Fifth anniversary of the uprising of the zapatista troops

January 1, 1999

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

Brothers and sisters:

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the uprising of the zapatista troops demanding democracy, liberty and justice for all Mexicans. For this reason, the CCRI-CG of the EZLN says its word.

I. Acteal: Ethnocide and Impunity as State Policies

The year of 1998 was the year of the government war against the indigenous communities of Mexico. This year of war was begun on December 22, 1997, with the Acteal massacre. On that day, paramilitary gangs, armed, trained and directed by the federal and state governments, assassinated 45 children, women and men, all of them indigenous. The brutal act signaled the beginning of a long military and police offensive against the Indian peoples of Chiapas.

Acteal serves as the best example of the manner in which Ernesto Zedillo's government makes politics. The crimes committed by the powers receive a guarantee of impunity and cover-up by the entire State apparatus. The only objective of the poorly named "White Book" of the Attorney General's Office of the Republic is to guarantee impunity to the sick masterminds who conceived, designed and ordered the Acteal massacre. It will be ineffective.

Those intellectually and directly responsible for the Acteal massacre have first and last names. The list is headed by Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, followed by Emilio Chuayffet, Francisco Labastida, General Enrique Cervantes, Julio Cesar Ruiz Ferro and Adolofo Orive. They have been joined, in the cover-up work, by Rosario Green, Emilio Rabasa Gamboa, Roberto Albores Guillen and Jorge Madrazo Cuellar. These criminals hold, or held, various government positions in the federal and state arenas, and, sooner or later, they will have to appear before the law and answer for their level of involvement in this brutal and bloody event, which now definitively marks the Mexican end of century.

The activation of the paramilitary groups constitutes the backbone of Zedillo's govenrment's dirty war against the Mexican indigenous. From February, 1995, when the military offensive, unleashed by the government betrayal, failed, Ernesto Zedillo knew of, approved and set in motion the paramilitary strategy, in order to resolve the zapatista struggle through the use of force. While the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) set to work in this business of death, and the federal Army supplied weapons, munitions, equipment, advisement and training, Zedillo's government began to fabricate a dialogue and a negotiation which did not seek, nor does it seek, the peaceful solution to the conflict. On the contrary, the government's different "negotiating" teams have had only one maxim: "To simulate a willingness to dialogue and to continually postpone the achieving of accords and their carrying out, and to prevent the signing of a definitive peace." Esteban Moctezuma Barragan, Marco Antonio Bernal, Jorge del Valle, Gustavo Iruegas and Emilio Rabasa Gamboa are the different names for the governmental hypocrisy. None of them have had the courage, knowing themselves being used for the war, to refuse to be accomplices of the assassinations, which have been the government's only resource in the conflict in the Mexican southeast.

One name sums up the government's position regarding Chiapas: Acteal, the ethnocide which it wants to conceal with hypocrisy, impunity guaranteed by institutional legality.

II. Attacks Against the Peace in Chiapas

The crime of Acteal was followed by a chain of violent events, all led by the government, whose direction was clear: break all peace initiatives, destroy all hope of a peaceful solution to the conflict and, time and again, renew the chant of war and death against the original inhabitants of these lands.

a) Attacks Against the Autonomous Municipalities.
Recognized by the San Andres Accords, signed by Zedillo's representatives at the dialogue table, the autonomous municipalities were the military objectives of the federal armed forces and the pack of dogs which pretends to govern the state of Chiapas. Tani Perla, municipal seat of Ricardo Flores Magon, and Amparo Aguatinta, head of the Tierra y Libertad municipality, were taken by blood and fire by joint troops of the federal Army, the federal Judicial police and the Chiapas state police. More than a thousand armed men destroying community houses, pharmacies and libraries, beating and torturing children, women, men and old ones. Alone, the government, and some media which accompanied them in their loss of legitimacy, applauded themselves. In the name of a legality built on dissimulation and corruption, the hope of a real and prompt peace for the war in the Mexican southeast was beaten and destroyed.

Each new repressive blow by that mixture of lapdogs and attack dogs called Albores Guillen, was accompanied by a Zedillo who was willing to personally back the war against the indigenous.

The autonomous municipality of San Juan de la Libertad received the bloody stamp promised by Acteal in the armed clashes of Chavajeval. Three indigenous persons were assassinated, and, in Union Progreso, five indigenous were taken prisoner and summarily executed by combined troops from the federal Army and Chiapas state security police. And so, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon added more dark deaths to his somber resources.

b) Attacks Against the Conai and the Cocopa.
The mediation and coadvisory bodies were also defined as objectives to be destroyed in the Mexican government's shameful war.

The attacks against the Commission of Concordance and Peace (Cocopa) followed the logic of the "settling of accounts" of the political class in power. Following the dangerous gane of "now yes, now no", the government first accepted the law drawn up by the legislative commission, and then they retracted it. Having a peaceful solution within reach, Zedillo struck at the dialogue table, and UNILATERALLY presented an indigenous legislative proposal to the Congress of the Union, thus refusing to recognize what its representatives had signed at the San Andres table. After attempting to politically destroy the Cocopa, the federal government ordered it to define itself in its favor (that is, in favor of the war). The legislators refused, and now the government is trying to set them to aside and to convert them into a useless and showy ornament. The federal Executive does not conceive of the Legislative branch in any other way: it either unconditionally follows its war-like adventures or it is a hindrance.

This time the Congress of the Union asserted its independence as a branch of the Federation, and dignified and reasonable voices within the different parliamentary groups blocked the federal Executive's proposal, and thus stopped what was being concealed behind it: the renewal of the open war against the zapatistas. The defeat of Zedillo's proposal in Congress did not concern the government. What did and does concern them is not finding consensus or support, not even within the State party, for their war program.

If Acteal and the premeditated attacks against the autonomous municipalities are demonstrations that the Zedillo government wants nothing other than the annihilation of the Mexican indigenous, the presentation of Zedillo's proposal is a symptom of his definitive decision to not keep his word and of his desperation to put a mask of legality on the illegitimate war which he is carrying out.

Parallel with his reducing the Cocopa to ridicule, Zedillo carried out a true campaign of attacks (which included assassination attempts) against the National Intermediation Commission (Conai), and especially against its President, Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia. To the failed ambushes carried out by the military arm of the Department of Social Development, the self-named "Peace and Justice" gang, the government added an intense campaign of discrediting in the press, radio and television, joint harassment by the Department of Govenrment and the high Catholic clergy, and the police attacks by the National Immigration Institute.

The destruction of the National Intermediation Commission was completed just hours prior to the vile assassination of five indigenous persons in Union Progreso, and three in the armed clash in Chavajeval. The death of the Conai was immediately followed by its logical consequence: the violent death of indigenous and the renewal of the fighting.

If reducing the Cocopa to paralysis, and unilaterally sending its own legislative proposal, were the signals which Zedillo sent to Congress so that they would understand that he would not accept the Legislative branch's impeding his war, the destruction of the Conai signified the dismantling of the only bridge for dialogue and communication between the parties.

Attacking the Congress of the Union and national civil society, represented symbolically by the Conai, the federal government repeated the message which it had written in blood in Acteal.

c) Attacks Against International Observers.
Ernesto Zedillo's blatant decision for war received not just the rejection by the Federal Legislative branch and the open opposition by national civil society. The international community saw with horror the genocide which those government measures heralded, and it quickly mobilized itself in order to do whatever it could to stop the death which was now being sown on indigenous lands. Observers from North, Central and South America, as well as from Europe and Asia, crossed thousands of kilometers and entire oceans in order to arrive in the Mexican southeast with just one message: PEACE WITH JUSTICE AND DIGNITY. The federal government then decreed that the war of extermination against the indigenous was a demonstration of national sovereignty, and it demanded that there be no witnesses, only accomplices. Thus, all of those who did not dissimulate and did not applaud the war were accused of being "revolutionary tourists", and of "trying to interfere in domestic matters". The accusations were followed by expulsions, and today the result is obvious: foreigners who applaud the war and the destruction are welcome in Chiapas, and those who seek peace and construction are harassed and expelled.

Drunk with blood, the government not only disregards the Congress of the Union and the Mexican people, it also ignores the international outcries which echo the same demand to Zedillo: stop your war and commit yourself to peace.

This was 1998 for the federal government in the conflict in the Mexican southeast: the massacre of indigenous, the attack against the autonomous municipalities, the renewal of combat, the destruction of the Conai, the immobilizing of the Cocopa, the failure to carry out the San Andres Accords, scorn for the Congress of the Union and the expulsion of international observers.

This is the summary of a year, that of 1998, for the federal government: war of extermination against the Mexican indigenous, impunity for the criminals, failure to carry out signed accords, destruction of the bridges of dialogue and negotiation and defiance of national and international public opinion.

In 1998, the Mexican government offered Mexico's indigenous nothing but war and destruction.

III. The Government's Economic Policies: The Other War of Destruction

While the government carried forward its war of extermination against the indigenous peoples, another war continued. The neoliberal economic policies which Ernesto Zedillo is imposing, with the support of a handful of accomplices, and against the will of the great majority of Mexicans, continued destroying the material foundations of the national state. Prisoner of an international financial crisis which had just barely announced itself, the Mexican economy promises only to be worse every day for the poorest Mexicans, and to assure the so-called "middle classes" a place among the dispossessed. Neither small nor medium-sized businesses have the most minimal real possibilities of surviving within this economic model. Even the large national businesses are confronting, and will be confronting, disadvantageous conditions in competition for markets.

The enormous growth in the prices of basic products, the budget cuts, the unpayable debts at usurous interest rates, the impunity for the criminal bankers, the increase in taxes, public insecurity as heritage: it is all part of an imported economic model which operates in Mexico like a cruel social leveler. The majority of Mexicans are in egalitarian life conditions, but not of prosperity nor of the minimal levels of a dignified life. No, on the contrary, today poverty equalizes the middle class of yesterday with the poor of forever. The only thing that grows in an appreciable manner within this economic model are the poverty indices, the number of dispossessed and the quantity of national businesses in bankruptcy.

In 1998, the signs that the economic model is criminal and ineffective do not come merely from inside the country. They come from the most distant points of world geography, one after the other, waves of financial crises which ended up destroying national business, devaluating the Mexican peso and narrowing even more the already slim expectations for recovery. But neither the protests and discontent of the citizens, nor the serious warnings of the financial crises in Asia, Europe and South America, convinced the reduced group of blind illuminati who direct the fate of this country. In opposition to all the citizens, in opposition to history, even in opposition to reality, the zedillistos have decided not to change the course towards shipwreck.

In the depleted ship of the national economy, the drunken helmsman has now decided who will be sacrificed first in the imminent shipwreck. Tens of millions of Mexicans will see their living condiitons reduced to less than minimal levels, the leaders will privatize even the national flag and shield, the rich will be fewer but richer, and, in the press, the radio and the television, we will be told that it is all for our well-being...and that of our family.

The administration of impunity in the economic crime which is called neoliberalism had an opportunity in 1998 to reveal its corruption. With Fobaproa, it not only condemned entire generations of Mexicans to paying for the illicit enrichment of bankers and leaders, it also demonstrated the true objective of governmental economic policies: protecting the rich and powerful, even at the cost of everything and everyone.

The changing of the Fobaproa's name by the PRI and the PAN did not mange to conceal the nature of their action: despite the clear evidence of violations of the Constitution by the Executive, despite the fact that the fund was used for partisan political purposes, despite the fact that the money was used to finance white collar criminals, and despite the fact that the economic cabinet's responsibility is undeniable in this dirty affair, the legislative betrayal was sealed, and it demonstrated that the ordinary everyday citizen is defensless in the face of the actions by the bad govenrment.

There is no way out of this dark neoliberal tunnel. The only real, possible and necessary way out, is the change of the economic model.

IV. A Demonstration of the Crisis of the Mexican Political System

The last of the Mexican State institutions to continue supporting the collapse, the federal Army, discovered in this year of 1998, that their crisis was not just one of legitimacy. Thanks to the decisions and the orders of their "supreme commander" (Ernesto Zedillo), the federal Army saw itself working as "firemen" for the politicians. There, where their politics failed, the Army would go. And, since the policies are failing everywhere, and at all levels, the military has found itself in a terrain which, as an institution, does not belong to them. The results were not long in coming, in addition to the obvious violations of human rights in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, la Huasteca and Jalisco, the contagion of drug trafficking grew and internal discontent once again manifested itself.

After a costly publicity campaign which sought to recover its compromised image, the federal Army saw the little it had gained collapse in a matter of minutes. On October 30, 1998, 30 years after a crime which they had believed to be forgotten, history came to present its bill, and the Army paid, and paid dearly. Just a few weeks later, just before the first anniversary of the Acteal massacre would once again put the military in the defendants' seat, a group of dissident soldiers with the name of "Patriotic Command for the Raising of the Peoples' Awareness" took their voice to the streets in order to denounce a series of irregularities within the ranks of the military.

The soldiers of the Patriotic Command for the Raising of the Peoples' Awareness received, in response to their demands, the same thing which all Mexicans receive from the powers who individually or in groups demand their rights: condemnation, publicity campaigns against them, slander, discredit, accusations of treason, persecution, silence.

Certainly the Patriotic Command raised not a few doubts, and the path they will have to travel in order to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the public is still long.

It remains to be seen.

V. EZLN: Against the War of Extermination, Resistance

The government offer of death was not bought by the zapatistas. To the war of extermination, we do not oppose our war. To destruction, we do not respond with destruction. To death, we do not reply with death.

One word sums up a silent heroism led by tens of thousands of indigenous men, women, children and old ones: RESISTANCE.

All the organizing efforts of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation have turned inward again. Silent to the outside, the zapatistas turn within ourselves, and we are organizing the resistance of our peoples. All our human and material resources were devoted, not to war, but to reisistance against the war. All our strength was oriented not towards destruction, but rather to construction. Our flag was not death, but rather life.

A calm analysis of the government's actions made us understand that their objective was open war. We then decided to not only not follow in their invitation to horror, we also strove to see that it failed utterly.

A war is not defeated with war initiatives. It is defeated with initiatives of peace. And, in order to prepare those initiatives of life, we closed oursleves up in ourselves, and we then raised the weapon of silence. Protected by that, we looked at the immediate past and we saw our commitments, we looked at the far past and we saw our experiences and understandings, we looked at the collective future and we saw the tomorrow for everyone. That is how we decided on reisistance, that is how we lived it, that is how we sustain it.

In order to not fall into the game of death, into that bloody trap of war among the indigenous, thousands of zapatistas left everything they had and became the war displaced. Men, women, children and old ones, tzotziles, tzeltales, tojolabales, chjoles and mames, abandoned their homes and lands because we want peace with justice and dignity. We do not want surrender nor simulated peace nor war among the poor.

That is why our people do not make war against the indigenous or civilians, but neither do they accept government charity. We did not rise up in order to gain benefits for ourselves. Our struggle is for everyone, everything, nothing for ourselves. This is our resistance. A wager on a better tomorrow, yes, but with everyone.

At the end of this fifth year of the war against the forgetting, we zapatistas can say that we are more and we are stronger. We are so because our heart and our primary strength, the zapatista peoples, have resisted, patiently and with wisdom, one of the worst offensives against us. It is not the first. Nor will it be the last. But, sooner or later, our demands will have to be met, and then, only then, peace. And it will be real.

The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee - Gneral Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, here and now publicly recognizes the zapatista indigenous peoples. They are our true chiefs, our blood, our weapon and flag.

After having demonstrated that silence is also a weapon in the hand of the dispossessed, strengthened and clear, we zapatistas issued in June the Fifth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona. In it we called on the Mexican people and the people of the world to a mobilization for the recognition of the rights of the Indian peoles and for the end to the war of extermination.

Despite the fact that we only received messages of invitation for making war from the government, we zapatistas are responding with a political initiative which is, essentially, a new effort for dialogue and peace.

Understanding that, on the part of the government, there is neither the will nor the intention nor the sincere commitment for assuming the path of dialogue with all its consequences, the EZLN insists on directing itself to those parts of Mexican society who desire, and who are promoting, peace as path, route and destiny.

National civil society, that new political and social force, despised anytime and anywhere they are not voting, is called upon to become the primary architect and protagonist, not just in the peace process, but also of the fundamental transformations which will make this country a democratic, free and just nation. This civil society is whom the EZLN recognizes as interlocutor in a new dialogue.

The Congress of the Union is another part of the Mexican state which has the opportunity to construct peace. The Legislative branch is just that: the power to make laws which benefit, which recognize, which make justice. The hour of the Congress is coming, and at that hour it should respond to an important question, even more so than any law concerning income and expenditures, and define itself in terms of peace.

As part of the mobilization called by the Fifth Declaration, the initiative has been launched for a consultation by all Mexicans on the recognition of the rights of the Indian peoples and for an end to the war of extermination. This consultation will be held on Sunday, March 21, 1999, all over the country and in all places in the world where Mexican men and women organize themselves to participate and to have their opinions known.

In order to promote and carry out this consultation, 5000 zapatista delegates (2500 men and 2500 women) will mobilize themselves in order to visit all the municipalities in the country. The consultation will be based on four questions: two concerning indigenous rights, one concerning the war and one concerning the relationship between those who govern and the governed.

Made up of several stages, the consultation is now in publicity and promotion. Today we repeat our invitation to all Mexican men and women to form brigades of publicity and to promote the carrying out of this democratic mobilization, which seeks only two things: the recognition of indigenous rights and peace in Mexico.

VI. The Recognition of the Rights of the Indian peoples, Principal Demand of the EZLN

Today, five years from the start of our uprising, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation repeats: our objective is not to take power, nor to obtain govenrment positions, nor to convert ourselves into a political party. We did not rise up for charity or credits. We do not want control over a territory or separation from Mexico. We are not counting on destruction nor on gaining time.

Our principal demands are the recognition of the rights of the Indian peoples and democracy, liberty and justice for all Mexican men and women.

We are accompanied in these demands not just by the more than ten million Mexican indigenous, but also walking with us are millions of men and women, workers, campesinos, unemployed, teachers, students, artists, intellectuals, neighbors, housewives, homosexuals and lesbians, handicapped persons, HIV positive persons, retired persons and pensioners, religious men and women, drivers, street vendors, small businesspersons, pilots and flight attendants, deputies, senators, Mexicans who live abroad, non-governmental organizations, boys, girls, men, women, old ones...and military persons.

With the recognition of the rights of the Indian peoples, peace will be possible. Without that recognition, none of the unfinished issues on the long national agenda will be able to be fully resolved. With democracy, liberty and justice for all Mexicans, another country will be possible, one that is better, and more good.

VII. 1999: The Old and the New Politics

Brothers and sisters:

This is the Mexico we have at the beginning of this year of 1999. In this year, the sixth of the war, two ways of doing politics will once again confront each other.

On the one side, the registered political parties will have to choose their candidates for the Presidency of the Republic and for the Congress of the Union. With the selection of those candidates, they will choose, explicitly or implicitly, the different proposals for the nation, the economic programs, the political positions.

For the Mexican political class, 1999 is the year of the political parties, of internal adjustments (which, in the case of the PRI, could once again reach assassination), of preparations and internal elections. This is the old politics, that which is decided among professionals, and which only sees the citizen when it needs his vote. After that moment, they hijack his capacity for decision-making, they take away his rights as a citizen, and they oppose his demonstrations of dissidence, rebellion or disagreement with the machinery of the state. This politics has demonstrated its ineffectiveness, its exclusion, its authoritarianism.

The political parties are certainly necessary. What is unnecessary is a way of doing politics, that which does not govern obeying, nor has the mechanisms to govern obeying.

On the other side, the social, citizens and individual forces should define the space of their political participation. Not just for the year 2000, but also for 2000. From this first of January until March 21, 1999, a space has been opened in order to try to construct another way of doing politics, one which includes and tolerates, one which constantly listens, one which is built on the sides and looks above with dignity, and also with the tools necessary for obligating those above to be constantly looking towards below.

With this new dialogue effort, as a demonstration of our willingness for a peaceful solution, as a reaffirmation of our commitment with the Indian peoples, as a reiteration of our desire for life, as a collaboration in the struggle to open spaces for citizens' participation, as one more struggle for the building of a new way of doing politics with the people, for the people and by the people, this first of January of 1999, sixth year of the war against the forgetting, we zapatistas call on everyone to participate in the consultation for the recognition of the rights of the Indian peoples and for an end to the war of extermination on Sunday, March 21.

For this year of 1999, we do not call the people to war, but nor do we call them to conformity nor to paralysis.

We call them to peaceful mobilization, to the struggle for the rights of everyone, to the protest against injustice, to the demand for spaces for democratic participation, to the demand for liberty.

We call on everyone to not just dream, but to something simpler and definitive, we call them to awaken.

Democracy! Liberty! Justice!

>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee
- General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation

Originally Published in Spanish ************************************** TRANSLATED FROM THE SPANISH BY irlandesa FOR THE EZLN AND NUEVO AMANECER PRESS ****************************************** NUEVO AMANECER PRESS-N.A.P.To know about us visit: (spanish)

To the Mexico page