To all Indigenous Groups in Mexico:
To National Civil Society:
Brothers and Sisters:
When the people cry out, they do not so because they want to.
They do not do so out of joy.
They do not do so because they are bored in their homes.
They do not do so because they are bored in their work.
They do so out of necessity, the sole necessity of having some bread in their lives every day.
In our country we have many brothers who are also made of flesh and blood.
Who drag themselves along, sacrificing their work in search of something to eat.
So that they will not wake up dead tomorrow.
So that tomorrow will have day.
Not a day of joy.
Only so that they might live without ceasing to breathe with the lungs nature has gifted them with.
The poor, the worst off of all, do not even think.
They cannot even think about enjoying free moments with their sad family at some table filled with smiles.
Many men and women in our country have begun suffering the misery doubly, by ending their sad lives, taking poison, because they realize that they no longer have any other solution, because of the unbearable crises they have experienced ever since their infancy, ever since their childhood and since they became an adult.
Many of our fellow men also end up tying a noose around their necks, and they kill themselves with no remorse, and they do not do so out of manliness, nor because they are crazy, nor because of some illness.
No, they do not do so because they want to. Some do so because they are ridden with debt, with no means of paying it.
They do not do so out of laziness, because they do not want to work.
They do so because their work does not allow them enough for necessities.
Because the cost of what they buy is higher than their humble salary.
Some kill themselves because they realize that life does not even have a future waiting for them, even though they go to work from 6 to 6.
They become ill from working so hard, they become malnourished from working so hard, from working so hard without seeing any returns, and their old age comes early from working so hard.
The same thing happens with the children. Many do not go to their classes because their papas do not have money to buy them their school materials for their studies.
Many cannot study because they cannot cover the cost, and even less so with financial cooperation.
Mexico also has men and women of blood who struggle against what they can see with their eyes: injustice, inequality.
For making use of their conscience, for worrying about the entire weight of the cross carried by their people. They confront patiently so that their demands will be resolved and listened to.
Through this unending struggle, we see these men and women being chipped away with words. We see their hands being tied and we see them being beaten.
We see their mouths gagged, being pistol whipped.
We see them tortured with electric prods.
We see them mutilated with a coup de grace to the head.
We see them tortured, their fingers being chopped off with blades.
We see them being undressed in the cold of night, being thrown into some tank of water.
We see how, because they are honest with their struggle, crimes are invented for them.
We see our older brothers imprisoned for 5 to 10 years in order to pay for their crime of fighting and of speaking the truth.
On the other hand, we also see our assassins being safeguarded and protected by the law.
For being so cruel and for killing humble men.
For being such brilliant planners of repression against the people in struggle.
That is why they are promoted to very high positions, as a reward, according to how violent they are.
That is how the Mexican people have been manipulated. That is how they have trampled on our dignity.
The blood of the poor, the lives of the poor, have served as an elevator for vampires made men.
I am somewhat ignorant of the Constitution and the laws in the country.
Even if I were to read it, I would not understand it as many Mexicans do.
But I do understand that when someone has committed some infraction, he should be punished according to the gravity of the crime.
All Mexicans, whether or not we know how to read, have heard of the "rule of law."
And I ask myself, what is that?
I answer myself, I do not understand how the great majority of Mexicans do not equally not understand it.
We do not understand because they have changed its meaning to a bad one, which only favors the minority which has acted as the protector of the wealth of just a few.
It has allowed them to steal from us the little we have, for freedom of expression. They have a law which protects their use of the law. But there are millions who have been violated, and our violators have gone unpunished, and the ones doing that are the leaders and government employees.
There is also a law which supposedly protects our humble homes, so that no one can enter without authorization. But, in this instance, they have not only broken down doors, they have burned and destroyed entire houses. They have invaded and seized ejidal lands.
We do not understand very well that it is the Department of Agrarian Reform's function to grant certificates of agrarian rights to the campesinos, with the understanding that their land is untouchable if they have the certificate - where is its use?
We are asking this question again!
Where is the protection supposedly offered by agrarian certificates, when they invade our lands, when they build their factories in our places of work, and we suffer the damages they inflict for our entire lives.
If we demand our rights, we are humiliated. If we defend ourselves and offer resistance, they kill us.
Currently there are thousands of men who are deprived of their rights in jail for having organized.
Consequently, there are thousands of boys and girls who are going through difficult times, without any money to buy their clothes and medicine and with no way of continuing their studies.
Many, many women have been left humiliated because their companeros have been carried off to jail.
It makes our hearts weep, we the poor, for our disappeared fighters and examples who have left their children forever.
Many desperate children, growing up without knowing their parents.
Many women widowed, in desperate circumstances, without hope of a better future.
These lives are without price. It cannot be paid for in money, this spilled blood. It is possible to be respected, by making an effort to understand that what they want is respect for their rights and equity in justice, without distinction.
This closed conscience - the changing of these lives is in your hands, carrying out what is within your reach.
You can guarantee the rights, denied for many years, in order to achieve peace.
Achieving peace depends on your conviction. It depends very much on your decisions.
Today you have two paths to follow and to decide upon: the one which helps peace, or the one which is silent in the face of war.
If you want Mexico to begin living in peace, you will have to make use of your ears and take on the task of legislating indigenous rights and culture, which will benefit all the indigenous groups in our country.
You can stop the persecution of the indigenous, the imprisonment of indigenous, the spilling of indigenous blood, the death of indigenous.
We are calling on you for this.
Learn to listen, carry out your commitments with sensitivity. Let us change Mexico with actions. Let us leave stubbornness behind.
Let us put racism and exclusion aside.
There has been so much talk about change in this country, but this change does not exist for us.
Because as long as indigenous groups are looked upon as foreigners, there will never be change.
The change we want should start from the communities, from the individual places, from the ranches, from the municipalities, so that the people and government, together, can say that now change has indeed arrived.
Because if only the ones above say it, that will mean only change for a few, as we have experienced up to now.
Brother Senators, Sister Senators:
Brother Deputies, Sister Deputies:
You did not come to occupy these places on your strength alone.
Do nor forget that it was thanks to the people, I repeat, thanks to the students, to the housewives, to the campesinos, to the indigenous, to the workers, to the taxi drivers, to the drivers, to the shop owners and street vendors, to the artists, to the teachers, to the doctors, to the neighbors, to the mechanics, to the engineers, to the lawyers and to the people of Mexico in general.
This working class which makes up our Mexico lent their time, they went to the ward they belong to, they waited in line in order to mark their ballots with an "X".
They made use of their right, putting up with hunger. Some came on foot, others came on horseback, on burros, on bicycles. And others came by paying their fare, spending their sole centavo which they had earned from their work or from selling their product.
They gave you that vote of confidence, and they did not so out of pleasure. Nor did they do so because they thought you were attractive.
They went where they had to go, and they knew how to listen, they marked their paper for you, because they trusted in you to respond to their problems which they have every day.
Some suffer persecution. Others suffer from the fabrication of crimes. Others because they want their pieces of land to be legalized, and others for other necessities.
Do not, in response to these problems, turn the "X" they awarded you into a cross of forgetting.
And, since you demonstrated your capacity for listening, we also want to see your capacity for legislating the rights of the indigenous peoples.
You owe the people much. This debt cannot be paid with money.
If you want to gain the trust of the Mexican people, if you want to pay your debt, if you want to be loyal and faithful to the words you spoke during your campaigns...today is the moment to fulfill it. Today is the moment for settling accounts, so that what you promised does not end up remaining just promises.
Carry out your responsibility for the good of Mexico. Carrying it out will also benefit you, improving your political careers.
As far as we are concerned, we are not telling you to stop your work.
No, we are not thinking that. It is up to you, but, above anything else, carry it out and work if you want to be good representatives of the people.
To be a representative requires much responsibility, seriousness, commitment and, always, thinking of a future for everyone.
>From the Legislative Halls of San La'zaro, Congress of the Union.
Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee
- General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
Mexico, March of 2001.
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN _______________________ Translated by irlandesa