcommander Marcos, explaining that "it is up to civil society, the media, and the political parties to make proposals regarding that subject, since they are the ones who are in a position to change this country's course." [...]
"That," he emphasized, "is the new country we are talking about, the one we wish to speak to, and which we are willing and able to follow down whatever path it chooses. If that path is the peaceful and legal path, then that is the path we will take."
"Civil society," he added, "has shown its maturity. It didn't say 'I want the Zapatistas to win,' or, 'I want the Federal Army to win.' It said, 'Talk, don't fight!' And I think it has sufficient moral authority throughout the country to organize an election on the scale of the one that will be held next August, but some changes will have to be made in the election law."
Concretely, Marcos said, "Democracy is an issue that must be dealt with at a higher level than San Cristóbal, and the changes we are asking for to Article 27 of the Constitution are also an issue that has to be dealt with at a higher level. Regarding state issues, it is very likely that our demands for liberty, democracy, and justice will be resolved satisfactorily.
"But understand that we cannot say to the nation: We have already negotiated democracy at the San Cristóbal table," he said--almost shouted--to the journalists. "Because then the country is going to say to us: 'Who appointed you our spokesperson?' For that, there has to be a larger movement. And for there to be democracy in Mexico, there has to be a larger discussion: a nationwide discussion."
A journalist from the US spoke of the United States' role in conflicts such as those in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and asked about the possibility of our northern neighbor attempting to intervene in the same way. "The government and people of the US need to be clear that there is nothing in our movement that affects their interests. Our platform is: Things change or we starve to death," Marcos said.
The people and government of the United States "are going to realize that we have nothing against them, and if the people of the United States intervene, it will be to send help. We don't want power, we don't want to invade or take the White House, or to exterminate the white race or the gringos. What we want is to be allowed to live in peace."
"It is more dangerous for them to pursue a policy of economic extermination of Indigenous people, which is what is happening, than to have changes occur that will raise everyone's living standard," he said.
And about NAFTA, he stated: "It is a problem for us, because there is no section on Indigenous peoples. The treaty comes into effect, and supposedly it is the skilled labor in the companies that are going to compete. And we don't know how to read and write. What possibility do we have of competing in the world market? Doing what?"
The subject of democracy came up repeatedly, as did the EZLN's insistence on calling for the resignation of President Salinas. "We did not do this as a pressure tactic. We don't even know how to speak Spanish. But the root cause of all our problems of health care, education, housing, nutrition and justice is that there is no freedom and democracy."
And, in a didactic tone, the subcommander stated: "So we say that there has to be a change in the democratic system that will guarantee that there are no privileges, and that whatever political option wins, wins an honest victory. And if the federal government cannot guarantee a free and democratic election, then we say that there will have to be another federal government, a transitional government. Alternatively, there will have to be a modification to the election law that establishes that the federal government will no longer be the party that sanctions the elections." [...]
Commander Ramona also spoke, and said, "Women are the ones who have
been the most exploited, the most oppressed, throughout history." On this
subject, Marcos stated, "The longest sections in our list of demands is
the one on Indigenous women."
Report by Subcommander Marcos on the Fourth Day
February 24, 1994
The preceding was our salute to the flag, because today is Flag Day; it was the Zapatista Army's salute to the Mexican flag.
The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army speaks through my mouth for the purpose of informing the people of Mexico, the peoples and governments of the world, and the national and international press about what occurred today at the talks with the National Commissioner of Mediation, Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, and the National Commissioner for Peace and Reconciliation in Chiapas, Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís.
We have resolved 50% of our list of demands and we have received answers
to the following points on the list of demands, presented by the Clandestine
Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-
General Command of the EZLN:
The demand for providing electricity to Indigenous communities and the redistribution of federal spending in the state; another regarding the impact of NAFTA on Indigenous communities; others regarding health care, accurate information--as we said yesterday; housing, education--in particular the construction of schools, the provision of teaching material, and an official, binding policy of appointing bilingual teachers in Indigenous communities; the demand for the penalization of the discrimination and contempt Indigenous people suffer; demands regarding the issues of nutrition, of financial assistance to the victims of the war and to those who have been widowed or orphaned by the conflict; the demands of Indigenous women regarding the course to be followed so that Indigenous people may live in peace.
The other demand, so that the non-governmental human rights organizations can increase in number and be strengthened, is the need for the formation, at the appropriate moment, of a National Commission for a Peace with Justice and Dignity, that would have the responsibility of overseeing compliance with the agreements arrived at at this table.
And the last point we have agreed on is that humanitarian aid to the war zone is to be channeled through authentic representatives of the Indigenous communities.
These are the agreements we have arrived at up until now. I repeat, 50% of the list of demands presented by the Committee has been answered satisfactorily by the commissioner.
I have another message from the Committee, regarding the direction of the consultations to be held with our bases and with our leadership in the Indigenous communities, on the agreements we arrive at here. The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee of the Zapatista National Liberation Army has decided that when there are more specific and finished results coming out of these talks, it will send the respective documents to all the non-governmental organizations, to the national and international press, and to civil society at large. These documents will be of three kinds: documents regarding our demand list, the federal government's answers, and the agreements arrived at.
This, the compan~eros say, is for the purpose of hearing the views and
the consensus of everyone who has expressed an opinion on this conflict,
on the road to peace with dignity. This decision of the Committee, to broaden
the consultation on the signing of the peace, is to be carried out as soon
as we arrive at a more finished agreement.
Press Conference with Subcommander Marcos on the Fourth Day
[La Jornada, 2/25]
February 24, 1994
Ricardo Alemán Alemán, correspondent,
San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas
If things don't change in Mexico, "January 1 in Chiapas will repeat itself over and over again, in different years, and not just in the Mexican Southeast, but in various regions," Subcommander Marcos said during a press conference with reporters from national and international radio stations, during which he stated, "Everyone will surely benefit from our call for democracy, liberty, and justice, because those are the three lines along which a people is free, true, and powerful." In the same gathering, the military chief of the Zapatista National Liberation Army criticized the political parties who, at the invitation of the rebels, attended the talks as observers. "All we want is for them be on the alert, to not leave us alone, because if there is a different road for our demands and it is the road of peace, we are willing to go down it."
"But the people who came did nothing but start talking, competing, seeing who... as if this were the House of Deputies. We waited to see when they would stop talking, but they were no longer talking to us, they were talking to each other. They started to debate, and we waited to see how long it would take for them to get tired. When we saw that they would never get tired, we said 'We have to go, our beans are getting cold,' and we left."
In an ironic tone, Subcommander Marcos said "We only ask two things of you: Don't leave us alone, and if you ever come to power, we hope you will listen half as much as you talk. It is clear to us that the political parties are only approaching us for the photo opportunity...if they have something else in mind, well, I'm not into that, or maybe they're trying to lead our movement," he clarified amidst laughter.
Immediately afterwards, the rebel chief said that the EZLN "understands the political situation we are in, in which someone might try to use the movement in favor of one party or the other. That is why we are so insistent that we are not a party and do not subscribe to the positions of any of the parties. We say to them, 'Take each other on in the electoral arena; just be sure that whoever wins, wins an honest victory.' If that doesn't happen, then it will be January 1 all over again."
The press conference began with a message from the general command of the EZLN to the peoples and governments of the world: "How can we accept the interests of other countries if what we are asking for is the right to elect those who govern us, and for that choice to be respected by the government and the governed? What harm can we do to the interests of other countries if we ask for freedom of thought and for the right to speak according to our ideas, without harming others?
"What harm can we cause the interests of other countries or peoples
if what we are asking for is justice, hospitals, and schools where we can
learn to read and write, the housing, fit for human habitation, that we
lack? We are asking for food for our children, who are dying of hunger,
respect for our dignity, our traditions and our culture. We are asking
for what any European, North American, or Latin American people would take
for granted, and here in the Southeast of Mexico, it isn't even the least
we can expect."
Press Conference with Subcommander Marcos
on the Sixth Day
[La Jornada 2/27]
February 26, 1994
Julio Moguel, Ricardo Alemán and Victor Ballinas, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas
Q: In the beginning of January you declared to the press that the Salinista reforms to Article 27 of the Constitution had been a determining factor in the Zapatista decision to make war. How does this particular point look at the negotiation table? Does the demand to reform Article 27 and its regulatory law stand outside of your list of demands because it deals with a national issue? In any case, how do you link the particular agrarian demands of the EZLN, in the region or in the state, with federal legal limits on the possibilities of the changes you propose?
M: We think that we have the moral high ground to deal on a national level, as much with the issue of land as that of the Indians. That is how we have thought of it since the beginning, and that is how we consider things now. This is what we hope for: That, together with other forces, we can roll back the Salinista counter-reform of agrarian lands, returning the original spirit of the legislation, or completely remodeling Article 27 at a constitutional congress.
The concrete demand in our list says "Return to the spirit of Article
27 approved in Quere'taro in 1917," where the thinking is that which was
put forth by Zapata, which is land and liberty, and not large, neglected
landed estates. I am summarizing for you what that point says. Starting
from here, we have a minimal and a maximal demand. The minimum is, I repeat,
the nullification of the agrarian reforms of 1991 and 1992; the maximum
is that we carry out a wide-
ranging discussion with the campesino organizations, with those who have studied this matter, with the whole society, to reform Article 27 according to the new conditions. But for this, both the minimum and the maximum, we need a larger movement, capable of implementing what we believe to be a broad consensus among the campesinos and the majority of inhabitants of the Mexican countryside.
At the concrete level of negotiations, here at the table in San Cristóbal, this point appears to be one of the most difficult. Most likely, the commissioner will look for some small part of Article 27 from which to take the solutions to the concrete problems of the state (because we have to say, for sure, that we have already won this: That we discuss this and resolve at the state level and not just in the Zapatista townships). But our list of demands clearly puts forth federal reform, not just an amendment that resolves what is secondary.
What I want you to understand is that dialogue is one thing and negotiation is another. Because some media are saying that 50% of the demands have already been granted. The truth is that until now the government has not resolved even 1% of our list of demands; it has answered 50% of them, but it has not carried out anything. The only thing that has been won is that we are seated here, discussing an agenda. That has to be clear. There is, for example, the problem of peace and disarmament. The compan~eros have said that they will not hand in their arms in exchange for a pile of papers.
Q: Will the reform of Article Four of the Constitution, and the discussion and democratic approval of its regulatory law, complement your demands for agricultural lands? What do your proposals for legislative change on the Indigenous question mean?
M: I am going to tell you what we hope for. We have asked the government to issue a broad call to discuss and approve Article Four in the Congress, as well as its regulatory law. Our proposal remains defined at a general level, but we say that said reform must consider at the least some aspects. One of them is that the traditional authorities of Indigenous communities can exist and exercise their functions with a level of legality. For example, in the communities of the jungle and the highlands the authority is the assembly, but legally it is not. There is the case of judicial questions. When they decide to punish a crime, the problem is solved inside the community. But then society or the State imposes or overimposes on the person in question a new punishment, based on its codes and laws. We say that if the community has already punished, there is no reason for another punishment. And that should be established by law.
Another important point: There are regions of Chiapas in which there is hegemony of a particular ethnicity. There exists there a society and an underground government that the government puts itself on top of. I am going to give you the example of how the PRI nominates candidates to the municipal presidency in the highlands. The community gathers together and decides among them who is the candidate for the PRI, and that one will be the president. Then the party registers that person, as is the case of San Juan Chamula. There the caciques make an agreement and therefore the PRI does not care who is the candidate. They just register them, knowing that with the vote for cacique goes the vote for governor, for senator, for deputy, and for president of the Republic. With this I return to what I said before: This causes a situation in which the government that exists below, which is the one that functions, is not recognized. It causes, at the same time, corruption. That which is underground must emerge.
Another case is that of justice. If you kill someone in an Indigenous community, it is almost certain that the community will apply the punishment of making you work for the widow. That is your sentence. The justice of the mestizos puts you in jail, which leaves two widows. That is something they cannot understand. If you go and do damage to the pig or the house of another, mestizo justice puts you in jail. The justice of the communities sets you to repairing the damage: You even have the right to eat the pig, since you have already paid for it. There is, then, a logic that is very logical, which is in conflict with the penal code.
There can be many other aspects, but they are not put on the table at San Cristóbal. The government must commit to convening at a very broad level to carry out the necessary constitutional reforms, and then the proposals of the Mayas will come in, and of the Yaquis, of the Tarahumaras, as well as the people who have studied the problem.
With respect to democracy, we also have put forth demands that cross from the local to the national level. We want civil society to be that which has the most weight, for example, in the approval of the elections. Right now, the federal government and the PRI have a majority of people in the organs that regulate and decide the electoral processes. One small part corresponds to the parties. We say that a third factor in power and decisions, that of people of honor and prestige in civil society, is what should have the most weight. They should hold the veto power, not the government or the political party. That is how we understand things.
At the municipal level, we put forth the democratic naming of councils. This is the form of government that we are proposing, which is what operates in the communities. And we demand that the authorities can be removed at the very moment that the communities decide and agree on it. This could be through a referendum, or other similar mechanisms. And they want to transmit that experience at every level: When the president of the Republic is no good, he should be automatically removed. That simple. They understand that if we can make agreements between Tzeltales, Tzotziles, Choles, and Tojolabales, who all speak different languages, it would have to be easier to have a whole country agree, if they all speak the same Spanish. That is more or less the idea lthat we aspire to.
Q: Returning to Article 27: One of the questions that led to the Salinista reform was the elimination of patrimonial land in the ejidos, and also in the communities, since these have the possibility of passing over to the ejidos. What do you think about this particular point in the negotiations?
M: At the table in San Cristóbal we have defended and won on that point--that the plot be kept as family patrimony. And that, until now, in what is called the Indigenous side, to carry out the formulation of the regulatory law of the Fourth Article of the Constitution. For us, in addition, the plot should be free of any tax burden. But the government does not appear to want to apply this formulation of Article 27 since, as we said before, it implies the reform of this article. The most serious problems of the negotiations are here, and, of course, also the question of democracy.
Q: The CCRI of the EZLN sent a communique' to the Council of Indigenous and Campesino Organizations of Chiapas (Consejo de Organizaciones Indígenas y Campesinas de Chiapas) in which they strongly criticize the ARIC Union of Unions, particularly some of its leaders and advisors. What importance do you give to this conflict? Are you still critical?
M: We differentiate ARIC from its advisors. It was the latter that lent themselves to the counterinsurgency campaign. They used local radio to make calls for accusation, encouraged the people to turn in their favorite Zapatista. It was at that point that we decided to put forth a position. And even if it seemed to you to be very radical, in reality it was a middle position--if we measure it in relation to the feeling that there was. We said: This is happening, they are going to pile on top of us and smash us. But nevertheless, we are going to die with dignity and they with shame.
The conflict was not caused precisely because of the problem or the discussion about the peaceful way or the armed way. What really bothered the compan~eros was when the advisors of the ARIC started to have a very close connection with the government. They began to lend themselves to political campaigns, to a presidential candidate; that is what pissed them off.
But the thing has been diluted. There started to be agreements in the streams. Just now a letter came to us from the authorities of the ARIC, that they want to speak with us, but now the advisors are no longer on the letter, only the authorities signed it.
Q: Recently the authorities of the Sedesol and other functionaries presented a book in Mexico City about the National Program of Solidarity (Programa Nacional de Solidaridad, Pronasol). One of the participants in the conference indicated that the armed conflict in the state of Chiapas did not put that program in doubt. They said, moreover, that rather than being eliminated or modified substantially, the program would have to be amplified and improved. What is your opinion on this question?
M: Pronasol is poorly-given charity; the only thing that it brought about was corruption. It did not resolve a single problem. All of the help filtered down like in a funnel, and it stayed with the leaders, as well as in the command structure of the federal, state, and municipal governments. Nothing came to us. Look at how ridiculous this is. During the government of Patrocinio González, the only health-related construction that was finished was the hospital at Guadalupe Tepeyac, which has 40 beds to serve almost 25,000 people.
Among the constructions accomplished by Solidaridad are the Cereso Number Five, the jail in San Cristóbal, the barracks in Rancho Nuevo, the other jail in Yajalón, the one in Tila. Jails and barracks are what were built by Solidaridad. They also painted schools white and put "Pronasol" on them. But the government says that they did send the money, just that it never came. The truth is that they never bothered to find out whether it was arriving. And everyone knows that when Salinas came to inaugurate the Guadalupe Tepeyac hospital, when the party left, behind them went a truck that carried away part of the things of the hospital. They left a shell. A hospital that does not have water.
We saw that since Pronasol began, it was set up to revert in 1988. It was clear that the Solidarity committees were set up to be a structure directed toward buying the vote. Procampo is not very different: The functionaries come to the communities and they say: Sign here and we will give you the money in July, that is, days before the elections. The Solidarity committees have been converted into pro-vote committees, in the sense of a strategy of electoral counterinsurgency.
Q: The process of the formation of the EZLN--was it for you at the same time a process of reforms or economic and social changes in the communities? Did the transformation in the relationship between men and women have any effect?
M: Yes. In general, the compan~eros used to struggle separately on the ejidos. One ejido did not mess with another except to fight or to rob women. When the EZLN began and regional structures formed, then several ejidos began to come into contact, first to defend themselves against the guardias blancas or other judicial police, and later to help themselves in questions of health and other necessities. Before that, for organizational, paramilitary, political, study, or economic organizational questions, such as when several towns got together to get a boat, in order to make a hanging bridge, or to plot their territorial limits.
Then there is a relationship between one stream and another, the "zone" that we talked about. That is also something that is brought by the EZLN, consisting in the development of an effective unit, not just of representatives, but of communities. But that does not mean that the impulse has come from outside, but rather from the Zapatistas right there, who, from within, went promoting the organization, which gives us territorial cohesion.
The change in the behavior of women has been very strong, considering,
of course, the great differences that exist between women in the jungle
and in the highlands. In the process of struggle, women first learn Spanish.
They leave their houses. Traditionally, when a woman leaves her house in
the communities, it is because she is going with a man; if she goes with
a group of men she is thought of as a common person. But this changes.
We say that first they learn Spanish; then to add and subtract. One day
they come with arms and they know how to handle them, and they teach you.
Then there is a star, then two. Further on, you realize that she participates
in a troop of nothing but men, and then you see that they obey her. That
motivates other women, who ask, "But who washed your clothes? Who cooks
for you?" And they respond: "Sometimes me, sometimes the compan~ero." The
EZLN is composed of 33% women.
Interview with Major Ana María
[This text was transcribed from an interview with Major Ana María
of the EZLN, taped inside of the Cathedral at San Cristóbal during
the dialogue. It is previously unpublished.]
February 28, 1994
Q: ...With Major Ana María of the Zapatista movement, today is February 28...
AM: Yes, well, the thing is that we are interested in getting information about our struggle published at a national and international level. We want the whole world to understand what we are. Until now, the Mexican government has not wanted to recognize us a real force. They think that we are a little group, as they have called it, of "transgressors of the law" or "delinquents." But we know that we are not. We are a people that is organized and wants to be heard, wants its demands to be met. This is something that has not been done for many years. We have been struggling as human beings, as Mexicans. So far, the government thinks that we are a group of foreigners, that we are from other countries, and they think that it is only a small group tricking the people, pulling the people into an armed struggle like this. That is what the government thinks. But we say: But who is it then, if we are all the people who are here? Right now, for example, the Committee is here. They are those who command, those who give orders. Well, not those who give orders but those who lead us, the leadership. It is the people, the campesinos, the Indigenous people who are here.
There are some ladinos who are here. They are those who are helping the ones who understand. For example, Subcommander Marcos is a ladino. But they are not foreigners. We know where he is from. We are not being fooled by anyone. It is us, the campesinos and the Indigenoud people who think that this needs to be done, what we did in January. It was already necessary, because we could not find any other way out of this situation. We had spent years struggling peacefully, we held marches, we had meetings, we went to the municipal palaces and the Government Palace, and we went to Mexico [City] to the National Palace of Mexico to shout, to ask, to agitate in front of the government. They never paid attention to us. They always gave us papers full of promises. Then, what good is a piece of paper, filled with promises, to us? And we would look at that paper when we went back to our towns. We would read the papers and the promises and nothing ever came. Or, with that Pronasol they sent some things, they ordered a clinic built, but they left it half-built. They left buildings with no medicine, no doctors. What good is a building, a house like that, to us? Or, for example, we asked for schools. The only thing they did, that work of Solidaridad, was that they sent paint and they painted the school, and they painted "Solidaridad" on the wall. But they did nothing else. They didn't send teachers, they didn't send materials, which are necessary, teaching materials necessary for the studies. None of that came. They were nothing but promises.
So then we got together, the campesinos and the Indigenous people...
Q: When did you begin to get together?
AM: About 10 years ago. We started slowly, to get together, to talk
and to understand: Why is the situation like this? Why does the government
not resolve our problems? And when we wanted to do something, when we go
and we take farms, for example, because the land is there, where we live.
It is like our mother that takes care of us and feeds us. Without the land,
we can't live, we would die. But since they never give us lands, they never
have, we started to organize legally, without arms or anything, peacefully,
and they went and took a farm, an abandoned farm. Since not all of the
farmers live there, some leave them. We are told that that land belongs
and-so, and we don't even know them. But we see, there is the land, and we work on it. If the owner is not there, we work on it. We went in there, the campesinos went in there, to work the land. They built their houses there and took the land. It's been called an invasion; we invaded the land. And then they sent the Public Security, since that is what the government does, send its Public Security forces, to burn the houses that had been built, to evict the people with canes and beat the people. They took our leaders. They put them in jail. They dragged them with horses to torture them. That is how they responded.
Q: Then all of this has been happening for the last 10 years?
AM: Yes, over the last 10 years all of this has been happening. And so we took up arms. We cannot do this peacefully. The government has its Army. It is not true that the Army has military autonomy. That it's job is to defend the Mexican people, defend the nation; this is not true. They are in favor of a few. It is not just. It is not just that the Army massacres its own people, its own race, the same people as they are. So we said, "No, to defend ourselves we have to take up arms, as well." If not, how? They will continue killing us like that. They kill us with hunger. And if we struggle to survive, we look for land that is not being used, they order us killed by the Public Security, who are the ones that come the most often. So this people said, "We have to unite. Unite and get arms and fight, too... If the government does not pay attention to us peacefully, then we will make them pay attention to us with force."
Q: I heard that there is something written called the Women's Law. How did you put this together?...
AM: Right now we could not bring anything. We do not have it here. But if you have patience to wait for the next one, because we know that this time the dialogue will not be completed because there are many things that the government will not approve of that are on that paper now. As they have always done, they give you a ton of paper, which is what they have done until now. The government has committed itself to meeting 50% of the demands that we have. But they are leaving off the most difficult ones, like the last one, which is about democracy and justice and land, for example. So there are still some points left there. And more than that, about democracy, because they tell us that we cannot, that this problem cannot be fixed at a state level. It has to be looked at at a national level. So that is where we are up to now.
And we think that if they do not accept our demands, as we ask them to, the dialogue will not be completed this time. We will have to go, consult with the people, ask the people if they agree with what the government commits to, and come back again, to say "yes" or "no."
Q: Are you also part of a group of women?
AM: Yes. I am part of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. Within the EZLN there are insurgents, and I am an insurgent, a military person. Then there are a group of militias, which are our compan~eros who live in their towns. But when it is necessary for them to prepare with their arms, then they prepare with their weapons and they go and fight when they are needed...
AM: No, I was speaking in general. Then I will speak to you of the women, how the Women's Law came about. So that is the make-up of the Zapatista Army. Then there are other people as well. They are what we call bases, bases that support the combatants, give us food. So with all of that, we form the Zapatista National Liberation Army.
About the Women's Law, well there are many women within the Zapatista Army; there are insurgents, who dedicate ourselves to military life, we prepare ourselves with weapons...
Q: But do any of you have families? For example, do you have children?
AM: No, I don't.
Q: But you are married. I can see the ring.
AM: [laughs] Yes.
Q: You're young?
AM: Of course.
Q: How old are you?
AM: I am 25 years old. When I was very young, I joined the Zapatista Army. I saw almost the whole process of this organization, of how it moved forward. I was one of the first women who was part of the ranks of the Army. We were a few compan~eros, men and women, and we began to work, and then we began to go out to the towns, to the communities, and explain our struggle. And also to see what they thought, what they felt needed to be done. We saw that the life that we were living there was too unjust...
So, then in our work, since I was a woman, an Indigenous woman, a campesino. Even though I have light skin, but it is a family thing... But just for that we do not stop being campesinos, or Indians. They saw that I was a woman, and they saw that women can also do things. That women can organize themselves, and that they can do things other than what they do in their houses and their homes. Women have the capability of doing other kinds of work as well. And then women started to enter into the Army. Women started to get together and organize themselves, and they started to join the ranks of the Army. And then other women did not join, but organized themselves into women's groups, women alone. They organized themselves. They formed ranches of pigs. They did collective projects such as baking and sewing, and that is how they started to organize themselves as women's groups. And also many, many women started entering our organization. For example, for each family, for each man that entered into the struggle, and said, "Yes, I agree with the struggle and I want to struggle," many people came to look for us alone. And we would accept them, help them, because that it what we were there for. They would join with all of their family, and within the families were women: women, children, old people, everyone. We integrated them all into the Army. And that is another way that women entered the struggle. And some went to be insurgents, others stayed in their towns as civilians doing political work, organized in women's groups. Then, when we were many people, a very large organization, we said, "We now have the necessary force to fight. Now we will make the government know what we are, to see if this way, with arms, they will pay attention to us."
Q: Where do the arms come from?
AM: That I do not know. Only our command knows that. But I can tell you that these arms were obtained by the people with their own efforts. They took their little money...
Q: You saved your money to buy them? This was your own....
AM: Yes, their own effort. Where they got them? That I don't know.
Q: There are rumors that you bought them from the federal forces that took arms from the druff traggiffers [mispronounced in Spanish]...
AM: Drug traffickers [laughs]. Yes you can see the corruption...
Q: Yes that, and they thought that you would sell them again to the drug traffickers. But instead of this you kept them. I don't know if this is a rumor, or whether it has been written, but this is what they told me. Taking advantage of corruption...
AM: Yes. That is how we went gathering arms, but it was with the sacrifice of the people. Little by little, it took many, many years, that sacrifice. And now they tell us: "Hand over your guns." And we say, "No. No, because it is ours, it is something that belongs to us." How can they say that? It would be a humiliation to hand in what is ours, what was gotten through so much sacrifice. So now we say, "No, we will not hand in our arms until we see our demands being met, and all of what we need, which is what we ask for. All of our principal demands, and also the demand of the Mexican people for democracy." So now we say, "No, we cannot hand in our arms."
So, that is how the people started to get together. That is also how the women got organized. So now there are women who represent the women as well. And not just women, but we represent all of our people as well, women, children, everyone.
Q: There are many rumors. I heard that there was, in the group of women, in one of the manifestations, the women said that they would be in charge. "We will pick our partners, we won't stand for the abuse any more."
AM: This is part of the Women's Law, something that I was going to tell you about. The Women's Law was born when we had already started to think: "There are now many of us, and we are armed. We have enough weapons, and now we are going to vote to see if people are agreed that now is the time." We asked all of the people, but the people were demanding, "It is time to fight, we need to fight, because we can't stand this situation any longer." And they were demanding this of us. And so what we did was find out the opinion of everyone. And everyone said that they agreed and that they thought it was important to make our laws. And so we decided that we should make our laws. Let's put on paper what we want to demand of the government. A general law was made, but there was no women's law. And so we protested, and said that there has to be a women's law when we make our demands. We also want the government to recognize us as women. The right to have equality, equality of men and women. And that they respect and recognize what we are. And so there was a law where we ask that they give us the right to freely choose our husbands, without being obligated to, because within Indigenous life we are obligated to get married even when we don't want to. Another is to have children, the number of children you want to have, but not to have to have so many children that your hormones run out. We have to choose, to decide. That is the petition that we made.
Q: This interests me, and this explains a lot. In other underdeveloped countries as well, and in traditional cultures, it is also true that women don't have any rights. Their fathers can order them, and can even choose who [they marry]... Was this the same for you, before?
AM: In Indigenmous campesino life... A young man comes who wants to get married, wants to ask permission to marry someone. He comes, but he asks the father, he doesn't ask the opinion of the young woman. And then what happens is that the father accepts, many of them accept without asking the opinion of the young woman, whether she likes him or doesn't like him. And so they sell her.
Q: They sell her?
AM: Yes, that is, in exchange for the young woman marrying the young man he has to pay some money... Women do not like this. Many times they do not even know the man, what he's like. They cannot live with him because there is no time spent as partners, nothing like that. They ask for you, the father gives you, and when the time comes to get married, you get married. Many women go crying, because they don't want to. That is why this came out in the law, that they give us, that we should have the right to choose, that they can not sell us like the land. That they can not obligate us to get married, to have many children. This is very difficult, very difficult for women. We think that women suffer more than men. Of course, they suffer the same exploitation, and the children as well, the same exploitation, the same misery, the same injustice. But in addition to that, women are also dominated. This is by the same ideology that we have, that all of us have. Of course, we do not place all of the blame on men. It is from the same ideology, the same condition that we live in in our country. There is mistreatment of women.
In addition to this, suffering this injustice, suffering this misery, they suffer to see their children die of hunger, of curable diseases. And this is why this law was born. And another thing is that in the Women's Law we demand that there be respect for women. We demand respect. Many times, they don't respect us. They think that women are something worthless. So this is also why this law came out, demanding respect, demanding that we be respected. And it demands punishment for men that rape, that grab by force. This has happened many times, and more among Indigenous women, campesin women. They see her all fucked up, and all of that, that she'll let them, and they grab her. Here in San Cristóbal, for example, many women have been raped. They just grab them. Servants and all of the women that work in the houses of the ladies, they grab them and rape them. Many times these rapes are not publicly known, they are not published, they are not told of, they do not accuse them of all that happens.
And another of the demands in the law is that women do have the capacity, if they are taught to do other kinds of work, not just grind the corn, make the tortillas and the food, take care of the children, sweep the house, go get firewood when the husband is not home. This is the work of Indigenous women in the home. But it is not taken into account that if women are given studies, education, they can do others kinds of work. We realized this when we started to enter this struggle. That if we are going to do many of the thing that men are doing, we can study, we can be leaders. I am the leader of a unit. And that we can be representative of something big. For example, Ramona, a compan~era who represents several women and who is a leader of a group of women. But before, this did not exist. Because people always thought that women couldn't do anything.
Q: For how many years have women been in positions of power? You said that you have been struggling for over 10 years. Can you calculate for me how many years women have been leaders?
AM: Yes, since we started to enter into this struggle. Since we started to form part of the struggle. Yes, we had opportunity to participate...
Q: There are Indigenous people in the [Federal] Army. There may be a point at which people say, "Enough, that is enough..."
AM: We know that not all of the [Federal] Army is so stupid as to do all of that massacre, like they did in Ocosingo, for example. We know that many of the soldiers do not like to do that, because they are Indigenous people, too, of the same campesinos. We know that there is a lot of discontent in the Army. They are not happy that they are ordered to kill, because they are killing their own race.
Q: Have there been any soldiers that left the Army?
Q: Did you know them? Did you speak with them?
AM: No, others told us about them. There were some...
AM: No, they are not rumors. They are real. Because we have people who tell us what is happening with that. These are real things. Several soldiers who deserted got to one town and said that they were not in agreement with what was being done. They send the new troops in front and they send them with 30 bullets! According to that report, they send them with 30 bullets. In other words, they send them like meat, so that they confront us and they are killed first so that these officials can defend themselves. We know this and we know that not all of the Army is ready to kill their own people. There are people who do have hearts. For this reason, at the beginning, when we began the war, we asked them to surrender. We also know that many people [in the Army] are Indigenous people, were campesinos. We asked for their surrender so we would not fight against them....
Q: How do you feel, as a woman, learning how to handle a rifle and then feeling the capability of killing... Do you understand my question? You do not appear to me to be a violent person. Well, you speak very quietly....
AM: Yes, taking up a gun, that is something very, very important. I am proud to being able to do that. Of course, we do not like to kill. We kill, not out of taste, but out of need. They have obligated us to take up guns and kill to get what they have never given to us. But I, as a woman, feel good. I don't feel like a delinquent. I don't feel like a transgressor of the law, as the government has been calling us. I don't feel like that because I know I am representing a people. A people who struggle, a people who are doing something just and something necessary. Even if we do not kill, if there is no war, it is as if there is, because day by day our people are dying. Our children are dying of hunger and of curable diseases. We cannot do anything else, because we have absolutely nothing. There are no hospitals, there are no schools, there is no food, there is nothing. Our children are dying, our people are dying. Because of this our struggle is just, it is just that we have taken up arms. And for women, it is just that women take up arms to defend themselves. That is what we have arms for, to defend ourselves. We are not delinquents. We don't like to kill. [...]
We have been attacked. The Mexican Army complains that we attacked them in Rancho Nuevo. But what happened during the past years when they came, when they attacked us in other places, when they evicted us? They don't take this into account, what they have done to us. We have been attacked. They don't say what they did when we were not even armed. When we weren't even prepared. They attacked us. But we know the history of our Mexico, our country, and we grab onto these roots. We have roots. It is the same people who have killed throughout history, that do this now. It is the same Army, the same governments of always. Even though they change, they act in the same way...
Q: I think that if I were threatened, I would be able to kill someone, too. I don't think I would like to do it. I would rather avoid any problems.
AM: That is what we are trying to do now. That is why we have sat down
to dialogue. We do what the people ask. The people have asked that we try
this way, and we are going to try it. We are going to try it, because we
don't like to kill and we don't like to make war. Because of that, we have
sat down to dialogue, to see what we can get out of it. But if things are
not resolved this way, we will have to continue what we have set out for
Communique's Issued During the Dialogue
Letter from the CCRI-CG to the NGO's
February 20, 1994
To all non-governmental organizations (NGO's) in Mexico:
Brothers and Sisters:
The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee of the Zapatista National Liberation Army addresses all of you respectfully so that our words, which speak the truth, will reach you.
As everyone knows, the EZLN is willing to enter into true and fair talks. These talks are taking place in a zone of armed conflict, and this implies the possibility of provocations that could hinder them. It is also possible that the delegates on either side might suffer attacks on their lives or freedom. In order to reduce the risk of this happening, it was necessary to go to honest and true people and ask them to create a "security belt" or "peace belt" around the site of the talks.
We know that the non-governmental organizations, as they are known, have become a fundamental part of the movement for a dignified peace for we who have nothing and for we who found ourselves forced to take up arms to assert ourselves as human beings. The NGO's have maintained neutrality; their efforts to protect the human rights of all, including when members of our EZLN forces have committed human rights violations, are plain for all to see. Furthermore, they have concerned themselves at all times with the alleviation of the grave conditions the civilian population finds itself in.
If we have entrusted our lives and our freedom, during our trips to and from the site of the talks and the time we are there, to the NGO's, it is because we have seen in them the future to which we aspire. A future in which civil society, with the strength that true justice gives it, will make not only war, but armies as well, unnecessary, and a future in which governments, whatever their political orientation, will have over them the severe and constant vigilance of a free and democratic civil society.
If we have arrived alive and well at the site of the talks, we owe it to the protection and vigilance of all those good people who, without receiving anything in return, gave us their time, their efforts and their work, and, risking their own lives and freedom, protected us, the smallest of all Mexicans.
For all of the above reasons, we would like to respectfully request that you accept the EZLN's salute to your work. However this process turns out, our country's history will remember, more than our voices and the voices of our guns, the bravery of the women and men, namely you, who, without asking for anything in return, and [receiving] only the satisfaction of having done your duty, gave everything.
Good health, brother and sister NGO members.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
CCRI-CG of the EZLN
Letter from Marcos to the PRD
February 25, 1994
To Mr. Mario Saucedo, Mr. Samuel del Villar, and Mr. Alejandro Encinas, representatives of the National Executive Committee (Comite' Ejecutivo Nacional, CEN) of the PRD:
I have just received your rightly indignant letter. Imagine my pleasure at being able, for the first time in quite a while, to answer immediately, without waiting for a letter to arrive and for my answer to get back.
I understand your dismay. Look, you (or some of you) were here when we were paid a visit by the representatives of political parties. You heard how at least two of those parties started a political oratory contest, to the great delight of their fellow party members and to our surprise, since, in our naivete, we thought they'd come to listen to us, not to make such long speeches at us.
When we managed to break the spell of these gentlemen's words, we left, saying "Don't leave us alone. And we hope that some day you will learn to listen." Everyone who was there knows which political party representatives grabbed the "platform" of the cathedral. I am expressly forbidden by the CCRI-CG of the EZLN to speak in favor of or against ANY political party, so when I brought up the incident in an interview, I spoke of "the political parties."
You know who did this, and you also know that it wasn't you, so why get upset? I accept the justifiable anger in your letter, but please understand that I cannot disobey my superiors, so I cannot publicly say which political parties talked senselessly. Nevertheless, I think I can say who didn't: You didn't.
Good health, and no more postscripts, because they may bring replies, and we are mildly exhausted, c'est a dire, totally.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
Insurgent Subcommander Marcos
Demanding the Resignation of Salinas
February 26, 1994
To the people of Mexico:
To the peoples and governments of the world:
To the national and international press:
Brothers and Sisters:
The CCRI-CG of the EZLN addresses you respectfully to speak its word, what is in its heart and in its thought.
When the EZLN was just a shadow creeping through the mist and the darkness of the mountains, when words justice, freedom, and democracy were just that: words. Barely a dream that the elders of our communities, true guardians of the word of the dead, had passed on to us at the exact moment when the day gave way to the night, when hate and death were beginning to grow in our breasts, when there was nothing but desperation. When the days repeated themselves, with no way out, with no tomorrow, when everything was as unjust as it was, the real men spoke, the men with no faces, the men who walk at night, the men who are the mountain, and this is what they said:
"It's the reason and will of good men and women to look for and find the best way to govern and be governed. What's good for the majority is good for all. But, the voices of the minority must not be silenced. They should continue in their place, waiting for hearts and minds to come together in the will of the majority and the desires of the minority. In this way the peoples of the true men and women grew toward the inside and they became large. And there is no force from the outside that can break them or take their path in another direction."
It was always our way that the will of the majority would be one with the heart and mind of the men and women in command. The path of the commanders must follow that majority will. If the leaders' walk strayed from what was right for the people, the heart of the commander should give way to another, who would obey. That is how our movement was born in the mountains, those in command obey if they are true, those who obey command for the communal heart of true men and women."
Another word came from far away so this government would have a name, and that word named this path we walked even before words traveled the world: "democracy."
Those who walk in the night spoke: "And we see that this way of governing we are referring to is no longer a road for the majority; we see that it is the few who rule, and they govern without obeying, they rule by giving orders. And the few pass around the power to govern, without listening to the majority; they rule by giving orders, without obeying the will of the majority. The few rule unjustly. The word from far away calls it undemocratic, not by the people. We see that this injustice committed by those who rule by giving orders is what is bringing us our pain and is feeding the pain of our dead. And we see that those who rule by giving orders must go away so that truth and right will return to our soil. And we see that things need to change, and we see that that word which comes from far away to name this way of governing, 'democracy,' is good for the many and for the few."
The faceless men went on:
"The world is another world, the will and purposes of true men no longer rule, we are few and forgotten, we are small, our word is fading away, silence has inhabited our homes for a long time. It is time to speak to our hearts and to the hearts of others, our dead must come out of the night and the earth, let them dress in the garb of war so their voice may be heard. Afterwards, let their word fall silent and let them return again to the night and to the earth, let them speak to other men and women who walk in other lands, let their word convey the truth, let it not be lost in lies.
"Let them look for the men and women who govern by obeying, those whose strength lies in the word and not in fire. When they find them let them speak to them and turn over to them the staff of command. Let the faceless ones, those who are of the mountain go back again to the earth and the night. If reason returns to this land then let the fury of fire fall silent, let those who are of the mountain, those who have no face, those who walk at night, finally rest together with the earth."
Thus spoke the men with no faces, they had no fire in their hands and their word was clear and without duplicity. Before the day overcame the night they left and on the earth their one word remained:
"Enough is Enough!"
The men and women of the EZLN, those who have no faces, those who walk at night, those who are of the mountain, sought words others would understand, and they say:
First: We demand the calling of truly free and democratic elections,
where the political organizations competing for power will have equal rights
and obligations, and with authentic freedom to choose one alternative or
the other, and respect for the majority will. Democracy is a fundamental
right of all Indigenous and non-
Indigenous peoples; without democracy there can be no freedom, justice, or dignity, and without dignity there is nothing.
Second: So that truly democratic and free elections may be held, it is necessary that the heads of the federal and state executives, who came into power through fraudulent elections, resign. Their legitimacy does not derive from respect for the majority will, but from their acts of usurpation. Consequently, the formation of a transitional government is necessary so that all political currents may be equal and respected; the freely and democratically elected federal and state legislative powers must assume their true function of making just laws, and seeing that these laws are carried out.
Third: Another way to guarantee free and democratic elections is to legitimize, in federal and state law, the existence and work of citizens and groups of citizens unaffiliated with any party, to keep watch on the electoral process, sanction its legitimacy and results, and guarantee, as the real supreme authority, the legitimacy of the entire electoral process.
This is the word of the EZLN. With democracy, freedom and justice are possible. In deceit, nothing flourishes; in truth, everything is possible.
Freedom! Justice! Democracy!
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
CCRI-CG of the EZLN.
Demands Submitted During the Dialogue
March 1, 1994
To the Mexican people:
To the people and governments of the world:
To the national and international press:
Brothers and Sisters:
The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the EZLN addresses itself to you with respect and honor to make known to you the list of demands presented at the dialogue table during the days of peace and reconciliation in Chiapas.
"We do not ask for charity or gifts. We ask for the right to live in
dignity, with equality
and justice like our ancient parents and grandparents."
To the People of Mexico:
The Indigenous people of the state of Chiapas, who have risen up in arms as the Zapatista National Liberation Army against misery and the evil government, present the causes of their struggle and their principal demands:
The reasons and causes of our armed movement are that the government has failed to find solutions to the following problems:
First: The hunger, misery and marginalization from which we have always suffered.
Second: The complete lack of land on which to work in order to survive.
Third: Repression, displacement, imprisonment, torture and murder as the government's response to the just demands of our people.
Fourth: The unbearable injustices and violations of our human rights as impoverished Indigenous people and campesinos.
Fifth: The brutal exploitation we suffer in selling our products, in our workday, and in the buying of merchandise of basic necessity.
Sixth: The lack of indispensable services for the majority of the Indigenous population.
Seventh: The government's lies, deceit, promises and intrusion that have lasted over 60 years. The lack of liberty and democracy to decide our destinies.
Eighth: Constitutional laws have not been followed by those who govern this country; instead they make us, the Indigenous people and campesinos, pay for even the smallest mistake. They lay upon us the weight of a law that we did not make, and those who did are the first ones to violate it.
The EZLN came to dialogue with the word of truth. The EZLN came to speak its word on the conditions that gave rise to its just war and to ask all of the Mexican people for a resolution to these political, economic and social conditions that led us to take up arms in defense of our rights and our existence.
Therefore, we demand...
First: We demand that free and democratic elections be convened with equal rights and obligations for all political organizations that struggle for power, with true freedom to choose one proposal or another, and respect for the will of the majority. Democracy is a fundamental right of all Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Without democracy there can be no freedom, justice or dignity. And without dignity there is nothing.
Second: To ensure that there are truly free and democratic elections, it is necessary for the head of the federal executive and occupants of state executive offices who reached their positions of power through electoral fraud, to resign. Their legitimacy does not come from the respect for the will of the majority, but rather from its usurpation. Consequently, the formation of a transitional government is necessary so that there may be equality and respect for all political currents. The federal and state legislative powers, elected freely and democratically, should assume their true function of passing fair laws for all and ensuring their enforcement.
Another way to guarantee the realization of free and truly democratic elections is to legitimize, in the nation's great laws and at a local level, the lrgitimacy of the existence and work of citizens and citizens' groups who, without party militancy, will oversee the entire electoral process, sanction its legality and results, and guarantee, as the maximum authority, the legitimacy of the entire electoral process.
Third: The recognition of the Zapatista National Liberation Army as a belligerent force, and of its troops as authentic combatants and the application of all international treaties regulating armed conflicts.
Fourth: A new pact between Mexican Federation members to do away with centralism and allow regions, Indigenous communities, and townships to govern themselves with political, economic and cultural autonomy.
Fifth: General elections for the whole state of Chiapas and the legal recognition of all the political forces in the state.
Sixth: As a producer of electricity and petroleum, the state of Chiapas pays tribute to the nation and receives nothing in return. Our communities have no electric energy and the economic bleeding, a product of oil exports and internal sale, brings no benefits to the Chiapaneco people. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that all Chiapaneco communities receive electric energy and that a percentage of the income earned from the commercialization of Chiapaneco petroleum be applied to industrial, agricultural, commercial and social infrastructure projects for the benefit of all Chiapanecos.
Seventh: The revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement signed with Canada and the United States, since its present form it does not take into account the Indigenous population, and it sentences them to death because it does not include any labor qualifications whatsoever.
Eighth: Article 27 of the Magna Carta [a reference to the Mexican Constitution] should respect the original spirit of Emiliano Zapata: Land is for the Indigenous people and campesinos who work it, not for latifundistas. We want the large tracts of land that are in the hands of ranchers, national and foreign wealthy land-owners, and other people who occupy a lot of land and are not campesinos, to be passed over to the hands of the people who have absolutely no land, as it is set out in our Revolutionary Agrarian Law. The redistribution of lands should include agricultural machinery, fertilizers, insecticides, credits, technical assistance, improved seeds, cattle, and fair prices for our products such as coffee, corn and beans. The land that is redistributed should be of good quality, and it must be accessible by roads, public transport, and have adequate irrigation systems. Campesinos who already have land also have the right to receive the support mentioned above to facilitate their work and improve production. New ejidos and communities should be formed. The Salinista reform to Article 27 of the Constitution should be annulled and the right to the land should be put back into our Magna Carta.
Ninth: We want hospitals to be built in all of the municipal seats, and that they have specialized doctors and sufficient medicine to attend to all patients, and rural clinics in the ejidos and communities, with training and fair salaries for health representatives. Already-existing hospitals in the area should be rehabilitated as soon as possible and have complete surgical services. Clinics should be built in large communities, which have sufficient doctors and medicine to more closely attend to the needs of the people.
Tenth: That Indigenous people be guaranteed the right to true information about what happens on local, regional, state, national and international levels, through an Indigenous radio station that is directed and managed by Indians.
Eleventh: We demand that housing be built in all rural communities in Mexico and be provided with all necessary services, such as: light, potable water, roads, sewage systems, telephones, public transportation, etc. And also that they have the advantages of the city, such as televisions, stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, etc. The communities should have recreational centers for the healthy diversion of residents: sports and culture that dignify the human condition of Indians.
Twelfth: We want an end to illiteracy in Indigenous communities. For this we need better elementary and secondary schools in our communities, which have free teaching materials and teachers with university degrees who are at the service of the people and not just there to defend the interests of the wealthy. In municipal seats there should be free elementary, secondary, and preparatory schools. The government should provide uniforms, shoes, food and all study materials for free. Centrally located communities that are far away from the municipal seat of the respective townships should have boarding secondary schools. Education should be completely free, from preschool through university, and it should be available to all Mexicans regardless of race, creed, age, sex or political affiliation.
Thirteenth: That the languages of all of the ethnicities be official and that their teaching in primary, secondary and preparatory schools and at the university level be mandatory.
Fourteenth: That our rights and dignity as Indigenous peoples be respected and that our culture and tradition be recognized.
Fifteenth: We do not want to be subject to the discrimination and scorn which we, the Indians, have always suffered.
Sixteenth: As the Indigenous people that we are, we demand that we be allowed to govern ourselves autonomously, because we no longer want to be subject to the will of national and foreign powers.
Seventeenth: That justice be administered by the Indigenous communities themselves according to their customs and traditions, without intervention from illegitimate and corrupt governments.
Eighteenth: We want to always have dignified jobs with fair salaries for all workers, both in the countryside and in the cities of the Mexican Republic, so that our brothers and sisters are not forced to resort to bad things such as drug trafficking, delinquency and prostitution in order to survive. The Federal Labor Law should be applied to rural and urban workers with bonuses, loans, vacations, and the true right to strike.
Nineteenth: We demand fair prices for our products of the fields. For this we need to have free access to a market to buy and sell without being subject to the coyotes who exploit us.
Twentieth: That the plundering of the riches of our Mexico and above all Chiapas, one of the Republic's richest states, but one in which hunger and misery grow every day, cease.
Twenty-first: We want all debts, whether they be credits or loans and taxes with high interest rates, to be cancelled, as these cannot be paid back due to the poverty of the Mexican people.
Twenty-second: We want an end to hunger and malnutrition, because they alone have caused the death of thousands of our brothers and sisters both in the countryside and in the city. In every rural community there should be cooperative stores supported economically by the federal, state and municipal governments, and the prices in these stores should be fair. Moreover, there should also be transport vehicles, owned by the cooperatives, for the transport of merchandise. Moreover, the government should send free food for all children under 14 years old.
Twenty-third: We ask for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and unjustly imprisoned poor people in all the jails of Mexico and Chiapas.
Twenty-fourth: We ask that the Federal Army and Judicial and Public-Safety Police no longer enter rural zones, as they will only intimidate, evict, rob, repress and bomb campesinos who are organizing to defend their rights. Because of this, our people are tired of the presence of soldiers and Public-Safety and Judicial forces, because they are so abusive and repressive. That the Mexican government return the Pilatus planes, used to bombard our people, to the Swiss government. The refund money should be channeled to programs to improve the life of rural and urban workers. We also ask that the government of the United States of North America take back its helicopters, as they are being used to repress Mexicans.
Twenty-fifth: The Indigenous campesinos took up arms because they have nothing but their humble shacks. When the Federal Army bombarded the civilian populations, it destroyed these humble homes and all of their few belongings. For this reason we ask and demand that the federal government compensate families that have suffered material losses due to air raids and actions by federal troops. We also demand indemnity for widows and orphans of the war, both civilians and Zapatistas.
Twenty-sixth: We Indigenous campesinos want to live in peace and tranquility and want to be allowed to live according to our rights to freedom and a dignified life.
Twenty-seventh: That the penal code of the state of Chiapas be eliminated, as it does not allow us to organize, except with arms, because legal and peaceful struggles are repressed and punished.
Twenty-eighth: We ask and demand an end to the expulsion of Indians from their communities by the caciques who are supported by the state. We demand a guarantee that all expelled people may return freely and voluntarily to their lands of origin and that they be compensated for their lost goods.
Twenty-ninth: Indigenous Campesino Women's Petition
We, Indigenous campesino women, demand the immediate solution to our urgent needs, which the government has never resolved:
A: Childbirth clinics with gynecologists so that campesino women receive necessary medical attention.
B: That child care facilities be built in the communities.
C: We ask the government to send sufficient food for the children in all rural communities including: milk, cornflour, rice, corn, soy, oil, beans, cheese, eggs, sugar, soup, oats, etc.
D: That kitchens and dining halls be built for the children in the communities, which have all the necessary services.
E: We demand the construction of community corn dough mills and tortillerías based on the number of families in each community.
F: That they give us poultry, rabbit, sheep and pig farm projects, and also that we be provided with technical assistance and veterinarians.
G: We ask for bakery projects, which include the provision of ovens and ingredients.
H: We want artisan workshops to be built, equipped with machinery and raw materials.
I: Markets in which to sell our crafts at fair prices.
J: That schools be built where women can get technical training.
K: That there be preschools and maternal schools in rural communities, where children can play and grow in a morally and physically healthy way.
L: That as women we have sufficient transportation for the products we produce in our various projects.
Thirtieth: We demand that Patrocinio González Blanco Garrido, Absalón Castellanos Domínguez and Elmar Setzer M. be tried politically.
Thirty-first: We demand that the lives of all EZLN members be respected and a guarantee that there will be no penal process or any repressive action brought against any EZLN members, combatants, sympathizers or collaborators.
Thirty-second: That all organizations and commissions for the defense of human rights be independent or non-governmental, because government human rights organizations only hide the arbitrary actions of the government.
Thirty-third: That a National Commission for Peace with Justice and Dignity be formed, composed primarily of people who are not in the government or any political party. And that this National Commission for Peace with Justice and Dignity oversee the fulfillment and implementation of the accords that the EZLN and the government arrive at.
Thirty-fourth: That the humanitarian aid for the victims of the conflict be channeled through authentic representatives from Indigenous communities.
While these just demands of our people are still unresolved we are prepared and committed to continue with our struggle until we obtain our goals.
For us, the smallest of these lands, those without face or history, those who arrived with truth and fire, those of us who come from the night and the mountain, those true men and women, the dead of yesterday, today, and always...for us nothing. For everyone, everything.
From the Mexican Southeast.
CCRI-CG of the EZLN