To the People of Mexico:
To the Peoples and Governments of the World:
Brothers and Sisters:
In response to the upcoming national election, the CCRI-CG of the EZLN says its word:
First. - There is a war going on in Mexico. In the mountains of the Mexican Southeast, in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Puebla, Veracruz, San Luis Potosi', and in other places with an indigenous population, tens of thousands of soldiers from the federal government, and police from various forces, are carrying out a war of extermination against the Indian peoples of Mexico. Day after day, the dead or imprisoned indigenous blood continues to mount. The fate of the original inhabitants of these lands is being decided between the jail and the grave.
Extreme poverty, persecution and the failure to recognize Indian rights have led not only to the continuation of the resistance of the zapatista peoples in the Southeast of Mexico, and to the ERPI and EPR guerillas remaining active. Now, other armed groups, demanding justice and democracy, have been added. There are few countries in America that have as many armed opposition groups as there are in Mexico.
Although ignored by the majority of the media, that war continues its course. Its end has nothing to do with its firepower or number of combatants, but with resolving just demands and the opening of spaces for democratic participation.
Armed confrontations, which began on January 1, 1994, are continuing in Chiapas. Despite the fact that the EZLN has demonstrated its will for a peaceful negotiated solution to the conflict, the federal and state governments are continuing violent actions against zapatista communities and failing to fulfill the San Andre's Accords, which they committed to almost 5 years ago.
With this unspeakable war as background, our country is approaching the moment in which - through an election - federal officials will be replaced: the executive and legislative branches.
Second. - During this election process, it has been made clear that the position of the citizenry as electors is not being respected. In their place has been the media, markedly the electronic ones, who have raised their sing-song voices. The indiscriminate use of "polls," many of them carried out without the least scientific rigor, has displaced the citizens' vote as elector. It is not important now to fight for an election at the polls, but to win it or lose it in the headlines of the written press and in radio and television news shows.
The citizenry are not making their decisions based on different political options, but based on the media, that is, based on the image they are presenting of political proposals. "Modernity" has not meant movement towards democracy for our country, to the government of the people, by the people and for the people. The exercise of political power has not passed from the political class to the citizens, but to all the publicists, editorial heads, announcers and commentators.
If it was once said that one could govern through the media, this has been degraded: now one governs (and contests the government) in and for the media. The replacement of the citizens by radio and television is not democracy, it is virtual government and virtual change in governments. Government palaces, legislative chambers and election boxes are no longer in their real homes, but in the news programs.
It is, strictly speaking, in this scenario, with the nation being replaced by "ratings," where the election contest has taken place. Except for honorable exceptions, the presidential candidates have directed their efforts (and financial resources) almost exclusively to the terrain of the media. In addition to the obvious profits, the media have won a political role which far exceeds their prerogatives and, above all, their abilities.
It is obvious that the opportunity for political parties to let their positions be known through radio and television is an important advance in democratization. And it should be applauded that the political parties have taken advantage of it.
The problem is that, on not a few occasions, this coverage is not equitable (the official party is far ahead in amount and prime time coverage), and it is not a political position which is being covered, but rather an opting for scandal, insult, disgrace or banal jokes. Even more, the announcers frequently turn themselves into the judges of what they are communicating, and they "decide" what and how they are going to report on.
As various workers in the press have noted, the role of the media is not that of elector, but of communicator. Not understanding that, or not working with an awareness of that, has led more than one to commit regrettable excesses.
The media in Mexico has a more determinative role in Mexico now. It is only fair to recognize that not only has the irresponsibility of some increased, in the new nature of their position, but also, in not just a few, their independence has increased, along with their critical spirit and their honesty. Nonetheless, a responsible attitude by the electronic and written press has not been present in the majority.
It is not by putting the media aside, or by silencing them, that this replacement of the citizenry will be avoided, but by regulating the right of the citizens and political organizations to fairness, truth, honesty and responsibility on the part of communicators in the political arena.
Citizens have a right to truthful, timely and complete information. There is no law guaranteeing this, nor any body which defends or safeguards its fulfillment.
Today, in response to the current election process, the zapatistas reaffirm one of the points of our struggle: the right to information and culture.
Third. - With the media's lights focused solely on the presidential contest, a fundamental aspect in the life of the Republic has been left to one side: the legislative branch.
It will not be just the head of the executive branch which is decided in the impending election. Members of the chambers of federal deputies and senators of the Republic will also be elected.
In Mexico, presidentialism has been a heavy burden and an obstacle for democracy. Even though we have not had a president in the last 70 years who has not belonged to the official party, the possible arrival to the presidential chair of the opposition does not mean "movement towards democracy," if the executive branch continues to be concentrated in one single person, and while the branches charged with legislating and upholding the law are merely decorative elements which are changed every 3 or 6 years. The survival of the presidentialist system in Mexico is a fact. What kind of democracy is this, in which the fundamental decisions of a nation fall to one single individual for six years?
An autonomous legislative branch, independent of the executive, is essential in a democracy. Nonetheless, the campaigns for deputies and senators have passed unnoticed. The natural passion over the presidential contest has managed to conceal an advance which has already been seen during the last 6 year term which is now ending: a legislative branch struggling for its independence and autonomy.
In addition to confronting the executive, the legislative branch should become independent of party leaders, who not infrequently replace leaders of the parliamentary wings in those agreements and regulations which correspond exclusively to the legislative arena. Legislating is not the prerogative of the political parties, but of those who are democratically elected to that task.
At the back of the line behind the presidential campaigns, the campaigns by the legislative candidates are not winning anything for themselves, nor are they of any benefit to those who are seeking executive office. They are different elections, because their function is different. The legislative contests deserve an attention they have not received.
We hope that the next legislature - which has been so neglected during these elections - does not carry out their work tied to commitments with their party leadership or with the elected executive, but with the Mexican men and women who, having voted or not for their candidacies, make up the Mexican nation and are the ones with whom they must make laws.
Today, in response to the current election process, the zapatistas declare ourselves to be in favor of an authentic balance of powers. Not just in the exercise of their duties, but also in the fight for seats. It is as important to know about the proposals and positions of those candidates seeking to be deputies and senators as it is to know of those of the presidential candidates. The end of presidentialism is a condition for democracy in Mexico.
Fourth. - The current national election process has not been equitable. The entire government apparatus has been mobilized for the PRI. Vote buying, coercion, favors, threats and favoritism by some media: all of these have been employed in trying to impose the PRI candidate: Francisco Labastida Ochoa. Some of these inequities have been appropriately noted by national and international observers, by non-governmental organizations and by the honest press.
Today, in response to the current election process, the zapatistas denounce that it is not an election of citizens responding to political proposals, and those who represent them, but rather a state election, with the opposition confronting not only the official party, but the entire machinery of the Mexican state. No election can be called "democratic" under these conditions.
Fifth. - Despite the government's overwhelming and scandalous support for the PRI campaign, the discontent of the citizens has become ever more eloquent. There is talk today of the possibility that the PRI might not win the necessary votes to take the presidency, and that the next president of Mexico could be from the opposition.
In response to this possibility, in addition to material resources of the most varied kind, an argument has been mobilized: instability. As during every six-year change in administration, warnings are raining down from the government and related circles concerning the catastrophes that will befall we Mexicans if a non-PRI person were to reach the presidency. War, devaluations, flight of capital, social discontent, rises in prices, bankruptcies, unemployment, chaos.
One does not have to go far to remember what Zedillo warned (after Colosio's assassination secured him the candidacy) if a government were to be elected from a party other than the official one. Under Zedillo, the following took place: the crisis of December 1994, the renewal of the war in the Mexican Southeast, the failure to implement the San Andre's Accords, the killings at Aguas Blancas and El Charco in the state of Guerrero, the Acteal killing, the entrance by the PFP into UNAM, the death of undocumented Mexicans in the US, the assassination and extortion of Central American migrants, the flight of capital, the devaluation of the peso.
We have also suffered from an increase in social discontent, the proliferation of active armed groups, price increases in basic products, the growth of unemployment, FOBAPROA-IPAB, massive bankruptcies of small and mid-sized businesses, closer ties between organized crime and the federal government, impunity for white collar criminals, the jailing of social activists, militarization of indigenous areas, an increase in drug trafficking, attempts to privatize the electricity and oil industries, as well as higher education, an increase in relationships of foreign dependency. In sum: the destruction of Mexico as a free and sovereign country. The only good thing about Se~or Zedillo's administration is that it is almost at an end.
Today, in response to the current election process, the zapatistas remember that all the catastrophes and human suffering have fallen on us during, and because of, PRI governments. During the more than 70 years in which the PRI has governed Mexico, all those disasters have occurred which they assume could only take place with a different party in power. It is difficult for us to imagine that it could be worse with the opposition in government.
Sixth. - The mere possibility of an opposition candidate reaching the presidency has provoked nonsense and stunts, but not just in government ranks. Responding to the advance of opposition electoral options, the idea of the "useful vote" (or its pleasant variant: the "conditional vote") has arisen in certain intellectual and political sectors.
Specifically, the possibility of the Alliance for Change (PAN-PVEM) candidate, Vicente Fox, winning a significant number of votes has unleashed a real offensive against the Alliance for Mexico (PRD-PT-PAS-CD-PSN) candidate, Cuauhte'moc Ca'rdenas Solo'rzano, to withdraw and to join Se~or Fox in his presidential race. The arguments for this political juggling act vary in complexity, but they can be summarized by the following: the most important thing is to throw the PRI out of Los Pinos, Fox has a chance, ergo, Ca'rdenas should turn his lack of a chance into Fox's chance and thus assure victory over the PRI (and over the Alliance for Mexico, but they don't mention that in the argument).
Those who are proposing this are proposing that electoral options no longer be political (programs for the nation and positions regarding the country's different problems), and that the electorate not have a chance to support one or another political force, according to whether or not he identifies with it.
Engineer Ca'rdenas' resignation from the election fight for the presidency, and his joining Vicente Fox's campaign, would not mean merely the resignation of a person and the adding of his votes to those of the Alliance for Change candidate. It would also mean the disappearance of a leftist electoral option in the struggle for the presidency. We are not unaware that there is a debate over whether or not Ca'rdenas and the PRD belong to the left. We believe that they are still part of the left, with all the connotations and criticisms that might provoke, and noting - and insisting - that the political left is broader than Cardenism, and, obviously, than the PRD.
Eliminating the left from the political spectrum, that is, from a peaceful path for political change: what option would then remain for the millions of Mexicans who have their hopes and efforts committed to profound social change? Abstaining? The guerrillas?
It is obvious that Se~ores Vicente Fox and Cuauhte'moc Cardenas represent two different programs for the country. Each of their proposals have the backing of millions of citizens. The judgment as to which of them is best will not be made by the number of votes they receive, but in the results they achieve when they reach government.
The campaign by engineer Ca'rdenas is something more than a campaign for the presidency. It is, for millions of Mexican men and women, an argument for being of the left and for fighting for changes without having to resort to the clandestine, to illegality, to armed struggle.
Engineer Ca'rdenas' withdrawal from the election would mean the withdrawal (at last for now) of the partisan and institutional left from peaceful and electoral change.
Sooner or later, history comes to settle its accounts. Those who have called on the EZLN to support the PRD, "because, even though they don't convince us politically, it is better than the PRI, and not voting for the PRD will help the PRI win in Chiapas," are now confronting the same pragmatic argument. Now that they themselves are responding that "principles are the main thing," they have the answer to the question: "Why aren't the zapatistas voting for the PRD in Chiapas?"
For zapatistas, politics is a question of principles. Not just of principles, but also of principles. Those who hold to the principles of social change, and civil and peaceful struggle in order to achieve them, should work accordingly, without regard to adversity or circumstances, if they want to have legitimacy in the Mexico of below.
Today, in response to the current election process, the zapatistas express our support for respect for this kind of civil and peaceful struggle, and in which all political options (the right and the left, to use geographical terms) are represented, in such a way that the citizen can truly choose among them. We reject the argument of the "useful vote."
Seventh. - The Federal Electoral Institute, in addition to organizing the elections, will be the one who, by law, says who the winners are in the upcoming elections.
Despite the wave of complaints from the opposition and from non-governmental organizations, the president of the IFE has jumped the gun by stating that it will be a "clean and transparent" election. Not only does he make risky prophecies, this gentleman is also demanding that opposition candidates and citizens unconditionally support his verdict, and that we accept the results of an election that has not even been held yet. The president of the IFE asks us to award a "10" to a job that has not yet been completed.
A multitude of frauds, even before the election, are already being carried out (vote buying, conditioning of government programs, unfairness in media coverage, threats, blackmail, etcetera), and it does not look as if there is any capacity for safeguarding and preventing, even beyond the ballot boxes, fraudulent activities from taking place.
It must be pointed out that the IFE, has, on some occasions, been used for things which have nothing to do with their duties. A large number of zapatistas do not have voting credentials. This is because IFE personnel in Chiapas in charge of photo credentials in this state are conspiring with military intelligence services. The information and photographs for the credentials are being "provided" to the federal Army so that, with the help of "informers," they can identify the zapatistas and their peoples. The IFE as an arm of counterinsurgency.
It cannot be denied that participation of citizens in the IFE is a step forward, and that some of its members have resisted strong pressures by the government and by the PRI. But no one can be asked to accept the results of a process prior to its being carried out, especially in a country like Mexico, where elections are synonymous with a parallel world replete with "crazy mice" and Operation Tamales," and other etceteras which surpass any piece of literary fiction.
Today, in response to the current election process, the zapatistas state that electoral fraud is already underway, and there is nothing to guarantee that the day of July 2, 2000 will not end with a brazen imposition with serious consequences.
Eighth. - For zapatistas, democracy is much more than an electoral contest or changes in power. But it is also an election fight, if it is clean, equitable, honest and plural.
That is why we say that electoral democracy is not sufficient for democracy, but it is an important part of it. That is why we are not anti-election. We believe political parties have a role to play (nor are we anti-party, although we have criticisms of party doings).
We believe that the elections represent, for millions of persons, a space for dignified and respectable struggle.
Election time is not the time for the zapatistas. Not just because of our being without face and our armed resistance. But also, and above all, for our devotion to finding a new way of doing politics, which has little or nothing to do with the current one.
We want to find a politics which goes from below to above, one in which "governing obeying" is more than a slogan; one in which power is not the objective; one in which "referendum" and "plebiscite" are more than just words which are difficult to spell; one in which an official can be removed from his position by popular election.
Concerning the political parties, we say that we do not feel represented by any of them. We are neither PRDs or PANs, even less PRIs.
We criticize the parties' distance from society, that their existence and activities are regulated only by the election calendar, the political pragmatism that goes beyond its mandate, the cynical juggling act of some of their members, their contempt for the different.
Democracy - regardless of who is in power - is the majority of people having decision making power concerning issues that concern them. It is the power of the people to sanction those in government, depending on their capacity, honesty and effectiveness.
The zapatista concept of democracy is something that is built from below, with everyone, even those who think differently from us. Democracy is the exercise of power for the people all the time and in all places.
Today, in response to the current election process, the zapatistas reaffirm our struggle for democracy. Not only for electoral democracy, but also for electoral democracy.
Ninth. - Regarding our place in the national situation, we say that we are waiting for the fulfillment of the San Andre's Accords and clear signs from the current, or next, government that there is a serious commitment to a peaceful path for resolving the war.
As long as the necessary conditions are not in place, there will be neither dialogue nor negotiation.
We do not want vain promises, or for them to tell us what we need or what suits us. Nor are we looking for employment as police officers or bodyguards.
We want an attentive ear, a true word, and a serious commitment in a dialogue which will end the war.
If, as can be expected, Se~or Zedillo's government persists in its war, in failing to honor its word, and in irresponsibility as the political rule, then the incoming government will inherit a war, the one the zapatistas declared on January 1, 1994.
In response to this war, the new government will have two options:
Continue Senor Zedillo's policies and feign solutions, while continuing to militarize, persecuting, killing and lying.
Or to fulfill the conditions for dialogue, demonstrate its seriousness and responsibility in carrying out its commitments and resolving, not just the war, but also the demands of the Indian peoples of Mexico.
There are no other options: those in power who are cherishing the idea of a "final" military solution are completely mistaken.
The EZLN cannot be annihilated militarily. Any offensive military campaign against us is doomed to last, not hours or days (as is presumed in high military circles), nor weeks, months or years either. They can try for entire decades, and the EZLN will continue, still armed and masked, demanding democracy, liberty and justice.
Whatever the new government's decision might be, regardless of its political affiliation, it will receive a consistent response from the EZLN.
If it opts for low intensity violence, pretence and deception, it will see how time passes without the problem being resolved, and it will have the EZLN's contempt and distrust.
It must be said that, in case the government were to attempt a military solution in any of its variants (whether a surgical strike, a partial or total invasion of the communities, or any form of military action), it will find itself confronted by thousands of indigenous risen up in arms, in war, ready for anything except surrender or defeat.
We will not die. Individual or collective martyrdom is not on the zapatista agenda.
For war or peace, the EZLN is ready. The new government will have the word and the opportunity to choose.
Tenth. - For all the above-mentioned, we state that:
- We will not impede the federal elections on July 2, 2000.
- The establishment of polling booths will be allowed in zapatista areas.
- No acts of sabotage will be carried out, nor any action against election facilities, IFE officials or voters.
- We will not call for voting for any of the candidates or their parties.
- Zapatista support bases will vote or not, according to their own assessment. Support bases will vote without any line and without sanction, according to their party leanings.
- For all those Mexican men and women who see the possibility of struggle in the elections, we call on them to fight on that terrain and with those means, and to defend the vote.
Brothers and sisters:
This hour is not our hour. It will be some day, when there is peace and respect for the Indian peoples. When democracy is more than an election calendar. On that day, Mexico will not be democratic just because of the zapatistas, but also because of them. On that day, we will not be fighting for a government post, but rather we will be walking alongside millions of women and men who, like us, are fighting for...
>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
By the General Command of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous
Committee of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. Mexico, June of 2000.
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa