The Basque Country: Paths

Marcos accepts Garzón's gauntlet

Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
December 7, 2002.

To: Señor Fernando Baltasar Garzón Real
Magistrate-Judge of the No. 5 Central Trial Court of the Supreme Court
Calle Garc'a Gutiérrez 1 28.004
Madrid, Spain.

Senor Baltasar Garzón:

I read the letter which you addressed to me, dated this December 3, 200,2 and which was published on the 6th in the Mexican newspaper El Universal. In it, in addition to allowing yourself to insult me with all kinds of labels, you challenged me to a debate at the place and time of my choosing.

I am informing you that I accept the challenge and (as mandated by the laws of knight-errantry), given that I am the man challenged, it is up to me to set the conditions of the meeting.

These are the conditions:

FIRST. The debate will be held in the Canary Islands, more specifically on Lanzarote, from April 3 to 10, 2003.

SECOND. Señor Fernando Baltasar Garzón Real shall secure the necessary and sufficient guarantees and safe-conduct, from the Spanish government as well as from the Mexican, so that the knight who has been challenged and six of his gallants can attend the duel and return home safely. The expenses for the trip and accommodations for Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos and his delegation will be borne by the EZLN, which are coyucos, tostadas, beans and pozol. In addition, insofar as spending the night, the knight-errant (or seafaring-knight) will need no roof other than the dignified Canary sky.

THIRD. In the same place as the debate, parallel to but not simultaneously, a meeting will be held between all the political, social and cultural actors in the Basque problem who so desire. The theme of the meeting will be "The Basque Country: Paths."

FOURTH. Señor Baltasar Garzón Real shall attend that meeting, in order to speak and to listen. He should also make a great effort to convince the Spanish government to contribute, through détente measures, to creating a favorable atmosphere for the event. He should also urge them to send a delegation to the meeting, regardless of their decision making capacity, since they are only being asked to listen and to talk.

FIFTH. The knight Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos shall attend said meeting, but only to listen, because the issue is something which is the responsibility of the sovereignty of the Basque people alone.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos shall, in addition, address the Basque organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (better known by its initials: ETA), asking them for a unilateral truce for 177 days, during which time the ETA shall not carry out any offensive military actions. The ETA truce shall begin on the dawn of December 24, 2002.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos shall, similarly, address Basque political and social organizations, and the Basque people as a whole, inviting them to organize and to carry out the above mentioned meeting.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos shall also address Spanish and Basque civil society, asking them to mobilize for the "An Opportunity For the Word" campaign, whose purpose is to pressure the Spanish government and the ETA to create, throughout the entire Iberian peninsula, suitable conditions for the meeting.

SIXTH. The winner of the debate will be chosen by a panel of judges made up of seven persons, all of them from the Spanish State. Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos yields to Señor Fernando Baltasar Garzón Real the privilege of naming four of the members of the panel of judges and of designating who shall preside over it and, in the case of a draw by way of abstention, of deciding through casting a tie breaking vote, who is the winner in the joust. The other three members of the panel of judges shall be invited by the EZLN.

SEVENTH. If Señor Fernando Baltasar Garzón Real defeats Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos fairly and squarely, he will have the right to unmask him once, in front of whomever he wishes. Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos shall, in addition, publicly apologize and will be subjected to the actions of Spanish justice so that they may torture him (just like they torture the Basques when they are detained) and he may answer to the charges which abound in Señor Garzón Real's latter dated April 3, 2003.

If, on the other hand, Señor Fernando Baltasar Garzón Real is fairly defeated, he will commit himself to legally advising the EZLN on the charges which &endash; as perhaps the last peaceful zapatista recourse, and in front of international legal bodies &endash; will be presented in order to demand the recognition of indigenous rights and culture, which, in violation of international laws and common sense, have not been recognized by the three branches of the Mexican government.

In addition, he shall &endash; if he is able and if he so desires &endash; represent the EZLN legally in front of those international bodies, ONLY as regards the demand for the legal recognition of our rights and culture.

This is owing to the fact that charges will also be presented for crimes against humanity by Señor Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, responsible for the Acteal killing (perpetrated in the mountains of the Mexican southeast in December of 1997), where 45 indigenous children, women, men and old ones were executed. As will be remembered, Señor Zedillo was recently awarded by Señor José Mar'a Aznar, the head of the Spanish government, for his participation in the killings.

Charges will similarly be presented against the heads of state of the Spanish government who, during Señor Zedillo's administration in Mexico, were his accomplices in that, and other, attacks against the Mexican Indian peoples.

These conditions are not negotiable, and Señor Fernando Baltasar Garzón Real shall respond, in a reasonable time period, as to whether or not he accepts them. The details of the debate, on the other hand, can be agreed to by the teams of seconds of the challenger and the challenged.

Señor Fernando Baltasar Garzón Real: as you can see in the copies of the letters I am attaching, I have already begun the task of carrying out the part that I am responsible for.

From one Spaniard to another &endash; since a quarter Spanish blood runs through my veins &endash; I hope that you understand now and that you will be willing to carry on the debate to which you have challenged me.

You have the opportunity to choose: either putting your knowledge and skills at the service of a just and noble cause (and, incidentally, of demonstrating that international justice does not serve only to endorse wars and hide criminals), or of continuing where you are, receiving strokes from those who are above because they are on top of the blood and pain of those of below.

Vale. Salud, and may all this serve to give the word a chance.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

December of 2002.

PS. Know, Your Honor, that all the insults you lavished on me in your letter left me practically u-n-m-o-v-e-d. What did hurt me, a lot, was the remark about the "ridiculous pipe." That's why I'm carving a new one now. You'll see, it will be all the rage when it shows up on the Gran V'a or La Ramblas. By the way, can you smoke in front of the Cibeles?

ANOTHER PS. That stuff about the "boat adrift" has me worried. You mean that the coasts which are looming now aren't those of El Hierro island (considered to be the end of the world until the discovery of America), but those of the island of Java? I already said, when we passed along one side of Krakatoa, that, as usual and in honor the "zapatistas," we had chosen the longest path. Sigh.

Letters to Basque and Spanish civil society and to ETA on a projected encuentro in Lanzarote, simultaneous with the projected duel/debate with Garzón. imprimir art'culo / print article autojustificar texto

[The following are a series of 4 letters, or communiqués, from Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, to ETA, and to Basque and Spanish civil society, in explanation and support of an encuentro, to be held in Lanzarote this April, for all those parties affected by, and interested in, the Basque issue. It is to be held simultaneously, but not concurrently, with the projected duel/debate between Marcos and Judge Garzón &endash; irl]

La Jornada
Monday, December 9, 2002.


Zapatista Army of National Liberation
December 7, 2002.

To: Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) political-military organization.
Basque Country.
From: Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am writing you in the name of the children, old ones, women and men of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, of Mexico.

As you perhaps know, we recently, in a letter that was read on Spanish territory, referred to the struggle of the Basque people for their sovereignty. Despite the fact that the text clearly made reference to the Basque political struggle, and not the military one, the words were intentionally ambiguous regarding the activities of your organization, ETA.

The purpose of the ambiguity was to provoke what we did, in fact, provoke. We are not unaware that we placed the moral capital at risk which the zapatistas have won throughout the world, in particular in the Iberian peninsula, but it was necessaryÉthen.

You and we know quite well that the EZLN has not merely not carried out any military action against civilians. You also know that we condemn those types of attacks, which usually claim the greatest number of victims among persons who do not even know what the issue is about.

Your actions have caused not a few civilian victims. Among them are persons who sympathized with our cause and who, like the rest of the civilian victims, died with the anguish of not knowing why.

We believe that the struggle of the Basque people for their sovereignty is just and legitimate, but neither that noble cause, nor any other, is justification for the sacrifice of civilian lives. It not only does not produce any political gain whatsoever, but, even if it were to produce it, the human cost is irredeemable. We condemn military actions which harm civilians. And we condemn them equally, whether they come from the ETA or the Spanish State, from Al Qaeda or from George W. Bush, from Israelis or Palestinians, or from whomever, under different names or initials - whether in the name of reasons of State, or ideological or religious ones - claims its victims among children, women, old ones and men who have nothing to do with the matter.

I also know that that the thousands of Basques who have been executed, tortured and disappeared by the State forces are not included among the calculations of dead and wounded made by the Spanish government. I am not, however, writing to you in order to compare numbers of dead. We would surpass some, since there have been millions of Mexican indigenous who have, since the Spanish conquest, fallen. And we shall not set our dead up to be compared with anyone.

No, I am not writing to you to speak of what has happened before.

A few days ago, the Spanish Judge, Fernando Baltasar Garzón Real, challenged me to a debate. I have responded affirmatively to him, and I have set as a condition, among others, that an encuentro be held among all the political, social and cultural forces which are involved or interested in the problems of the Basque Country, so that they can talk about, and listen to, the Basque paths.

Similarly, in the name of all my compañeros and compañeras, I am asking you to declare a unilateral truce for a period of 177 days, beginning at dawn on December 24, 2002. I am also asking you to publicly commit yourselves to not carrying out any offensive military operation during that period, and thus contribute to creating an atmosphere which is conducive for that encuentro, that is, in order to give the word a chance.

It would be good if Euskadi Ta Askatasuna could send one or several delegates to speak and to listen - not to negotiate or to agree to anything - to The Basque Country: Paths encuentro. I know they would be taking risks, but, if you are willing to die or to be taken prisoner in military actions you carry out, I do not see why you would not be willing to suffer the same in a political action.

That is what I am asking of you, not to surrender, not to abandon your arms or convictions. I am only asking that you give the word a chance, and thus honor the great risk which we zapatistas have, and will be, taking. In case you do not accept, I am offering myself up personally as an opportune victim for your next attack. You could accuse me of "collaborating" with the Spanish State (which would be quite paradoxical, since Spanish officials are accusing me of being an "apologist for terrorism"). The argument is the least of the problem. There will be no reproaches or reprisals on our part, since I, at least, will then know why I died. I await your response.

Vale. Salud, and an opportunity for peace.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
December of 2002.



Zapatista Army of National Liberation
December 7, 2002.

To all the political, social, cultural and religious forces of the Basque Country, regardless of their ideology.
From Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

Ladies, Gentlemen and Children:

I am writing you in the name of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, in order to invite you to join together and embrace the "AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE WORD" mobilization, which is an attempt to secure a suitable atmosphere from ETA and the Spanish government for the holding of "The Basque Country: Paths" encuentro.

This encuentro is to be held on the island of Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, from April 3 through 7 of 2003, and its only purpose is to try and change the warlike logic that abounds throughout the world.

We are also asking you to embrace that encuentro, to organize it and to participate in it, in the time and manner you find most suitable.

The encuentro is meant to be one of the conditions we set for the holding of the debate to which Judge Baltasar Garzón challenged us. If it is not held, however, or if some misfortune or contretemps prevents the joust from being celebrated, we are respectfully asking you to somehow hold that encuentro at the place and date that is most convenient for you.

I shall not go on any further so that I do not repeat what is already in the letters I am attaching.

We are certain that this initiative, if successful, will become a ray of hope for all the peoples of the earth.

May I reiterate our greetings, our respect and our admiration.

Vale. Salud, and is it not worthwhile giving the word a chance?

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
December of 2002.


Zapatista Army of National Liberation
December 7, 2002.

To Spanish and Basque Civil Society.
Iberian Peninsula,
Planet Earth.

From Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

Ladies, gentlemen and children:

I am writing you in the name of the old ones, women, children and men of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, of Mexico, in order to extend our greetings.

Recently, a letter of ours, read in the Madrid Aguascalientes, unleashed a polemic and a condemnation of us, because the missive was ambiguous regarding the activities of the ETA Basque organization. Despite the fact that, at the beginning of the epistle, it warned that "nothing is by chance with the zapatistas," and the fact that we clearly referred to the political, and not the armed, struggle, of the Basque people, there was an attempt to interpret the lack of an explicit condemnation of terrorism as support by the EZLN for ETA and their actions.

I should tell you that the ambiguity was intentional, as well as the entire tone of the letter. We sought to provoke the Spanish temperament of a man, and to thus set in motion a noble and honest initiative, which, insofar as the part which concerns us, represents perhaps the last opportunity for achieving a peaceful, dignified resolution of our demands, which are, as everyone knows, the recognition of indigenous rights and culture.

You know quite well that we do not practice terrorism, and that we have, on numerous occasions, in written and spoken statements, condemned terror, from wherever it comes. And, if we did not make it explicit this time, it was for reasons which will soon be clearly discerned.

For the victims of ETA and of the Spanish State, among whom are not a few sympathizers with our cause, our sincere apologies if we were lacking in respect for your pain through that ambiguity. We desire, with all our hearts, for you to understand us, and for you, someday, to forgive us for our part.

We also regret that your suffering has been manipulated by the Spanish government in order to distract, and in that way cover up, their criminal inefficiency in the ecological catastrophe which is befalling the noble Galician people, who have demonstrated that they can organize and resolve their problem while those who govern are appearing in the social pages of the Madrid newspapers.

As you know, Judge Fernando Baltasar Garzón Real has challenged me to a public debate on various issues. We have decided to accept the debate and to set, as one of the conditions, that an encuentro be held among those interested in and affected by the Basque problem, so that they can talk and listen, without bombs, bullets and arrest warrants. The theme of the encuentro is The Basque Country: Paths.

In order to carry out this encuentro, I have already addressed the Basque organization ETA, through a letter, in order to ask them to declare a 177 day unilateral truce (beginning this December 24), and, therefore, foster a suitable environment for the encuentro to be held.

We feel that something should be done in order to change the criminal framework which is currently being imposed in the entire sphere. Terror can be fought with terror, but it cannot win. Legal arguments can be used to justify torture, disappearances, assassinations, but they do not do away with those who, with ideological or religious arguments, justify the deaths of others.

We are presented in today's world with a syllogistic option which, like all syllogistic options, is a trap. It forces us to choose between one terror and another, and criticizing one implies supporting the other. In this case, it forces us to choose between the terrorism of ETA or the terrorism of the Spanish State, and, if we distance ourselves from one, then we are accomplices of the other. You and we know that the alternative is not one thing or the other, but what is built as a new path, a new world.

It would be beautifully just and instructive if - in the midst of a polarized world, where death and destruction vary only in their arguments and their injustices (where condemning the punitive actions of Bush equals supporting Bin Laden's fundamentalist madness) - it were to be the Iberian peninsula where a space would be opened in order to give an opportunity for the word.

It would be marvelous if it were Iberian dignity which would be the one to tell the entire world that it is possible, and necessary, to give the word a chance.

For all of this, we are calling on you to mobilize throughout Hispanic soil, in order to demand exactly that of the Spanish government and ETA: an opportunity for the word.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
December of 2002.


Zapatista Army of National Liberation
December 7, 2002.

To the Basque political, social and cultural organizations of the left.
Basque Country.

From Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

Brothers and sisters:

I am writing you in the name of the children, old ones, women and men of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation of Mexico, and I greet all of you with respect and admiration.

I believe I would not be in error to assume that you are well aware of the polemic which has been unleashed because of the zapatista letter which was read in the Madrid Aguascalientes in late November of this year.

As you shall see in the attached letter, I have accepted the challenge to debate, which Judge Baltasar Garzón leveled at me. Given that I am the challenged, and it is up to me to set the conditions, I have answered him that one of those conditions is that an encuentro be held, parallel with the debate, among all the political and cultural forces involved in the problem of the Basque Country which are so willing. I have also written to the ETA, asking them to declare a unilateral truce for 177 days beginning this December 24, for the purpose of creating conditions suitable for holding this encuentro.

There then, that is a brief summary. You can see more details in the letters I mentioned. But I am writing specifically to you for several reasons.

In addition to inviting you to participate in the encuentro, I am writing you in order to ask you to join in the petition I am making to ETA, since you have the moral authority and prestige which I lack in that regard.

I am also asking you, with inclusion and tolerance, to gather together the greatest forces possible in order to organize and to hold the event. I am asking you because, historically, the left has always shown itself to be more organized than the right. The themes, pace and other issues of the encuentro should be decided by all those forces which wish to give the word a chance.

I am well aware that you, unlike the Mexican parliamentary left, do indeed have an alternative political program, not only in order to fight for Basque sovereignty, but also for the building of a system that is more just, more democratic and more free, that is, more human. That is why I am turning to you, to your experience, to your decision to struggle, to your heroism and to the moral authority which, I have no doubt, have been built within the noble Basque people. I have no doubt that there are still hitherto unknown paths for winning Basque sovereignty.

And nor do I have any doubt that those paths are now closed by the terror which is being encouraged on one side and the other.

That is why I am asking you to speak and to listen, to speak to each other and to listen to each other. Not to renounce your convictions and programs, but, instead, to have them be known in a space which should be fought for, that yes, along with all honest men and women.

I am asking you to make that space a reality. No one has anything to lose (except us, the zapatistas, but that is our specialty), and they do have much to gain.

I am asking you to dedicate your best efforts towards giving the word a chance.

Another thing (yes, I know that now I'm starting to annoy), I am asking you, even if everything goes against you and nothing turns out as you would have liked, to open that space however you can, and to call on all those who want to, to speak and to listen to what everyone has to say and hear.

Vale. Salud, and I already know that it sounds like a slogan from a street demonstration, but the word must be given a chance.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
December of 2002.

Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translated by irlandesa
La Jornada
Monday, December 9, 2002.

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