To those present at the Foundational Congress of the Zapatista Front of National Liberation:
Brothers and sisters:
In the name of all the men, women, children and elderly members of the bases of support, and of that of the combattants, we salute you all. The work of the Foundational Congress of the FZLN begins today. The hopeful expectations which depend on the results of this Congress are not scarce. From every corner of the Mexican Republic have arrived the voices and the ears of those who have found in the birth of the Zapatista Front of National Liberation a challenge and a hope.
The challenge of building a new type of political organization which does not struggle to take power.
The hope that this political organization may grow all over the National territory and amidst all the social sectors which struggle for a Mexico with democracy, with liberty and justice.
20 months ago, January first, 1996, and from the mountains of the southeast, the call came to form this new organization. It was our answer to the national consultation for peace and democracy undertaken in August, 1995. The Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Rain Forest, cast from the Zapatista ski masks and shotguns, called for the formation of a civilian and peaceful Zapatista organization.
A new type of organization which will not struggle for the conquest of power but for a new relationship between those who govern and those who are governed. An organization which would promote in the entire country the "giving orders through obedience."
Today begins the Foundational Congress we called for in January, 1996. We, the EZLN Zapatistas are not present in this Foundational Congress as direct participants but as observers. Many of you, many Mexicans will ask themselves why the Zapatistas are not inside the FZLN, inside the organization whose formation they called for. Many will ask themselves why we have come only to observe your congress and not to directly participate in it. Many will ask themselves why, these past days we have declared once and again that the EZLN will not become a part of the FZLN and that we will be two sister but separate organizations.
The bad government is responsible for the fact we are not next to you as part of the FZLN.
It is the government that refuses to solve our just demands.
It is the government that forces us to remain with our faces hidden and our hands armed.
It is the government that refuses us all possibility of a political, peaceful, just, and dignified solution to continue the struggle.
It is the government which keeps us apart.
It is the government that wants us to surrender by means of the declarations of its functionaries, saying that we are about to transform ourselves into a political force, that there no longer is a war in the Mexican southeast, that the armed challenge of the Zapatistas no longer exists.
It is the government which lied saying that the Zapatistas were laying down their weapons without having accomplished anything and were entering the institutional life of Mexican politics.
That is not so.
We are not going to transform ourselves into a civil and peaceful political force, war continues in the Mexican southeast, and we, the Zapatistas continue to be armed and ready for combat.
The EZLN continues to defy the supreme government with weapons, with reason and with history.
That is the truth, Frentista brothers and sisters. In our mountains the orders still come from the black symbol of pain and the red symbol of tomorrow of our flag. And it will continue to be so until our demands are met and satisfied, and until armed struggle becomes an absurdity and an obstacle for the revolutionary transformation of our country.
So it is that the EZLN is still armed, is still clandestine, is still rebelious, is still alive. But there are not only Zapatistas in the EZLN. There are not only armed and clandestine Zapatistas. There are also civilian and peaceful Zapatistas. There are also Zapatistas in the FZLN and in other places.
When we called for the formation of the FZLN we thought peace was near and that our rebeliousness had to look for new ways and types of struggle to continue its obstinate journey.
We though that in a short time we would be like you and next to you. With the same rebeliousness before the powerful one, but without the need of weapons.
With the same dignity for the future, but without the face hidden by the black color of pain and the red color of blood. But we were wrong Frentista brothers and sisters.
Peace is not near. Peace is still far away. Before and now the government uses the lie of a peace it only imagines as surrender and punishment.
But we can no longer keep holding you back, or asking you to wait, not to advance, not to grow, not to become big, not to organize until there is a just and dignified peace and the EZLN can share with you the present and the future.
A military force will not be the one to direct your steps and put them at risk. That cannot and should not be thus.
In the last 20 months, what is now the FZLN has grown all over the national territory. It has workers and farmers, Indians, artists, members of the cloth,teachers,professionals,students, house wives,squatters,small buisenessm@n, unemployed,elderly people,children, youths,women, men, homosexuals,lesbians.
It has in its midst forgotten rebels from all over Mexico and from all walks of life and social classes. This rebel organization that the FZLN is must keep on going ahead, it must keep on growing, it must have its own face and turn reason, dialogue and tolerance into its own weapons. This organization must finish giving birth to itself.
Even without those who called upon it at dawn one day as what it already is, as a hope. The hour has then come, Frentista brothers and sisters. You must give birth to yourselves now and begin to walk without us inside your body.
Your country, called Mexico, needs you now and you must answer the call of history. The tasks you will be facing will be many. We are only asking you to ad one more. That of fighting for a just and dignified peace for the EZLN and for all of Mexico.
For now we can only walk alongside you, each other knowing we are brothers but different. Some day will come when upon looking at ourselves in a mirror we will see that the wound which now still separates us and hurts us with the "we" and the "you" has been eraced. That day will come, let nobody doubt it. It's simply going to come because we are going to win. Because we are already making history and it will come out as it should come out: round.
Because round is the earth we are making, round is the struggle and round is the life for which, dying, we will be born again next to you and next to those who are not you but are struggling for a better Mexico.
It is time the powerful one trembles once more because the Zapatista Front of National Liberation is born.
Salud brother Frentistas!
Long live the Zapatista Front of National Liberation!
Long live the Zapatista Army of National Liberation!
From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee
General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Me'xico, Septiembre de 1997.
(English translation: Monique J. Lemaitre)