"Here we are, the always dead--dying again, but this time to live."
To the people of Mexico:
To the peoples and governments of the world:
Brothers and Sisters:
As of January 1 of this year, our Zapatista troops began a series of politico-military actions with the principal objective of letting the Mexican people and the world know the miserable conditions that millions of Mexicans, especially we, the Indigenous people, live and die in. With these actions, we also let people know our decision to fight for our elementary rights in the only way that the governmental authorities have left us: armed struggle.
The grave conditions of poverty of our fellow citizens have a common cause: the lack of freedom and democracy. We believe that an authentic respect for freedom and the democratic will of the people are the indispensable prerequisites for the improvement of the economic and social conditions of the dispossessed of our country. For this reason, just as we demand the improvement of the living conditions of the Mexican people, we demand freedom and political democracy. To accomplish this, we call for the resignation of the illegitimate government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and for the formation of a new, democratic transitional government that would guarantee fair elections on all levels of government. We reiterate the strength of our political and economic demands--demands around which we are trying to unite all of the Mexican people and all independent organizations so that, by means of all different forms of struggle, a national revolutionary movement can form. This movement would include all the different forms of social organization that strive, with honesty and patriotism, for the improvement of Mexico.
Since the beginning of our war for liberation we have not only been subject to attacks by repressive government bodies and the Federal Army, but we have also been slandered by the federal and state governments and by the mass news media. They are trying to deceive the Mexican people and disparage our struggle by saying that our struggle is led by foreigners, professionals in violence, dark and anti-patriotic interests who only seek personal gain. Because of these slanders and lies, we, the EZLN, believe ourselves obliged to explain the following:
First: Our EZLN does not have foreigners in its ranks or among its leadership, nor has it ever received any support or training from revolutionary forces of other countries or from foreign governments. The reports that Guatemalans are fighting in our ranks, and that they were trained in the neighboring country are stories invented by the federal government to discredit our cause. We have not had, nor do we have now, any connection with the Salvadoran FMLN, nor with the Guatemalan URNG, nor with any other Latin American, European, African, Asiatic, or Oceanic armed movement. The military tactics that we employ were not learned from the Central American insurgency, but rather from Mexican military history: from Hidalgo, Morelos, Guerrero, Mina, from the resistance to the Yankee invasion in 1846-47, from the popular response to the French intervention, from the heroic exploits of Villa and Zapata, and from Indigenous resistance struggles throughout our country's history.
Second: The EZLN doesn't have any relations with Catholic religious authorities or with any other creed. We haven't received orientation, direction or support from any ecclesiastic structure, not from the diocese of the state of Chiapas, nor from the papal nuncio, nor from the Vatican, nor from anybody. The majority of the troops in our ranks are Catholics, but there are other creeds and religions.
Third: The commanders and troop elements of the EZLN are mostly Indians from Chiapas. This is so because the Indigenous people represent the poorest and most humiliated sector of Mexico, but also, as can be seen, the most dignified. We are thousands of armed Indigenous people, and behind us there are tens of thousands of our families. Therefore, there are tens of thousands of Indigenous people in struggle. The government says it is not an Indigenous uprising, but we believe that if thousands of Indigenous people rise up in arms, then yes, it is an Indigenous uprising. There are also in our movement Mexicans of other social origins and from other states of our country. They agree with us and have joined us because they do not agree with the exploitation that we suffer. Just as these non-Indigenous Mexicans have joined us, others will also join us--because our struggle is national, and is not limited only to the state of Chiapas. Currently, the political leadership of our struggle is totally Indigenous: 100% of the members of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committees in the combat zones are ethnic Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol, Tojolobal and others. It's true that not all the Indigenous people of Chiapas are with us yet, because there are many people who still believe the government's lies and deceptions. But there are already thousands of us, and they must take us into account. The use of masks to hide our faces is in keeping with elemental security measures, and as a vaccine against caudillismo.
Fourth: Our people have a variety of weapons and equipment, and it should be understood that their total number and quality were not shown publicly to the mass media nor to the civilian populations in the municipal seats that we took over on the first and second of this month. These weapons and equipment were gathered little by little, and accumulated in silence over the last 10 years. The "sophisticated" means of communication that we possess can be bought in any imported-goods store in the country. To get weapons and equipment we never resorted to robbery, extortion, or kidnapping/hijacking; we always relied on what we were given by the humble and honest people throughout Mexico. It is because we never resorted to banditry that the forces of repression didn't detect us throughout 10 years of careful and serious preparation.
Fifth: Some have asked why we decided to begin now, since we have been preparing for some time. The answer is that before this we were trying other peaceful and legal means, but without result. During the last 10 years over 150,000 of our Indigenous brothers have died from curable illnesses. The social and economic plans of the municipal, state and federal governments don't offer any real solutions to our problems, and are limited to giving us handouts when there are elections; but the handouts are temporary, and then death comes again to our houses. Because of this we say that we have had enough--that we have had enough of dying a useless death, and that it is better to fight for change. If we die now it will no longer be in shame but with dignity, like our ancestors. Another 150,000 are prepared to die if necessary to wake our people up from the deceptive dream that binds them.
Sixth: The conditions of "reconciliation" that the federal government is trying to impose on us are unacceptable to our organization. We won't lay down our arms until they meet the demands that we set out at the beginning of our struggle. On the other hand, we propose the following conditions for the initiation of dialogue:
A: Recognition of the EZLN as a belligerent force.
B: Cease-fire on both sides in the war territories.
C: Withdrawal of federal troops from all communities, with full respect for the human rights of the rural population. Withdrawal of federal troops to their respective barracks in various parts of the country.
D: An end to the indiscriminate bombing of rural populations.
E: Using the last three conditions as a base, the formation of a national intermediary commission.
Our troops are committed to respecting these conditions if the federal government does the same. Otherwise, our troops will continue to advance on the country's capital.
The EZLN reiterates that we will continue to adhere to the laws of war approved by the Geneva Conventions: to respect the civilian population, the Red Cross, the press, the wounded, and enemy troops who surrender to our troops without fighting our forces.
We're making a special call to the North American people and government. To the first, we call upon them to initiate actions in solidarity with our fellow citizens. We call upon the North American government to suspend all military and economic aid to the dictatorial government which doesn't respect human rights, because said aid will be used to massacre the Mexican people.
The military result of the fighting up to January 5 has had the following results:
1: Casualties of the Zapatista forces: nine dead and 20 seriously wounded who are being attended in our field hospitals. An undetermined number of slightly wounded that were reintegrated into their combat posts, and 12 missing in action. We haven't included in this total our combatants who, wounded, were killed in cold blood, shot from behind by officers of the Federal Army. We have not determined yet the number of these compan~eros, since our troops are still fighting in Ocosingo.
2: Casualties of the enemy forces (including police and federal soldiers): 27 dead, 40 wounded and 180 prisoners who surrendered to our troops and were then released in good condition. There are at least another unconfirmed 30 federal troops dead. These casualties, along with an undetermined number of wounded, occurred January 4, in the mountains south of San Cristo'bal de las Casas, when bombs dropped by the Mexican Federal Army (Fuerzas Armadas Mexicanas, FAM) fell on the trucks of federal soldiers who were maneuvering in that zone.
3: Enemy war material destroyed or damaged: three attack helicopters of FAM (one in the capital Ocosingo and two in San Cristo'bal de las Casas), three FAM rockets, 15 radio patrols, four state Judicial Police torture centers.
4: Liberated prisoners: 230 from attacks on four prisons (two in San Cristo'bal de las Casas, one in Ocosingo, one in Margaritas).
5: War materials captured: approximately 207 weapons of different calibers, M-16, G-3, M-2, grenade launchers, rifles, and pistols, and an undetermined amount of ammunition of various calibers; 1,266 kilograms of dynamite; 10,000 TNT detonators; 20 transport vehicles. An undetermined amount of radio communications equipment used by the police, Army and Air Force.
To the national and international press:
We call the attention of the honest national and international press to the genocide being conducted by the federal military forces in the municipal seats of San Cristo'bal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Altamirano, and Margaritas, as well as on the roads bordering those points. In these places civilians were killed indiscriminately and later presented as casualties of the EZLN. Some of the Zapatistas that the Federal Army claims to have killed are in perfect health. The behavior of the federal troops in these cities contrasts with that of our forces, who are always concerned, as civilians in these cities can testify, with protecting innocent lives. The majority of the destruction to public and private buildings that is attributed to our troops was caused by federal troops when they entered the four principal townships.
To the Federal Army:
The present conflict unmasks, once more, the nature of the Federal Army, and it shows its true essence: the indiscriminate repression, the violation of all human rights and the lack of ethics and military honor. The murders of women and children committed by the Army in the area of conflict show an army out of control. We are calling on officers and troops of the Army to refuse to carry out orders handed down to them by their superiors to exterminate civilians or summarily execute prisoners of war and wounded, and to maintain military honor and ethics. We reiterate our invitation to you to abandon the ranks of the oppressive government and to join the just cause of the people--a people that, as you yourselves have proven, only longs to live with justice or die with dignity. We have respected the lives of soldiers and police who have surrendered to our forces. You take pleasure in summarily executing Zapatistas who you find wounded, unable to fight, and those who surrender. If you begin to attack our families and don't respect the lives of prisoners and the wounded, then we will do the same.
To the Mexican people:
Finally, we call on workers, poor campesinos, teachers, students, progressive and honest intellectuals, housewives and professionals, and to all independent political and economic organizations to join our struggle and to struggle with all possible means until we achieve the justice and freedom that all Mexicans desperately want.
We will not hand over our arms! We want justice, not forgiveness or handouts!
From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
CCRI-CG of the EZLN