Chapter 2: The First Days

Early Reports

[These are excerpts from some of the first newspaper reports about the uprising. These reports include interviews with officers and militants in the EZLN, as well as some reports of battles that occurred in the first days of January. These and other reports are what gave the Mexican public its first impressions of the EZLN.]

Report About Events of January 1, 1994

[Macrópolis, 1/10]
Roberto Carbajal, San Cristóbal de las Casas

From the top of the municipal presidential balcony, Commander Marcos proclaims with a vigorous shout: "Don't forget this: This is an ethnic movement!"

He bellows to his troops, the troops of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. They listen, undaunted, mute, still shocked by the presence of war in their always-tranquil streets, about 400 people congregated in the flower garden in front of the palace.

They are hearing, from the tall and strong man dressed in a uniform that combines red and black, that on this first day of 1994, Mexico is at war. Commander Marcos shouts:

"We have made a declaration of war to the Federal Army and to the government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari as a final measure, but only so that we will no longer die of hunger in the face of the insatiable dictatorship of over 70 years!"

He also shouts, almost furious, "We demand the restoration of the legality and the stability of the nation."[...]

The rebel accepts questions. His face is covered with a black ski mask. [...]

"When did this start, when did this start?"

"Man! Five hundred years ago! Was it not 500 years ago that our struggle against slavery started? We have been fighting five centuries for our independence, against North American expansionism, for the promulgation of our Constitution and against the French Empire... Later against the Porfirista dictatorship which provoked poor men like us to rise up in arms. And that is how our heroes of history came about: Villa, Zapata..."

"Do you consider yourself a hero of modern times?"

"I am only a mestizo; a man of the people who struggles so that these terrible inequalities will no longer be suffered in our country. I am a combatant."

"Why? Why today?"

"This is our response to the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, because this represents a death sentence for all of the Indigenous ethnicities in Mexico, which are disposable for the government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari. [...]

"We decided to take four cities today because there are no conditions to effect free and democratic elections. In the Declaration of War we called on the powers of the union to make use of the constitutional right to depose the illegitimate government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari and to install a transitional government made up of people and political parties... And that it be this government that calls elections in equality of circumstances and not like those we have had, which have been illegitimate and unequal.

"You have to laugh about the reforms and counter reforms which the PRI and the PAN have designed in complicity. They do not allow any opposition political parties and much less civic movements. There is a lack of freedom and democracy... We do not even ask that a government of us be installed, but rather that it be a transitional one, with people more equalized. [...]

"And we will continue to advance to other plazas. The battle is not over today. We have orders to go as far as we can. When we have taken new plazas we will direct ourselves to others and so on successively..." [...]

One question bothers Commander Marcos: "Army or guerrilla?"

"Army, sir! Army! It is a trained army. For 10 years we have done political work, in a very slow and careful way. This is not a classic guerrilla army that robs, kidnaps or does spectacular strikes to later get the masses. We do not strike and retreat, but rather strike and advance. And our soldiers are prepared politically, and conscious that this is an ethnic movement."


They are about 800. They are armed with knives, ancient pistols, and some with modern AK-47's, the famous cuernos de chivo. [...] They live in the natural fear of those who will soon enter into battle. But they deny it: "No sir, we are combatants. And we are here to fight. If we die, we die for a just cause!" says Major Benjamin.

All of the officials of the EZLN appear to have one characteristic: they all cover their faces with ski masks. Not the troops...

And those troops speak with the reporter in a halting Spanish:

"Yes, sir. We's here in arms cuz they never resolve our problems. Look, sir: We have no house and work, or education. They never do us justice, sir, and many solicitations have been forgotten by the Secretariat of Agricultural Reform."

"But they speak of the presence of Guatemalan and Salvadoran elements in your ranks..."

"No, sir!" Juan Luis protests energetically. [...] "We are entirely Mexican, all of us, tired of promises and tricks, sir, of repression and the torture of our leaders, who they also assassinate. We struggle to bring the benefectivity of the Indian, sir."

Major Benjamin insists: "I am a campesino, sir, but I went through primary and two years of secondary school. I am with this Army because, like my compan~eros, I am tired of the misery... I am tired of the rich; the hacienda owners of Chiapas have guardias blancas who repress the Indians, and that the government does nothing to them because they are rich." [...]

Major Benjamin says that soon the movement will be understood and supported by the people. "Right now they are just starting to get the idea."

"With what political group do you identify?"

"We are not Maoists or Marxists, sir. We are a group of campesinos, workers and students for whom the government has left no other path than arms to resolve our ancestral problems." [...]

In the Lacandona Jungle outside of Ocosingo

In the Lacandona Jungle, 15 kilometers away from the war zone, speaking with Captain Roberto, commander of the forces in Ocosingo:

"Our organization was born after the massacre of students [1968]. First it constituted itself as a guerrilla group, and up there we walked, only in the mountains, without the support of the communities. In the towns they didn't give us anything. But then we did political work in the cities, directing ourselves to the masses, and then we achieved the support of many compan~eros, above all campesinos. It was then, around 1983, that we formed the Army."

"An army?"

"Yes, we have ranks and military organization, like the Federal Army, but we are different, we are an army of the people, not of the bourgeoisie."

"But that army that you fight is also made up of soldiers of the people."

"Maybe, but supported by the bourgeoisie, by the dictatorship."

"In any case, a powerful army."

"That may also be true, but you know, we are stronger because we have a cause to fight for. And we can accept that there will be many injured and many dead among us, which in fact there already are. We can accept that they will occasionally defeat us, but we will never set down our arms. We will continue the revolution until we impose ourselves, arms in hand. That is our objective."

"And then?"

"After winning this war, which, you notice, is a clean war, an open and formal war, we do not want anything more than a change in government because this is a war for socialism. We want to end capitalism and institute socialism as they have done in many other countries."

"And why socialism? It has been proven that it also produces great inequalities."

"Yes, effectively, but Mexico is not the same as other countries. Its inhabitants are different, and here socialism will be successful. [...]

"Because here, it has been proven, there is no democracy. And many people do not agree with the government and its system. NAFTA, the expropriation of petroleum... And, above all, I repeat, the farce of the elections: when there is a change of president, no one asks us if we are in agreement or not with the candidate. When we see the news on television or we hear the radio it is because the candidate is already there, without us being asked, and we already know that he will be the winner, even if he loses at the ballot boxes. Now there is Colosio, for example. But...did they ask the campesinos if we agreed that he be the one?"

He speaks proudly of the liberation of four cities...and introduces Captain Julio Alberto, known as the "ideologue" of the EZLN. He designed the first laws and plans of action, and it was his voice that was transmitted on Chiapaneco radio.

Captain Julio Alberto, also masked, explains the first seven laws of the EZLN:

Urban Reform: "The owners of apartments or homes will only pay housing taxes; residents for over 15 years will stop paying rent until the revolutionary government triumphs... The urban lots, public buildings and the great mansions will be used to build housing."

Labor: "Foreign companies will pay their workers, by the hour, the equivalent of what they would pay outside of the countries, and the salaries will be increased monthly according to percentages determined by commissions made up of residents, workers, students and freely and democratically elected authorities... The workers, in the country and in the city, will receive a share of stocks in the enterprises in which they work."

Industry and Commerce: "The prices of the products will be controlled by a commission. The increases in prices will not be more than the increases in pay... It will be treason against the country to hoard products, and the businesses that are declared nonproductive will be taken over by the nation, by which we mean the machinery, the raw materials and their workers."

Justice: "All of the prisoners will be freed, with the exception of killers, rapists and heads of drug trafficking... All of the officials, from the president of the town to the president of the country, will be subject to hearings, and if they are guilty of embezzling, they will be sentenced."

Rights and Obligations of Peoples in Struggle: "They will be able to choose, freely and democratically, their officials, to demand general guarantees of the armed forces. In any case, that does not relate to any enemy of the revolution... They will be able to acquire arms to defend themselves, their families, and their property... The freely and democratically elected authorities will be able to imprison anyone they catch stealing, raiding, or committing any other crime, even if they are members of the revolutionary armed forces... They will be obliged to work in the mails, to take food and give lodging to the troops; to pay war taxes and carry out works of vigilance of the majority of the population... For their part the authorities will inform the civil population of their activities, as well as the origin and destination of the material and human resources under their administration."

Rights and Obligations of the Armed Forces: "They will respect legal commerce, carry out free and democratic elections, and will not intervene in civil matters... They will respect the agrarian redistribution decided by the revolutionary government, and will not take over the land of the large landholders for personal use, nor will they demand that the civilian population carry out work for them personally."

War taxes: "The small-business people will pay 10% of their monthly income; 15% for the medium property holders, and 20% for the large capitalists."

Interview with Major Mario

[La Jornada, 1/3]
Rodolfo Reyes Ocosingo, Chiapas
"We have taken up arms because we are tired of the misery, because the rich, the large landholders of Chiapas, have guardias blancas that persecute the Indigenous people and the government does nothing because it is run by the rich."

Sheltered in a black ski mask, the face of a man can be made out, hardly 24 years old, full of confidence. The face is that of Major Mario, the commanding officer of the unit of the Zapatista National Liberation Army that took over Ocosingo at dawn yesterday. He gave this reporter a brief interview.

"The people are aiding you?"

"Right now, they hardly understand what's happening."

Constantly fiddling with his AK-47, one of the EZLN's few assault rifles, the Major asserts that "combat is a science that has a beginning and an end."

Just before the Federal Army retook this city of 110,000 inhabitants, the major confided that, "Our forces are perfectly trained for a confrontation with the Federal Army. Our Army is large, because it is made up of the exploited masses."

"What is the EZLN's political affiliation?"

"Look, we're neither Maoists nor Marxists. We are a group of campesinos, workers, and students for whom the government has left no path except armed struggle.

"The Zapatistas aren't only in Chiapas. We are also in other areas: the Clandestine Committee of Revolutionary Struggle (Comite' Clandestino de Lucha Revolucionaria). We have guerrilla cells in strategic locations."

Furthermore, he said that since yesterday the EZLN had begun a strategy of defense and counterattack, "with which we will take other communities." (Hours later, almost 800 rebels would take the villages of Oxhuc and Huixtán.)

"Our Army is large, and little by little it will grow as we make our way toward the country's capital to unseat the government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari: This is our objective, to expand while other rebels, mostly adolescents and women, await instructions."

A few hours later, more than 800 rebels, many of them young women dressed in their gray uniforms with red bandannas around the neck, had a date with destiny: Armed with knifes, 20-year-old pistols and a few AK-47's, they were surrounded by the Federal Army in the market of Ocosingo.

The First Packet of Communiques

[These are the first communique's released by the EZLN; they were submitted as a group to the press on January 13 with the following letter from Subcommander Marcos.]

Introductory Letter from Subcommander Marcos

January 13, 1994

To the national newspaper La Jornada:
To the national newspaper El Financiero:
To the local San Cristóbal newspaper, El Tiempo:

Dear Gentlemen:

The CCRI-CG of the EZLN has produced a series of documents and communique's that may be of interest to the national and international press. My compan~eros of the CCRI-CG of the EZLN have asked me to find a way for these documents [of January 6, 11, 12, and 13] to reach their destinations and be made known to the public. For this we turn to you, to ask if it is possible for you, through your means, to put these documents into the public domain. These documents contain our position on the events that occurred between January 7-13, 1994. I clarify this because, to reach you, the documents packet must travel for days, crossing mountains and valleys and by-
passing tanks, military vehicles, thousands of men dressed in olive-green uniforms, and all of the war arsenal with which they try to intimidate us. They forget that war is not a matter of weapons or a large number of armed men, but of politics. Anyway, the fact is that these documents and this letter will take a few days to reach you, that is, if they reach you.

We are fine, and in these documents we reiterate our disposition to dialogue to find a just solution to this conflict. At the same time, we are somewhat immobile as a result of all the military paraphernalia with which the government is trying to cover up the injustice and corruption that our actions have exposed. The peace which some now ask for has been a constant battle for us. It seems that Mexico's powerful men are bothered by the fact that Indians now go to die in the cities and stain their streets, which up till now were only littered with wrappers from imported products. They would rather they continue to die in the mountains, far from good consciences and tourists. It will not be like this any longer. The well-being of a few cannot be based on the suffering of the masses. Now they will have to share our luck, for better or for worse. They have had previous opportunities to turn around and do something about the nation's historic injustice against its original inhabitants, but they saw them as nothing more than anthropological objects, touristic curiosities, or part of a "jurassic park" (is that how you spell it?) that fortunately would disappear with a North American Free Trade Agreement that did not include them, except as disposable elements. Because in Mexico, death in the mountains still doesn't count. Everyone is guilty, from the highest-level federal functionaries to the last of the corrupt "Indigenous" leaders, and including a governor who was not elected by Chiapanecos according to their will and right, municipal presidents more concerned with ornamental works and strengthening relations with powerful men than with governing for their people, and officials on all levels, who deny the people who inhabited these lands even before they did, health, education, land, housing, services, just employment, food, justice, and most importantly, respect and dignity. They have forgotten that human dignity is not only the right of those who have their basic living conditions resolved, but also those who have no material belongings to differentiate themselves from things and animals: dignity. But it is just to recognize that in the middle of this sea of indifference there have been and are voices that have spoken about the misery that these injustices bring. Among these voices was and is that of honest journalism, which still exists locally and nationally. Actually, why do I bore you? It seems that you already have enough problems trying to convince the Federal Army to let you do your jobs. In sum, what we want is peace with dignity and justice.

Their tanks, planes, helicopters, and thousands of soldiers don't frighten us. The same injustices that they force upon us--no roads or basic services--are now being turned against them. We don't need roads, because we have always gotten around on footpaths. Not even with all their federal soldiers would they be able to close off all the paths that our misery once used, and that now are used by our rebellion. We also are not affected by the lies presented by television and in the press. Do they forget the illiteracy rate in the state of Chiapas? How many houses have no electricity and thus no televisions in these lands? If the nation falls for these lies again, there will always be at least one of us who is prepared to awaken them again. The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committees are indestructible. Since their formation they have had a command register. If one or several fall, another or several others will take their places and their future relief will sign up. They will have to annihilate all of us, absolutely every last one of us, in order to deter us militarily. And they will always be left with the doubt that they missed one of us, and that person will begin the rebellion all over again.

I will not distract you any more.

I hope that "Subcommander Marcos's half identification" did not harm "innocents" (the odds are two to one that with this "half identification" they will wind up detaining Juan Diablós, star of the soap opera "Savage Heart" of the channel, "but of course," of the stars [Televisa]). One question: Will all this serve to teach "the Mexicans" to say "Chiapas" instead of "Chapas" and "Tzeltales" instead of "Setsales"?

Health and an embrace, if there is still a place and a way,

Insurgent Subcommander Marcos

Concerning the Red Cross and the Press

January 5, 1994
Press Department of the EZLN

Red Cross:

A Red Cross ambulance was attacked with firearms and bazookas. This act of aggression has been attributed to our Zapatista forces. Because of this, we declare that at no time have we attacked in any manner the vehicles or people carrying the Red Cross insignia. Furthermore, we do not possess arms capable of causing the damage suffered by the Red Cross ambulance and its crew. We declare that this attack cannot be attributed to our troops, and we reiterate our respect for the life, well-being and work of the Red Cross. The weapons used in this attack should be looked for in the arsenal of the Federal Army, and not that of the EZLN.


On January 3, 1994 a caravan of press vehicles was attacked with firearms at El Aguaje, near the command of the 31st Military Zone in Rancho Nuevo. A reporter from the national daily La Jornada was wounded in this attack. Some sectors of the press have blamed our Zapatista forces for this sly attack. In response, we declare that at no time since this conflict began have we held a military position in the area of the attack. Before January 4, 1994, none of our troops had traveled or taken positions along the section of the road running from the Center for Ecological and Scientific Investigation (Centro de Investigación Ecológica y Científica, CIEC), in the outskirts of San Cristóbal de las Casas, to the barracks at Rancho Nuevo. For this reason, it is impossible that the shots were fired by Zapatista forces. As in the case of the Red Cross, these charges are the Federal Army's attempt to blame us for their aggression against the press and the Red Cross.

The case of the El Tiempo and Exce'lsior:

But in the case of the reporters of the San Cristóbal de las Casas daily El Tiempo, and the national magazine Exce'lsior, it is true that the reporters were detained by our troops in the municipal headquarters of Huixtán while said position was attacked by enemy forces. At no time were these members of the press attacked or tortured, and their papers were taken only to confirm their identities. Through a grave and regrettable error of the unit's command, N$700 (New Pesos) were taken from the reporters. Our EZLN asks forgiveness for this grave error committed against these members of the press, and offers to repay as quickly as possible the amount taken.


From somewhere in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,


Responses to Government Lies

January 6, 1994

"Here we are, the always dead--dying again, but this time to live."

To the people of Mexico:
To the peoples and governments of the world:

Brothers and Sisters:

As of January 1 of this year, our Zapatista troops began a series of politico-military actions with the principal objective of letting the Mexican people and the world know the miserable conditions that millions of Mexicans, especially we, the Indigenous people, live and die in. With these actions, we also let people know our decision to fight for our elementary rights in the only way that the governmental authorities have left us: armed struggle.

The grave conditions of poverty of our fellow citizens have a common cause: the lack of freedom and democracy. We believe that an authentic respect for freedom and the democratic will of the people are the indispensable prerequisites for the improvement of the economic and social conditions of the dispossessed of our country. For this reason, just as we demand the improvement of the living conditions of the Mexican people, we demand freedom and political democracy. To accomplish this, we call for the resignation of the illegitimate government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and for the formation of a new, democratic transitional government that would guarantee fair elections on all levels of government. We reiterate the strength of our political and economic demands--demands around which we are trying to unite all of the Mexican people and all independent organizations so that, by means of all different forms of struggle, a national revolutionary movement can form. This movement would include all the different forms of social organization that strive, with honesty and patriotism, for the improvement of Mexico.

Since the beginning of our war for liberation we have not only been subject to attacks by repressive government bodies and the Federal Army, but we have also been slandered by the federal and state governments and by the mass news media. They are trying to deceive the Mexican people and disparage our struggle by saying that our struggle is led by foreigners, professionals in violence, dark and anti-
patriotic interests who only seek personal gain. Because of these slanders and lies, we, the EZLN, believe ourselves obliged to explain the following:

First: Our EZLN does not have foreigners in its ranks or among its leadership, nor has it ever received any support or training from revolutionary forces of other countries or from foreign governments. The reports that Guatemalans are fighting in our ranks, and that they were trained in the neighboring country are stories invented by the federal government to discredit our cause. We have not had, nor do we have now, any connection with the Salvadoran FMLN, nor with the Guatemalan URNG, nor with any other Latin American, European, African, Asiatic, or Oceanic armed movement. The military tactics that we employ were not learned from the Central American insurgency, but rather from Mexican military history: from Hidalgo, Morelos, Guerrero, Mina, from the resistance to the Yankee invasion in 1846-47, from the popular response to the French intervention, from the heroic exploits of Villa and Zapata, and from Indigenous resistance struggles throughout our country's history.

Second: The EZLN doesn't have any relations with Catholic religious authorities or with any other creed. We haven't received orientation, direction or support from any ecclesiastic structure, not from the diocese of the state of Chiapas, nor from the papal nuncio, nor from the Vatican, nor from anybody. The majority of the troops in our ranks are Catholics, but there are other creeds and religions.

Third: The commanders and troop elements of the EZLN are mostly Indians from Chiapas. This is so because the Indigenous people represent the poorest and most humiliated sector of Mexico, but also, as can be seen, the most dignified. We are thousands of armed Indigenous people, and behind us there are tens of thousands of our families. Therefore, there are tens of thousands of Indigenous people in struggle. The government says it is not an Indigenous uprising, but we believe that if thousands of Indigenous people rise up in arms, then yes, it is an Indigenous uprising. There are also in our movement Mexicans of other social origins and from other states of our country. They agree with us and have joined us because they do not agree with the exploitation that we suffer. Just as these non-
Indigenous Mexicans have joined us, others will also join us--because our struggle is national, and is not limited only to the state of Chiapas. Currently, the political leadership of our struggle is totally Indigenous: 100% of the members of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committees in the combat zones are ethnic Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol, Tojolobal and others. It's true that not all the Indigenous people of Chiapas are with us yet, because there are many people who still believe the government's lies and deceptions. But there are already thousands of us, and they must take us into account. The use of masks to hide our faces is in keeping with elemental security measures, and as a vaccine against caudillismo.

Fourth: Our people have a variety of weapons and equipment, and it should be understood that their total number and quality were not shown publicly to the mass media nor to the civilian populations in the municipal seats that we took over on the first and second of this month. These weapons and equipment were gathered little by little, and accumulated in silence over the last 10 years. The "sophisticated" means of communication that we possess can be bought in any imported-goods store in the country. To get weapons and equipment we never resorted to robbery, extortion, or kidnapping/hijacking; we always relied on what we were given by the humble and honest people throughout Mexico. It is because we never resorted to banditry that the forces of repression didn't detect us throughout 10 years of careful and serious preparation.

Fifth: Some have asked why we decided to begin now, since we have been preparing for some time. The answer is that before this we were trying other peaceful and legal means, but without result. During the last 10 years over 150,000 of our Indigenous brothers have died from curable illnesses. The social and economic plans of the municipal, state and federal governments don't offer any real solutions to our problems, and are limited to giving us handouts when there are elections; but the handouts are temporary, and then death comes again to our houses. Because of this we say that we have had enough--that we have had enough of dying a useless death, and that it is better to fight for change. If we die now it will no longer be in shame but with dignity, like our ancestors. Another 150,000 are prepared to die if necessary to wake our people up from the deceptive dream that binds them.

Sixth: The conditions of "reconciliation" that the federal government is trying to impose on us are unacceptable to our organization. We won't lay down our arms until they meet the demands that we set out at the beginning of our struggle. On the other hand, we propose the following conditions for the initiation of dialogue:

A: Recognition of the EZLN as a belligerent force.

B: Cease-fire on both sides in the war territories.

C: Withdrawal of federal troops from all communities, with full respect for the human rights of the rural population. Withdrawal of federal troops to their respective barracks in various parts of the country.

D: An end to the indiscriminate bombing of rural populations.

E: Using the last three conditions as a base, the formation of a national intermediary commission.

Our troops are committed to respecting these conditions if the federal government does the same. Otherwise, our troops will continue to advance on the country's capital.

The EZLN reiterates that we will continue to adhere to the laws of war approved by the Geneva Conventions: to respect the civilian population, the Red Cross, the press, the wounded, and enemy troops who surrender to our troops without fighting our forces.

We're making a special call to the North American people and government. To the first, we call upon them to initiate actions in solidarity with our fellow citizens. We call upon the North American government to suspend all military and economic aid to the dictatorial government which doesn't respect human rights, because said aid will be used to massacre the Mexican people.


The military result of the fighting up to January 5 has had the following results:

1: Casualties of the Zapatista forces: nine dead and 20 seriously wounded who are being attended in our field hospitals. An undetermined number of slightly wounded that were reintegrated into their combat posts, and 12 missing in action. We haven't included in this total our combatants who, wounded, were killed in cold blood, shot from behind by officers of the Federal Army. We have not determined yet the number of these compan~eros, since our troops are still fighting in Ocosingo.

2: Casualties of the enemy forces (including police and federal soldiers): 27 dead, 40 wounded and 180 prisoners who surrendered to our troops and were then released in good condition. There are at least another unconfirmed 30 federal troops dead. These casualties, along with an undetermined number of wounded, occurred January 4, in the mountains south of San Cristóbal de las Casas, when bombs dropped by the Mexican Federal Army (Fuerzas Armadas Mexicanas, FAM) fell on the trucks of federal soldiers who were maneuvering in that zone.

3: Enemy war material destroyed or damaged: three attack helicopters of FAM (one in the capital Ocosingo and two in San Cristóbal de las Casas), three FAM rockets, 15 radio patrols, four state Judicial Police torture centers.

4: Liberated prisoners: 230 from attacks on four prisons (two in San Cristóbal de las Casas, one in Ocosingo, one in Margaritas).

5: War materials captured: approximately 207 weapons of different calibers, M-16, G-3, M-2, grenade launchers, rifles, and pistols, and an undetermined amount of ammunition of various calibers; 1,266 kilograms of dynamite; 10,000 TNT detonators; 20 transport vehicles. An undetermined amount of radio communications equipment used by the police, Army and Air Force.

To the national and international press:

We call the attention of the honest national and international press to the genocide being conducted by the federal military forces in the municipal seats of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Altamirano, and Margaritas, as well as on the roads bordering those points. In these places civilians were killed indiscriminately and later presented as casualties of the EZLN. Some of the Zapatistas that the Federal Army claims to have killed are in perfect health. The behavior of the federal troops in these cities contrasts with that of our forces, who are always concerned, as civilians in these cities can testify, with protecting innocent lives. The majority of the destruction to public and private buildings that is attributed to our troops was caused by federal troops when they entered the four principal townships.

To the Federal Army:

The present conflict unmasks, once more, the nature of the Federal Army, and it shows its true essence: the indiscriminate repression, the violation of all human rights and the lack of ethics and military honor. The murders of women and children committed by the Army in the area of conflict show an army out of control. We are calling on officers and troops of the Army to refuse to carry out orders handed down to them by their superiors to exterminate civilians or summarily execute prisoners of war and wounded, and to maintain military honor and ethics. We reiterate our invitation to you to abandon the ranks of the oppressive government and to join the just cause of the people--a people that, as you yourselves have proven, only longs to live with justice or die with dignity. We have respected the lives of soldiers and police who have surrendered to our forces. You take pleasure in summarily executing Zapatistas who you find wounded, unable to fight, and those who surrender. If you begin to attack our families and don't respect the lives of prisoners and the wounded, then we will do the same.

To the Mexican people:

Finally, we call on workers, poor campesinos, teachers, students, progressive and honest intellectuals, housewives and professionals, and to all independent political and economic organizations to join our struggle and to struggle with all possible means until we achieve the justice and freedom that all Mexicans desperately want.

We will not hand over our arms! We want justice, not forgiveness or handouts!
From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast,


A Letter to Rigoberta Menchu'

[La Jornada, 1/6]

Highly Esteemed Rigoberta Menchu':

In light of the recent developments that spread through our aching country--expropriated for the personal benefit of a few families, protected by an anti-popular and illegitimate government, against whom the poor campesinos of Mexico have said ENOUGH!--we want to communicate the following to you.

We are admirers of your struggle for Indigenous peoples over so many years; for that very reason you have been received and protected in our country--due mainly to pressure from several sectors of our people in Chiapas and in other parts of the country, as well as from poor campesinos, intellectuals, and several popular organizations, pressure exercised against a State that opted to receive the [Guatemalan] refugees and take advantage of the opportunity to transmit to the world an image of humanism and political openness--while it does not apply these same qualities to its relations with our own poor and exploited people, who suffer from the same genocidal and exclusive politics towards Indigenous peoples that is found in several Latin American governments.

For decades we have shared the little that we have with our refugee brothers and sisters. No one knows better than us their poverty and their desire for a dignified life, denied them in their home country. Of course, we are not those who impede or force the return of all of these brothers and sisters to their homelands. It also should not surprise us that it may no longer be important to the Mexican State that they keep that image of protector of refugees, in their desire to carry their repressive politics to all of the fields of Chiapas and Mexico. Don't be surprised if they even withdraw support and start to repress, accusing the refugees of being allies of and participants in our struggle, an irresponsible story which has already circulated among the authorities, who are always ready to look for enemies. They will find, however, only a dignified response to hunger and oppression. But our struggle will not be the cause of the worsening situation, nor will it impede our refugee brothers and sisters from returning to their lands. Both of these will be results of the repressive nature of the Mexican government.

What no one can forget is that the history of Mexico already contains a popular revolution to unseat dictatorships that had nothing to do with the interests and desires of our people. It is precisely because of that revolution that we have our Constitution, with, among others, Article 39, in which the people have, at all times, the inalienable right to alter or modify the form of their government. For this same reason we call on the powers of the union to carry out their political work in a responsible way, responding to this petition of the people, whom they have an obligation to serve. As long as they do not fulfill the Constitution, and legislate the way in which Article 39 can be applied, we have no other way out than to let our weapons speak for us.

That is all for the moment. We hope that you see our struggle as nothing more than the desire of leaving 500 years of misery and oppression, a vision which we hope you take into account and defend in the various international forums. We repeat our respect for so many of our refugee brothers and sisters, as well as for the work that you carry out.


Zapatista National Liberation Army

On the PFCRN, Government Terrorism
and the Appointment of Camacho

January 11, 1994

"Our voice began to sound centuries ago, and it will never again be silenced."

To the Mexican people:
To the people and governments of the world:

Brothers and Sisters:

We have been informed that our communique' dated January 6, 1994 has been distributed, to some extent, to the Mexican and international press. Much has happened between January 6 and today, January 11, so we wish to speak our words again so that others might hear.

First: One of the things that has happened is that Aguilar Talamantes, national presidential candidate from the Party of the Cardenista Front for National Reconstruction (Partido del Frente Cardenista de Reconstrucción Nacional, PFCRN), in a public declaration in San Cristóbal de las Casas offered his party as "the peaceful arm" of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. He himself, Aguilar Talamantes, offered to be "the EZLN candidate for President of the Republic." We, the members of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the EZLN, have analyzed these declarations, and thought it would be best to respond in our own words, and so we say the following:

The Zapatista National Liberation Army did not rise up in arms to support one or another of the candidates for president of the republic. The EZLN does not want one party or another to win. The EZLN wants there to be freedom, justice, and democracy, so that the people can elect whomever they think best suited, and that their will, whatever it is, be respected and understood by all Mexicans and all people. The Zapatista National Liberation Army asks that the government, of whatever party, be a legitimate government, the result of a truly free and democratic election, and that it meet the most pressing needs of the Mexican people, especially ours, the Indians'.

The Zapatista National Liberation Army respectfully rejects the proposals of the Party of the Cardenista Front of National Reconstruction to present itself as "the peaceful arm of the EZLN," and that of Mr. Aguilar Talamantes to be the candidate of the EZLN for president of the republic. We say also, once and for all, that we reject any proposals to take our voice and our words. Our voice began to sound centuries ago, and will never again be silenced.

On the other hand, we greet and receive well all honest, good-faith proposals and offers of mediation between the EZLN and the federal government.

Second: The federal government has responded to our calls for dialogue and a bilateral cease-fire by bombing rural communities in the townships of Ocosingo, Las Margaritas, and Altamirano.

The belief, in some sectors of the government, that a military solution to this conflict, with the complete extermination of our EZLN forces, is both possible and desirable, is gaining ground within the government. We reiterate our willingness to dialogue, with the conditions laid down in the January 6 communique'.

But it appears that this willingness to dialogue has been misinterpreted by the government military authorities as a sign of the weakness of our forces. Nothing could be further from the truth: To proposals for dialogue we respond with a willingness to dialogue, to attacks and indiscriminate bombings we will respond with our rifles. If the government wishes to continue deceiving the public, claiming that our defeat and annihilation are near, that is the government's business. The government has already lied, and everybody pays the price of that deception. But we know that our struggle will never be over. It will continue with the last drop of our combatants' blood. If the federal government wishes to cover our demands for justice, freedom, and democracy with blood, we will not hesitate to pay the price.

If the federal government does not demonstrate a desire for dialogue that is more than empty rhetoric, we will order all our active and reserve forces to attack every city within their reach. We realize the costs will likely be high, but we continue proudly on this path.

Third: In the past days we have heard of terrorist attacks against civilian targets in various parts of the country. Said attacks are attributed to members of our EZLN. The CCRI-CG of the EZLN declares that Zapatista troops fight against the Federal Army and police and not against the parking structures of commercial centers. No civilian targets will suffer military attacks at the hands of Zapatista troops.

Fourth: On January 10, 1994, the federal government announced changes in the office of the Secretary of Government, as well as other areas. It was announced that ex-governor of Chiapas Patrocinio González Blanco Garrido will no longer serve as Attorney General (Procurador General). Manuel Camacho Solís was appointed to head a peace commission to resolve the conflict in Chiapas. The EZLN declares that it is not familiar with Camacho Solís, but if in this man there is the honest and truthful desire to find a just and political way out, we salute his appointment and reiterate our willingness to dialogue under the terms expressed in the January 6, 1994 communique'.

Fifth: The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army declares that the only valid documents published by the EZLN and recognized by all EZLN combatants will be those signed by compan~ero Insurgent Subcommander Marcos.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,


Conditions for the Cease-Fire

January 12, 1994

"Hope lives in our heart."

To the Mexican people:
To the people and governments of the world:

Brothers and Sisters:

Today, January 12, 1994, we learned that Mr. Carlos Salinas de Gortari, as supreme commander of the Federal Army, ordered federal troops to cease fire. The National Secretariat of Defense (La Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, Sedena) added that they would continue with the aerial and land patrols, would not abandon the positions that they presently occupy, and that they would impede the movement of our combatants.

The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army welcomes Mr. Salinas de Gortari's decision, and sees it as a first step towards initiating a dialogue between the belligerent parties.

The conditions set forth by this Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the EZLN in their January 6, 1994 communique' as requirements for initiating dialogue have not been adequately met. Nevertheless, Carlos Salinas de Gortari's decision is a beginning.

With regard to the above, the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, the collective and highest of the insurgent Zapatista troops, orders:

First: All regular, irregular, and urban command units of the different branches and services of the Zapatista National Liberation Army are ordered to suspend all offensive operations against federal troops from the garrisons and positions that these troops presently occupy.

Second: All regular, irregular, and urban command units of the different branches and services of the Zapatista National Liberation Army are ordered to maintain the positions they currently occupy and respond decisively and firmly if attacked by land or air troops of the Federal Army.

Third: The order for an EZLN offensive cease-fire will be put into effect immediately upon receipt of this communique', and will be maintained as long as this Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the EZLN considers it prudent and necessary.

Fourth: We will under no circumstances hand over our arms or surrender our forces to the evil government. The objective of this cease-fire is to alleviate the civilian population's situation in the combat zone, and to open channels for dialogue with all progressive and democratic sectors in Mexico.

Our struggle is just and true. It is not in response to personal interests but to the desire for freedom of the entire Mexican population, and particularly of the Indigenous people. We want justice and will proceed forward because hope also lives in our hearts.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,

On Requirements for the Commission for Mediation
January 12, 1994

"We want peace with justice, respect, and dignity. We will no longer live on our knees."

To the Mexican People:
To the people and governments of the world:

Brothers and Sisters:

In the last few days there have been several pronouncements about who should make up the Commission for Mediation to reach a political solution to the present conflict in the Mexican Southeast. One supposed communique', published in the national paper La Jornada, and incorrectly attributed to the EZLN, proposed as intermediaries the Bishop of Chiapas, Samuel Ruiz García, the Indigenous Guatemalan woman and Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu', and journalist Julio Scherer, director of the magazine Proceso. Other voices and proposals have been heard, but up to this moment we have not given our opinion. For this reason we think that it is time that we give our thoughts on the subject:

The members of the Commission for Negotiation must fulfill the following requirements to be accepted as such by the CCRI-CG of the EZLN:

First: They must be Mexicans by birth. We require this because we believe that problems among Mexicans should be solved by Mexicans without any foreign intervention, even if these foreigners are upright and honest men and women.

Second: They must not belong to any political party. We don't want our just struggle to be used by one party or another to obtain electoral benefits, nor do we want the heart that animates our cause to be misinterpreted.

Third: They must maintain a neutral public position in regard to the present conflict. They should not be in favor of the EZLN, or of the federal government, and they cannot be part of the organizing structures of either.

Fourth: They must be sensitive to the serious social problems afflicting our country, and especially the difficult conditions under which the Indigenous people of Mexico suffer.

Fifth: They must be publicly recognized for their honesty and patriotism.

Sixth: They must publicly promise to put all their efforts into finding a dignified political solution to the armed conflict.

Seventh: They should form the Commission for National Mediation to mediate between the government and the EZLN.

The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the EZLN believes that Don Samuel Ruiz García, Bishop of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, meets the abovementioned requirements, and we formally invite him to participate, as a patriotic Mexican and not as a religious authority, since this is not a religious problem, in the future Commission for National Mediation. The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the EZLN asks Mexican society to propose its best men and women for the formation of this Commission, whose principal mission is to find a political solution to the conflict. If these men and women fulfill the previously mentioned requirements, the EZLN will welcome their membership in the Commission, and listen carefully and respectfully to their voices and hearts.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,


On the Government's Violation of the Cease-Fire

January 13,1994

"Lies come from the mouths of the powerful."

To the Mexican people:
To the people and governments of the world:

Brothers and Sisters:

Today, January 13, 1994, at approximately 1:30 p.m., federal troops violated the cease-fire ordered by the federal executive, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, when they attacked a Zapatista unit at a site near the community of Carmen Patate' in the township of Ocosingo, Chiapas. Federal troops, transported in 10 Army vehicles, with support from artillery, helicopters, and airplanes, tried to penetrate our positions and were fought off by Zapatista gunfire. Federal troops began to detain civilians from nearby communities with the intention of exercising reprisals or of presenting them as Zapatista prisoners, as they have done before.

In its communique' yesterday, the General Command of the EZLN ordered Zapatistas to cease fire in response to Mr. Carlos Salinas de Gortari's order for federal troops to cease fire. In our communique' yesterday, we ordered our troops to take no offensive actions and to only respond if attacked by the evil government's troops. This case of aggression on the part of federal troops makes the government's supposed will to seek a political solution to the conflict seem doubtful. The Zapatista National Liberation Army reiterates its willingness to dialogue, but it is not ready to be deceived. Either President Carlos Salinas de Gortari is lying or the Federal Army is not prepared to follow the orders of the federal executive.

The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the EZLN calls to the Mexican people and the people and governments of the world. It will not allow itself to be taken advantage of by government declarations which, as today's events demonstrate, are nothing but lies.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,


On US Aid to the Mexican Government

January 13, 1994

To Mr. Bill Clinton, President of the United States of North America:
To the North American Congress:
To the people of the United States of North America:


We direct this letter to you to tell you that the Mexican federal government is using the economic and military support that it receives from the United States of North America to massacre Chiapaneco Indians. We would like to know whether the US Congress and the citizens of the United States of North America approved this military and economic support to combat drug trafficking or to assassinate Indigenous people in the Mexican Southeast. Troops, planes, helicopters, radar, communications equipment, arms and military gear are presently being used not to chase drug traffickers and the leaders of large drug cartels, but to repress the just struggle of the Mexican people and the Chiapaneco Indians, and to assassinate innocent men, women, and children.

We do not receive any help from foreign governments, persons, or organizations. We have nothing to do with drug trafficking or national and international terrorism. We organized ourselves from our own desire and life because of our tremendous problems and grievances. We are tired of so many years of abuse, lies, and death. It is our right to struggle for a life with dignity. We have at all times obeyed international laws on war respecting the civilian population.

With the support that the US government and people give to the federal government, they are staining their hands with Indigenous blood. Our longing is that of all the peoples of the world: true freedom and democracy. And we are prepared to give our lives for this desire. Don't stain your hands with our blood by making yourselves accomplices of the Mexican government.

From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast,


On the Capture, Condemnation, and Sentencing of Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez

[La Jornada]
January 13, 1994

Brothers and Sisters:

The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army decrees the following conclusions of popular judgment against prisoner of war Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, division general in the Mexican Federal Army, accused of various injurious offenses to the Chiapaneco Indigenous population:

First: Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez was accused of having forced the Chiapaneco Indigenous population to rise up in arms against injustice, closing off all legal and peaceful means to achieve its just demands during the period in which he held the office of State Executive in Chiapas.

Conclusion: Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, in complicity with the federal government during his state mandate, was found guilty of having compelled the Chiapaneco Indigenous people to rise up in arms, and of closing off any possibility of a peaceful solution to their problems. Patrocinio González Blanco Garrido and Elmar Setzer Marseille are accomplices of Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez in this crime, in that they followed him in office as state executive and, with the complicity of the federal government, continued forcing our people along this path.

Second: Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez was accused of having repressed, kidnapped, jailed, tortured, raped, and assassinated members of the Chiapaneco Indigenous populations who fought legally and peacefully for their just rights, before, during, and after the period in which he occupied the office of State Executive in Chiapas.

Conclusion: Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, in complicity with the federal government during his state mandate, was found guilty of having repressed, kidnapped, jailed, tortured, raped, and assassinated members of the Chiapaneco Indigenous populations who legally and peacefully fought for their just rights.

Third: Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, in complicity with the federal government, was accused of having dispossessed Chiapaneco Indigenous campesinos of their land before, during, and after the period in which he occupied the office of state Executive in Chiapas.

Conclusion: Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, in complicity with the federal government before, during, and after his state mandate, was found guilty of having dispossessed Indigenous Chiapaneco campesinos of their lands and, in this way, making himself into one of the most powerful landowners in the state of Chiapas.

Fourth: After having deliberated over and analyzed all of the accusations against Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, and having demonstrated his guilt, the Zapatista Justice Tribunal issues the following verdict and sentence:

Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez was found guilty of the crimes of violating Indigenous human rights, robbery, theft of land, kidnapping, corruption, and assassination. Without finding any extenuating circumstances in the commission of these crimes, the Zapatista Justice Tribunal issues the following sentence:

Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez is condemned to permanent imprisonment, and to doing manual work in an Indigenous community in Chiapas to earn his bread and the other things necessary for his subsistence.

Fifth: As a message to the people of Mexico and to the peoples and governments of the world, the Zapatista Justice Tribunal of the EZLN commutes the permanent imprisonment sentence of Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, leaving him physically free and, in place of this sentence, condemns him to live until his final days with the embarrassment and shame of having received the forgiveness and goodness of those who, for so much time, he humiliated, kidnapped, robbed, dispossessed and assassinated.

Sixth: The Zapatista Justice Tribunal submits this resolution to the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, so that they may take the pertinent and necessary actions related to the resolutions of this Zapatista Justice Tribunal; to this end, we recommend that the CCRI-CG propose to the federal government an exchange of Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez for the entirety of Zapatista combatants and civilians unjustly imprisoned by federal troops for the duration of our just war. We also offer to exchange the military man for food and other means of sustenance to alleviate the grave situation of the civilian population in the territories under EZLN control.

Dictated January 13, 1994, Chiapas, Mexico

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
Zapatista Justice Tribunal,

Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-
General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army