March: Veracruz, the third stele.

March: Veracruz, the third stele.

(An updated viceroy, or the PRD, a left which the right finds acceptable).

Now it is the wind, and not the hand, which turns the pages of the calendar. After a momentary disorder, as is law, happy March appears, blowing one word: VERACRUZ. Above the word, the hand and gaze follow…

Veracruz. According to the INEGI, in 2000 this state had almost 7 million residents, of which three quarters of a million were indigenous. Residing in this land are Huasteca indigenous, Tepechuas, Otom'es-Hñañúes, Totonacas, Popolocas, Mixtecos, Zapotecos, Mixes, Nahuas, Chinantecos, Mazatecos and Mayozoques.

March: the cloud cedes time to the eagle-sun, and she, with her blue grace, abandons the skies of Puebla in order to go into those of Veracruz. The eagle flies along the borders of history and resistance, the sides of the Eastern Sierra Madre. Below, close to the Tecolutla River, El Taj'n rises up. The bird soars above the plaza of Arroyo, the ballgames, the plaza of the Pyramid of the Niches. There the eagle-sun descends to the earth, not in order to recount a past history, but in order to bear witness to a current one.

The Pyramid of the Niches, the ancient calendar, now broken and remade in order to mark the days of present-day Power…with help from the police and the army.

In Veracruz, the viceroy believes he is up to date, but his method of governance is the same as the one the PRI has been using, for decades, to lacerate the lands of Mexico. Here, Señor Miguel Alemán does not carry out the tasks of government. Busy as he is in providing pictures and anecdotes for the society pages, he has handed the government over, in fact, to an Army captain: the Secretary of Public Security. He is the one in charge of dealing with the complaints of the citizens of Veracruz and of resolving their demands. He always has the same response for both: repression.

And, while Governor Alemán is making important decisions (like choosing which party he is going to attend, which photograph will show up in the newspapers, which suit he will wear to the upcoming dance), other things are taking place: potato producers in the state are losing most of their harvest. To this is added the Sabritas company's failure to purchase. The results: campesinos without product and without receipts for their products. Coffee producers in Córdoba and in other areas of the state have been mobilizing. Campesinos in Tezonapa are not asking for subsidies, but for recognition of the real price of coffee. Coffee has reached 40 pesos per kilo, while campesinos are being paid one peso or fifty centavos.

A man devoted to his public image (and therefore so concerned over his personal appearance), the viceroy has filled the indigenous areas of Veracruz with hairdressers. But these hairdressers are wearing olive green uniforms and carrying G-3 rifles. And, in addition to carrying out their aesthetic mission, they are entering into business with drug traffickers and loggers. The hills, thus, are being scalped, they are combed with narcotics plants once again, and the acting general's pockets are fattened, after he "pays off" the Señor Governor.

The "good" federal and state governments (when they allow their work to appear in the media) are carrying forward a successful economic policy: Veracruz no longer produces coffee, food, cattle. The primary export product of this state (like many others in the Mexican Republic) is now persons. Yes, each week up to 3 buses leave, full of Mexicans, headed towards the border. Their destination? The American Union. They are going in search of the food that their own land, rich as few others are, gives them, but which has been taken away from them by the voracity made business and government.

Entire families must leave everything, often to be swindled. The "pushers" frequently offer them housing and good salaries. But when they arrive they find collective dormitories and paltry salaries. And, even so, they go. Anything is better than the average 8 pesos a day they get from their work on Veracruz lands. The crisis of the small coffee producers has benefited the finqueros, who are then able to find abundant labor at a ridiculous price. The results: the rich are fewer in number, but richer; the poor are greater in number and poorer.

In the Northern Sierra of Veracruz, neither cane, nor pineapple, nor citrus are achieving a marketable price. What the countryside has produced the most is migrants, because of the budget cuts. They have also suffered severe repression from the Miguel Alemán government. Nonetheless, the transnational organization of Nahuas, Tepehuas and Otom's is moving forward. The same is true of the municipality of Texcatepec, with the organization of Otom' comuneros: the Campesino Defense Committee. In this region, the rebellion of the Hñañúes, Tepehuas and Nahuas are coming together in the Human Rights Committee of the Northern Sierra of Veracruz-Radio Huayacocotla, the Xochitépetl Human Rights Group and the Zapatista Campesino Union. The area has the enormous advantage of having the only independent community radio station in the country: Radio Huayacocotla, which transmits (at cross-purposes with the Department of Government, which has tried to close it down several times) in Nahua, Tepehua and Ñyuhú. Texcatepec is the 23rd most marginalized municipality in the country, it is the smallest municipality in the area and, despite the fact that it is so poor, they are the people who have most vigorously resisted Progresa and Procede.

Ilamatlán is another municipality which is always in resistance…as much as it can be, given that it is only the slightest bit less poor than Texcatepec. It is the 24th most marginalized municipality in the country, and the fourth at the state level. Official figures note that more than 95% of the populace of the municipality of Ilamatlán is unemployed. This municipality has come close to reversing the national percentage between employed and unemployed, which means that, for every twenty persons of working age, only one has an opportunity to do so.

In Ixhuatlán of Madero, following the repression which took place on June 14, 2001 (when the contingent of more than seven hundred men and women were attacked, who had been marching on that day to Xalapa in order to demand the building of a hospital in Campo la Mata, close to their communities, and not in the urban corridor &endash; as the governor wanted), the indigenous communities of this municipality decided to form the Ixhuateco Indigenous Front, in order to fight against the savagely repressive responses of the Miguel Alemán Velazco government.

The problem in the countryside in Veracruz can be summed up in three words: exploitation, repression and corruption.

Because those who do not leave, resist and fight. There is the Popular Indigenous Council of the Sierra of Zongolica which, joining together bilingual teachers and other social activists, is trying to become an alternative of civil and peaceful struggle.

In southern Veracruz, Nahua communities grouped together in the Popular Front of Southern Veracruz, are resisting and organizing.

In Coyutla, 90% inhabited by Totonaca indigenous, corruption, discrimination and repression produced something quite logical: rebellion. There the Coyuteco Citizens Movement, formed by the people, was born and carries on. Yes, by the people, period. There, without regard to political parties, citizens have organized, they are discussing, reaching agreements, and carrying forward their demands. Since the end of the year 2000, their demands for an end to corruption and discrimination have been met by threats, beatings and bullets. The Coyutecos, as a result, formed an Autonomous Municipal Council. When one of their meetings was attacked by government gunmen, the women went out to confront them and put them on the run. These are some of their words:

"The people are willing to continue fighting. They aren't afraid anymore, because we are organized. We have demonstrated that we are stronger than whose who buy consciences and those who have looted our town. Our cause is justice with dignity and respect for our autonomy. We Totonacas have many ways of resisting, through dance, music, fiestas, through community work (which here we call "mano vuelta"). Clothing, rites, myths and stories are part of the resistance. All of this helps us to keep our culture alive, and to defend our rights as Totonaca peoples."

And more:

"The courses of action which we see are: reaching a solution for the problems that were included in the Cocopa Law, the definitive cancellation of the Cumbre Taj'n event for commercializing the symbol of our culture, and achieving the recognition of our Autonomous Municipal Council."

Just a moment! Did they say El Taj'n? Isn't that where Viceroy Alemán boasted about having achieved the modern commercialization of history?

Yes. Señor Miguel Alemán makes fun, not without a bit of shame, of those who make their living from the sale of crafts. He doesn't sell crafts, he sells entire archeological zones. Although, certainly, there is no dearth of wet blankets:

In the Totonacapan region, in Papantla, activities are being carried out in defense of the Mexican cultural heritage and, in particular, of the archeological zone of El Taj'n. All of this at cross-purposes with Miguel Alemán's government, which is proposing the privatization of the entire zone. Alemán's objective is the color green, as in dollars. The primary public and client of the onerous events in El Taj'n are foreign. But the Front for the Defense of the Cultural Heritage (made up of various organizations) has repeatedly denounced that the government project is attempting to level the area, in order to erect a five star hotel and a casino for international tourists.

The commercialization of El Taj'n is, also, its destruction. Each time that Señor Alemán mounts his "chows" prehispanic plinths are broken in order to erect daises and banks of floodlights. The INAH is an accomplice, because it gets a cut as well.

As part of its struggle, the Front for the Defense of the Cultural Heritage has filed legal charges against the viceroy, which the "justice" system filed in the cabinet under "I" for "impossible," "inconvenient," "irreverent." But below, those who fight are continuing in the "R" of "resistance" and "rebellion."

Remodeling work is also going to be needed in the urban areas, since the marginalized areas are increasing.

In Poza Rica, a land lacerated by oil wells and pro-management unions, the past and present memory of resistance is being preserved. From the struggles of 1934 and 1958 to the fight and death (stained by the despicable conjectures) of Digna Ochoa. And so Pemex workers, teachers, health care workers, housewives and religious persons are meeting, discussing and agreeing on activities concerning the dissemination of information and in defense of the culture.

In textile areas like R'o Blanco, Nogales and Ciudad Mendoza, there is much discontent because of the lack of employment. Workers in Nogales took the factory away from the owner, but they have not received any government help to get it up and running. In Ciudad Mendoza, there are workers who have been continuing to fight against its liquidation for more than 10 years. In R'o Blanco, employment is uncertain, because the factory is running one season and closing others, the workers' contract has been modified and now they are working under conditions similar to those of Porfirio D'az' time. In Nogales, in response to the citizens' fight against having water from their spring diverted to the industrial parks, the Miguel Alemán government accused them of "sedition" and put them in jail.

In the Tezonapa region, they didn't want to recognize concessions for transportation workers of the Tuxpango Valley, despite the fact that is they who provide service to the communities. In Ixtaczoquitlan, they have been fighting for some time against the pollution caused by Apazco Cement, while congenital diseases and spontaneous abortions have been increasing around the cement factory.

In the Orizaba region, the entire town is confronting unemployment, since the industrial corridor is failing (of 5 textile factories, only one is functioning), and businesses like the beer and cement industries and Kimberly have cut back many jobs. Retired persons are protesting over the ridiculous pensions they are receiving, which aren't enough for anything, and they are saying that they won't vote, because, while officials are getting good salaries, they are giving them just a pittance for 30 or 40 years of work. The urban transportation system is planning a price increase. The lack of housing is a successful business for private construction companies, who have the support of the state and municipal governments.

Nonetheless, work is being carried out here in support of migrants ("Ricardo Zapata" Support Committee for Migrants), of women who are being subjected to violence and of sex workers (Cihuatlahtolli &endash; Woman's Word), in addition to the Woman's Organization of Jalapilla. These women were the ones who were in charge of food and security for the Zapatista March as it went through Orizaba.

The zapatista march…Orizaba…

If they told us that we could return to one place which we had visited during the march, but only one, we would choose Orizaba. Various fortunate circumstances came together there: some open, tolerant and inclusive organizers, active and committed NGOs, activist indigenous communities, local media which were especially sensitive to the indigenous cause and a particularly noble people (made up of young students, workers, housewives, residents and employed persons).

The results? What had been going to be a quick greeting from the March of the Color of the Earth turned into one of the most festive and spirited events of the entire trip. Not just in the plaza, but also in the street. All the colors, all living, were there.

All of them, even gray…

Prior to that, in December of 2000, and after the EZLN had publicly announced its intention to march to DF, during one of the meetings where the PRD legislative wing was discussing the San Andrés Accords, Deputy Rosario Tapia spoke thusly: "Compañeros, it's essential that we come to an agreement with the PRI and with the PAN in order to work out the San Andrés Accords, in order to prevent the EZLN comandancia from coming to Mexico City. That would be fatal for the PRD, and, on the other hand, it would be a victory for them and not for the Congress. And even less so for us."

A little later, when the march was getting underway, during the PRD CEN Executive Committee meeting, the PRD spokesperson (and current national Secretary General of that party), Navarrete, stated: "The primary danger for the PRD would be the EZLN's turning into a political party. The longer it takes to approve the law, the better chance we have that zapatismo will be isolated."

What started as an isolated proposal turned into a decision in Orizaba.

Orizaba, year 2001, the plaza is full…

In a corner are two political individuals: Senators Jesús Ortega (leader of the PRD wing in the Senate) and Demetrio Sodi de la Tijera (PRD member of the COCOPA). The Orizaba plaza has always been a difficult place for political demonstrations, and the two senators are here in order to bear witness to the zapatistas' failure to convene. With their faces ashen and shaken, they watch the people and listen to them. They then look at each other, understanding that everything possible must be done in order to insure that this force ultimately never…ever… enters the public arena.

On one side, Jesús Ortega, a native of Aguascalientes, former faithful follower of Rafael Aguilar Talamantes in the Socialist Workers Party, Deputy from 1979 to 1982, expelled from the PST in 1987, member of the PSM and later of the PSUM, once again Deputy from 1988 to 1991. In 1989, he joined the court closest to Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. Since 1993, his work in the IFE has allowed him to be linked with PRD groups in the states. From 1994 to 1997, he was a Deputy once again (at that time he was coordinator of the PRD wing). He was a courtier of Cárdenas until 2000, when even he advised him to retire (today he is one of his primary detractors). Now he is a Senator of the Republic and coordinator of his party wing in that chamber.

Without having ever led any social sector, without any intellectual output, without any rhetorical gifts, without any charisma whatsoever, Senator Jesús Ortega is a great example of the leaders of the Revolutionary Democratic Party.

On his right, Demetrio Sodi de la Tijera, from the DF, former director of public and private companies, General Coordinator of the DDF in the times of Ramón Aguirre, entered the PRI in 1975. He was a federal deputy for the PRI when the Salinas fraud against Cárdenas took place. He was a PRI assembly member &endash; with Salinas' blessing - in the second Local Assembly of the DF (91-94), and he was part of Manuel Camacho Sol's' group until he failed to gain the PRI's presidential nomination. He left the PRI in 1994 following the Colosio assassination. He was a leader of Civic Alliance in 1994 and a member of the San Angel Group that same year. In 1996, he participated in the State Reform Forum (organized by the EZLN) with a presentation in which he predicted that the PRI would be remaining in power for quite some time and that only joint PAN and PRD candidacies would be able to defeat it. Encouraged by Cárdenas' victory, he joined the PRD in 1997. He was a PRD deputy from 1997-2000, and he is now holding a senate seat for the 2000-2006 term. As a senator, he has, in addition to promoting the indigenous counter-reform, attempted to reach agreements with the PAN regarding privatization of the electricity industry. He voted against renegotiating the execution of NAFTA's agricultural section, and he not infrequently spoke out against rebel campesinos in San Salvador Atenco.

A few days ago, the political analyst, Armando Bartra, made a kind of assessment of NAFTA's 9 years and of the EZLN's public presence. I will not waste time criticizing the frivolous and superficial analysis of zapatista initiatives, except for one point: the teacher Bartra said that we should not be looking for "Lulas" (in reference to the current president of Brazil) in our politicians, but we must fight, not just from below, but also from "above" (meaning in the chambers) for the transformation of Mexico. I agree about not seeing "Lula's" face in the politicians. But it also seems to be an error to see the face of the Brazilian PT in the Mexican PRD. And where is the equivalent of the Rio de Janeiro MST (Movement of Those Without Land)?

It appears that the only argument in support of the need to help the PRD is that there isn't anything else. That if they are not helped, then the PRI and the PAN and the mother of death, sectarianism and all kinds of disasters, would rain down on us. Recently, in response to criticisms made by the 7 EZLN comandantes and comandantas of the PRD this January 1, the president of that party, Rosario Robles, called for there to be no fighting among "friends." She insisted that their voting for the indigenous law had been an error and had been recognized as such.

"Friends?" "Error?"

As can be gathered from the fanatical defense made by Senators Ortega and Sodi of the indigenous reform (when neither Bartlett nor Cevallos were defending it any longer, given the major national and international repudiation), it was not a "tactical error." According to Ortega and Sodi's vision, it is really not very important that the communities' status as "entities of public right" is not recognized. Nor that the "collective enjoyment of natural resources" is not spoken of (according to Ortega, it's unnecessary!), including regarding territory, since "habitat includes the territorial."

Given all the above, the complaints and opposition by the Indian peoples of Mexico against the Law, which the senators wanted, and want, to limit to "people close to the EZLN and the Subcomandante," simply come down to the Indian peoples not understanding the "wisdom" of the PRD legislators.

But the fact is that the senators of the Mexican left defended a law which is of the right. And, when Señor Cárdenas Solórzano indicated that he would vote for the indigenous counter-reform ("Are you a senator from the EZLN or from the PRD? Vote for party unity!" he might have said, forgetting that senators are not from the EZLN, but nor are they from the PRD, from the PRI nor from the PAN, but senators OF THE REPUBLIC), he did so for a law of the right.

The alternative was clear: either with the Indian peoples (and the millions of non-Indians who supported their demands) or with the indigenous counter-reform of Cevallos-Bartlett-Ortega. And the PRD chose, and it chose according to the nature it has constructed: that of a left which is acceptable to, and complicit with, the right.

The approval of the Cevallos-Bartlett-Ortega Law (by the way, none of them were elected by vote &endash; they entered the Senate as a party quota), that is, of the PRI-PAN-PRD law, was, in effect, a victory for the Mexican political class against the Indian peoples (and not just against the EZLN), but a pyrrhic victory, since it has evaporated now in the face of advances in the processes of autonomy and of resistance which are taking place not just by the indigenous.

Did the PRD deputies "save themselves?" Fine, the vote against the counter-reform was agreed to in the parliamentary wing of the Chamber of Deputies with a difference of just 3 votes. And the PRD deputies have been approving various things which have to do with the counter-reform.

But, now in the arena of the hypothetical, thinking that yes, it was just a "small error" which we should forgive as "friends," then what is the meaning of the following?

1) The PRD has been voting in favor of the federal budget for three consecutive years. They justify themselves by noting that they have not been Fox's original programs. The reality is that a budget is mandated in the Department of Treasury which they already know is going to be "modified" by the deputies (tiny increases in education, health, etc.), thus ensuring their vote. If it is true, as economic theory holds, that the budget represents the economic model in action, then the PRD has been voting in favor of neoliberalism and against Mexicans for three years. Their vote has meant voting in favor of paying the external debt, of limiting growth, of faithfully following the dictates of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

2) PRD deputies are putting into practice those accords which received a majority vote concerning the indigenous law, as regards both regulatory laws and budgetary, or line, items. They voted against them, but they are guarantors for the implementation of that law.

3) In the Senate, the PRD voted in favor of modifications to the International Convention concerning disappeared persons, thus guaranteeing military jurisdiction (soldiers will only be judged by military tribunals) and not retroactivity, thus guaranteeing impunity.

4) Last December, several PRD senators (Senator Sodi, among others) voted with the PAN and the PRD in rejecting demands for NAFTA's agricultural clause to be suspended.

5) Just to give an idea of the extravagance of the PRD's internal elections, a 30 second spot on López Dóriga's news show, on Televisa, cost 465,000 pesos. Brigadistas (who were often gang members from various poor neighborhoods) were paid 60 pesos per hour during the day for hanging up campaign materials, and 80 pesos per hour at nighttime for taking down their rivals' materials. It has been calculated that the PRD's previous campaign cost close to 80 million pesos.

6) Señor Ramirez Cuellar, from El Barzón, one of the "leaders" of the current campesino movement, was he not a PRD candidate for the Venustiano Carranza delegation in the DF, which is, obviously, populated primarily by campesinos? How many of the PRD candidates for various positions were once social leaders? How many PRD candidates in the delegations did not even appear on the poll tickets? How much did the candidates spend who made appearances on radio and television? How much was spent on the plane which promoted one of the candidates?

7) A party of the left resorts to polls in order to elect its candidates and leaders? A party of the left promotes names and faces instead of principles and programs? Is it not true that 67% of the municipalities which the PRD won were then lost in the following election, because they governed just like the PRI and the PAN? Is it not a fact that the PRD's words are not "reaching" young people, the indigenous, environmentalists, women, the new campesino movement? What is the PRD's clear position on international matters?

The PRD, it is true, was once a party of the left. Not now. It has opted to join (at the back of the queue) the position of the political class, and it aspires only to be the weight which changes the balance, forgetting that the owner of the scales doesn't give a damn about that. It has now tied itself structurally to the apparatus of the State, and it is economically, that is, politically, dependent on it. A new class of politicians has been formed inside it, and it is doing everything possible to hold on to it. There are no longer principles, nor programs…nor, ergo, any party.

The zapatistas are not unaware of the fact that there are many honest and committed people in the PRD (we salute them). But it is not they who are deciding the direction and nature of that political institution.

Over and over we are told: that's tough, there's nothing else. But, as Comandante Tacho said on January 1, YES, there is something else…

From the mountains of the Mexican southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

On to Tlaxcala, the Fourth Stele (The rebels of always) 

Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN *********************************** Translated by irlandesa

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