Six years ago we wrote a letter to Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leo'n, your predecessor. Now that you are the new head of the federal Executive, it is my duty to inform you that, as of today, you have inherited a war in the Mexican southeast: the one in which, on January 1, 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation declared war against the federal government in demand of democracy, liberty and justice for all Mexicans.
Since the beginning of our uprising, we have confronted the federales in accordance with military honor and the laws of war. Since then, the Army has attacked us without any military honor and in violation of international treaties. More than 70,000 federales (including some 20,000 so-called "special counterinsurgency troops") have encircled and pursued the zapatistas for 2525 days (counting today). During 2000 of those days they have been violating the Law for Dialogue, Negotiation and a Dignified Peace in Chiapas, issued by the Congress of the Union on March 10, 1995.
During these almost seven years of war, the zapatistas have resisted, and we have clashed with two federal Executives (self-styled "presidents"), two Secretaries of National Defense, six Secretaries of Government, five commissioners of "peace," five "governors" of Chiapas and a multitude of mid-level officials. All of them have already gone. Some of them are being investigated for their ties to organized crime, others are in exile or on their way, some others are unemployed.
During these almost seven years, the zapatistas have insisted, time and again, on the path of dialogue. We have done so because we have a commitment with civil society, which demanded that we silence our weapons and attempt a peaceful settlement.
Now that you are assuming the head of the federal Executive Branch, you should know that, in addition to inheriting the war of the Mexican southeast, you are inheriting the possibility of choosing how you will have to confront it.
During your campaign, and since July 2, you, Senor Fox, have said time and again that you are going to choose dialogue in order to confront our demands. Zedillo said the same during the months which preceded his inauguration, and, nonetheless, two months later he ordered a large military offensive against us.
You can understand that distrust in all things having to do with government, regardless of which political party it belongs to, has indelibly marked our thoughts and actions.
If we were to add the series of ill-considered contradictions and frivolities, spewed by you and those accompanying you, to our understandable mistrust in the face of the words of power, then it is also my duty to point out to you that, as far as the zapatistas are concerned (and I believe not only with the zapatistas), you are starting from scratch as far as credibility and trust are concerned.
We cannot trust someone who has displayed superficiality and ignorance by noting that the indigenous demands will be resolved with "'vocho', TV and little shops."
We cannot believe someone who tries to "ignore" (that is, "grant amnesty to") the hundreds of crimes committed by paramilitaries and their bosses by granting them immunity.
We are not inspired to trust someone who, with the short-sightedness of managerial logic, has a government plan to turn the indigenous into mini-micro businesspersons or into employees of this administration's businessperson. At the end of the day, this plan is nothing other than an attempt to continue the ethnocide which, under different methods, neoliberalism in Mexico is carrying forward.
That is why it is good for you to know that none of this shall prosper in zapatista lands. Your program of "disappearing an indigenous and creating a businessperson" will not be allowed on our soil. Here, and under many other Mexican skies, the indigenous self does not have to do only with blood and origin, but also with the vision of life, death, culture, land, history, the future.
Those who have tried to annihilate them with weapons have failed. Those who try to eliminate them by turning them into "businesspersons" will fail.
Note that I have said that, as for the zapatistas, you are starting from scratch as far as credibility and trust are concerned. This means that you have nothing negative, yet, to overcome (because it is only fair to point out that you have not attacked us). You can, then, prove those right who are counting on your government's repeating the nightmare of the PRI for all Mexicans, especially for the zapatistas. Or you can, starting from scratch, begin to build through acts what every government needs for their work: credibility and trust. The demilitarization which you have continuously been announcing (although it varies from "total withdrawal", ""repositioning'" and "reaccomodation", which are not the same things, something which you, your soldiers, and we know) is a beginning, not sufficient, but indeed necessary.
Not only in Chiapas, but above all in Chiapas, you can prove those right who desire your failure, or those who are giving you the benefit of the doubt, or who are simply placing in you that which is called "hope."
Senor Fox: Unlike your predecessor Zedillo (who came to power through assassination and with the support of that corrupt monster which is the State party system), you reached the federal Executive thanks to the repudiation the PRI carefully cultivated among the people. You know it well, Senor Fox: you won the election, but you did not defeat the PRI. It was the citizens. And not just those who voted against the State party, but also those from previous and current generations who, one way or another, resisted and fought the culture of authoritarianism, impunity and crime built by PRI governments throughout 71 years.
Although there is a radical difference in the way you came to power, your political, social and economic program is the same we have been suffering under during the last administrations. A program for the country which means the destruction of Mexico as a nation and its transformation into a department store, something like a mega "little shop" which sells human beings and natural resources at prices dictated by the world market. The veiled privatization projects of the electric industry, the oil and education, and the IVA which is trying to be imposed on medicines and food, are just a small part of the great "restructuring" plan which the neoliberals have for Mexico.
Not only that. With you, we are contemplating the return of moralina positions, whose hallmarks are intolerance and authoritarianism. It was not insignificant that, with the July 2 results, the denominational right unleashed an offensive of persecution and destruction. This has been suffered by women (raped or not), young people, artists and playwrights, homosexuals and lesbians. Along with pensioners and retired persons, along with the handicapped, along with the indigenous, and along with the 70 million Mexican poor, these groups are called "the minorities." In "your" Mexico, Senor Fox, these "minorities" have no place.
We object to this Mexico, and we shall do so in a radical way.
It may or may not concern you whether a group of Mexicans, primarily indigenous in addition, are not in agreement with your mercantile plans and with the belligerence of the right. But you should not forget that, if the PRI lost power, it was because the majority of Mexicans rebelled and managed to throw it out.
That rebellion has not ended.
You and your team, since July 2, have done nothing but insist that citizens should return to conformity and immobility. But it will not be like that, your neoliberal program will confront the resistance of millions.
Some members of your cabinet and those close to it are saying that the EZLN should understand that the country has changed, that they (the zapatistas) have no other recourse than to accept it, surrender, take off their ski-masks and make a credit application in order to set up a little shop, buy a TV and make installment payments on a compact car.
They are wrong. We ourselves are fighting for change, but for us "change" means "democracy, liberty and justice." The PRI's defeat was a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for the country to change. Many things are still missing, you and the little politicians in your cabinet know this. Many things are missing, and, most importantly, millions of Mexican men and women now know it.
The indigenous, for example, are missing. Missing is the recognition of their rights and culture which, believe me, have nothing to do with offers of business promotion. Missing is the demilitarization and deparamilitarization of the indigenous communities. Missing is the release of prisoners of conscience. Missing are the political disappeared. Missing is the reconstruction and defense of national sovereignty. Missing is an economic program which would satisfy the needs of the most poor. Missing are citizens being so full-time. Missing are the politicians being held to account. But peace is also missing.
Senor Fox: for more than six years your predecessor, Zedillo, feigned a willingness to dialogue and made war against us. He chose confrontation and he lost. Now you have the opportunity to choose.
If you choose the path of sincere, serious and respectful dialogue, you will simply be demonstrating your willingness with actions. Rest assured that you will have a positive response from the zapatistas. That is how dialogue can be reinitiated and, soon, the true peace will be begun being built.
In the public communique' which we are attaching, the EZLN announces the demand for a series of minimal signals by the federal Executive. If they are made, everything will be ready to return to dialogue.
What will be at stake is not whether we are opposed to what you represent and what you mean for our country. There should be no doubt about this: we are your opponents. What will be at stake is whether this opposition takes place through civil and peaceful channels, or if we must continue raised up in arms and with faces covered until we achieve what we are seeking, which is nothing other, Senor Fox, than democracy, liberty and justice for all Mexicans.
Vale. Salud, and let us hope that there will be a new dawn in Mexico and in Chiapas.
>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
By the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee
- General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa