The political situation in Mexico is passing through a new crisis, derived from the attitude of the federal government which, without bothering to say so directly, refuses to respect the Agreements on Indigenous Rights and Culture signed on February 16th, 1996, together with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in San Andres Sacamch'en de los Pobres, Chiapas.
Since August of 1996, the EZLN has been denouncing the non-existent disposition of the Mexican government to convert the agreements reached in the dialogue into actions and reality. This was the principal cause for which, seven months later, the indigenous communities of Chiapas decided to order the comandantes of the Zapatista delegation to not present itself at the dialogue session scheduled for September 4th of that year. Since then, the process which, it was hoped, would lead to the signing of peace, has remained suspended.
Among the most important conditions which were being dealt with for a resumption of the suspended dialogue is that of the constitutional reform proposal regarding indigenous rights, the drafting of which was entrusted by both sides--the government and the EZLN--to the Commission on Concordance and Pacification (Cocopa), made up of members of the Legislative Power, that is, by senators and federal deputies from all the political parties represented in the Congress of the Union. On November 29th, 1996, the Cocopa presented the proposal to both the EZLN and the federal government, with the explanation that is was a final document, and as such they expected the two sides to respond by either accepting, or rejecting, the document in its entirety.
Despite the fact that the Zapatistas found the Cocopa's document to be lacking in many elements of the accords already signed in San Andres, on November 30th they accepted the text as a valid constitutional reform initiative, without making any observations or corrections, given that it had been presented to them as a final document of the legislators, and in recognition of the fact that the elements contained within the document signified a very important step forward. The federal government, for its part, following various messages suggesting its rejection of the initiative drafted by the Cocopa, then asked for a 15-day period in which the President of the Republic could consult with his advisors in order to clear up any doubts regarding the constitutional character of the proposed reforms.
Finally, on December 19th, after it had been made public that even within the government itself there were elements which were unaware of exactly what they had signed in San Andres, the EZLN received the document which was supposed to be the response of the federal Executive to the Cocopa's initiative. After analyzing and appraising it, together with some of their advisors and those in charge of the Follow-Up Commission of the National Indigenous Congress, the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee-General Command (CCRI-CG) of the EZLN announced on January 11, 1997, its judgment and response to the text it had received. The government of the Republic had delivered a counter-proposal called "Proposal of the Government for Constitutional Reforms regarding the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" which, according to the communique of the CCRI-CG of the EZLN, "represents a resounding "NO" to the proposal made by the Cocopa, ignores the San Andres Accords signed by its delegation in February of 1996, attempts to renegotiate from scratch all of the first round on "Indigenous Rights and Culture", and it ratifies the lack of seriousness and the irresponsibility of the federal government in the search for a peaceful solution to the just demands of the EZLN." In the same communique, the EZLN declares:
"That it completely rejects the government's proposal of constitutional reforms, for signifying a nonfulfillment on the San Andres Accords; for being a mockery of the national and international demand for a just and dignified peace; and for not satisfying the indigenous demands for a new relationship with the Mexican nation.
"That the EZLN reiterates its acceptance of the document elaborated by the organism of the Federal Legislative Power, the Cocopa, as the legal initiative which fulfills the San Andres Accords signed by the EZLN and the federal government in February of 1996.
"That it hopes that the Commission on Concordance and Pacification honors its decision (made public during the first days of December, 1996) to defend and carry forward its own proposal, without accepting modifications from either of the parts, and demanding that the Federal Executive honor its word pledged in the accords of San Andres.
"That the EZLN will not make any other decision until knowing the public response of the Cocopa."
While the EZLN and civil society await a public position of the legislators regarding the two documents of constitutional reforms, the federal government has not stopped its military and psychological pressure tactics against the Zapatista communities in the state of Chiapas. Overflights of reconnaissance planes and artillery-laden helicopters, as well as increased troop movements of the Federal Army taking up new positions in the so-called "conflict zone" have been accompanied by threatening declarations, such as that made on January 14th by the official spokesperson of Mr. Zedillo's government, suggesting that "for now" they have no intention of carrying out military operations in Chiapas, leaving open the interpretation that such a decision could change at any moment.
In other words, since January 11th, the date on which the EZLN explained that Zedillo's counterproposal was unacceptable because it did not respect the signed accords, the government responded with even greater military pressure, thus worsening the situation of low-intensity warfare against the indigenous communities of Chiapas and of the country as a whole.
Their intention seems clear: the government is seeking to reinforce the military siege so as to politically and geographically isolate the EZLN, up to the point in which it considers the conditions to be ripe so as to carry out the "surgical" strike against the Zapatista command. The government bets that by cornering the Zapatistas, taking from them their public voice and their contacts with Mexican society, while simultaneously continuing in the rest of the country with their strategy of distributing repression or money, as the case may be, that the moment will come in which society sees the problems of the indigenous peoples as secondary, and then the political and social conditions will be ripe for carrying out the military strike. It is thus that in this moment, the government is betting, and acting consequently, on the political and military annihilation of the EZLN. There is no other way we can interpret the actions of the federal government in throwing back the process of dialogue and negotiation, just when it was at the point of taking its first grand step forward towards overcoming the conditions of marginalization and oblivion in which it has maintained the original inhabitants of our homeland.
Faced with this situation, diverse political and social organizations, among them the National Indigenous Congress and the Zapatista Front of National Liberation, have begun an information and mobilization campaign to demand that the federal government honor its word as written in the San Andres Accords. We sincerely believe that it is not by way of intimidation, police and military force, disinformation campaigns, or attacks on political opponents, through which the grave problems of our country can be resolved. For this reason, the implementation of the accords signed between the Zapatistas and the government should be a clear sign of the disposition of the Mexican government to resolve, by way of dialogue and negotiation, the political and social conflicts faced by all Mexicans.
Ever more frequently, the Mexican government ignores the demands and the protests of those who live in our country, and only shows signs of reacting and giving way when faced with international pressure. It is for this reason that we turn, one more time, to international solidarity, so that you may help us by demanding that the Mexican government rectify its decisions and permit the Mexican people to continue the peace process being constructed.
We thank you in advance for your help, and for all the measures and pressure which you undertake in your own countries, and we put ourselves at your disposition for whatever additional information you may require.
- Javier Elorriaga
- For the National Promotional Commission of the FZLN
- Mexico, 4 February 1997