Reopening public contacts between the EZLN and the Commission of Concordance and Peace

Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
Mexico, October of 1998.
To the Commission of Concordance and Peace.
|Congress of the Union.

Legislators, ladies and gentlemen:

I am writing to you in the name of the men and women who form the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee - General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. We have been thinking that the point of contact between the zapatistas and the Cocopa legislators should be taken up again at the point at which it was suspended.

Perhaps you remember the last direct contact between members of the CCRI-CG of the EZLN and members of the Cocopa, in January of 1997. At that time, the responsibility for the presidency of that legislative commission fell to Senator Luis H. Alvarez. A little before that, in December 1996, and during the same period of his presidency of the Cocopa, that legislative body tried to crown its long and eventful battle to aid peace. The Cocopa had completed two years then, and they had lent not a little nor an inconsiderable amount to the dialogue and negotiation process between the federal Executive and the EZLN. After having overcome our lack of confidence and having truly earned our respect, after having dealt with public, private and secret attacks by the government and by other forces who were also interested in the conflict not being resolved by peaceful means, after having done battle within in order to insure that the interests of the nation would prevail over the understandable party interests and over those not so understandable personal interests, the Commission of Concordance and Peace had managed to convert itself, through its own merits, into the primary actor in a peace which was then just around the corner, and which then began to shatter with the government's increasing stubborness, intransigence and violence.

I believe that you would all be in agreement with me that, in this long battle, and in the small and great victories which were achieved then by the legislative commission, Senator Herberto Castillo played a major and essential role. Unfortunately for the cause of peace, and happily for those who long for the war of the powerful, Don Heberto died and left a vacuum, not only in the Cocopa, but also in the entire peace process, especially in the history of those days and nights of this end of century Mexico.

I have written, "a long and eventful battle to aid peace." Yes, there were not a few obstacles which had to be confronted in order to go about building those two pillars, without which any dialogue and negotiation would have been impossible: confidence and credibility. Some of the obstacles had already been present there, others made their appearance along with the successes and performances of the peace process.

But, in the end, we do not have to tell you any of this, since some of you were present during the entire process. But what we do point out is that, at the end of that road, of which you certainly have more details than we can share with you now, peace was within our grasp and close in time. You certainly remember that, then, December 1996 (almost two years!), there was no talk that the conflict could last "one, two, or five years" (which are the time periods now suggested by Labastida), but rather that the peace could be signed in March of 1997! Is that not 20 months? Is that not before the crimes of Acteal, Chavajeval and Union Progreso? Is that not before the sad masquerade called "Fobaproa?" Is that not before Annan's visit and the growing concern of the international community for "those four municipalities," as the ineffable Secretary of Government has redefined the zapatista rebellion? Is that not before the inexorable collapse of the fragile macroeconomic castle which Zedillo has closed himself up in? Is that not before this year 2000 disguised as 1998?

But you know well, because you were witnesses and privileged actors, everything fell apart in a matter of days. The fault of the "chinchones," of those who did or do owe allegiance to the current former Secretary of Government? No, we now know that it was not. The one responsible for the peace with justice and dignity not reaching Indian soil is the one who resides in Los Pinos. With his fear being only as great as his lack of skill, he made a personal matter out of a national question. But the problems of State cannot be resolved as if they were part of one's personal life, and he allowed his wrath and his phobias to prevail, and he gave a green light to those who wanted and who want to respond with destruction to the cries for justice, those who counter dignity with death, those who set the lie against truth and the war against the peace. No, he could have, but he did not wish to.

By retracting their acceptance of the proposal for constitutional reform drawn up by the Cocopa, Mr. Zedillo not only retracted his word given in the signing of the San Andres Accords on matters of indigenous rights and culture, but he also shattered his administration's trustworthiness and credibility into bits. The collapse of the hope for a firm and swift peace dragged the Commission for Concordance and Peace down with it. With that, it was not just the opportunity for a swift peace which was ruined, but also all the work was destroyed which the legislators had done to gain confidence and credibility. How could any co-advisory proposal by the Cocopa be viable when it was systematically sabotaged? What confidence could we have if those who make the laws in this country were not listened to nor taken notice of? What could we hope for if the response to the Congress' efforts for peace was one of mockery and trickery?

Then we had confidence and we believed that, in the government, the will for peace was true, and the interest for a swift solution was great. But we were wrong. Now we know that there is no will for peace in the federal Army, and there is no interest in anything other than for a swift and "accurate" military strike.

The problem now is how to go about rebuilding the path to peace, despite the Executive's guerrilla warfare. And also how the Cocopa can go about recovering the confidence, credibility and effectiveness which it had attained up to the moment when it was struck down by Zedillo's "NO."

Perhaps the error was in assuming that the Cocopa could be a bridge between the EZLN and the government, and that, through that bridge, accords could be reached and followed out. Now we know that it was not, NOR IS, it possible for the Cocopa (or anyone who wants peace) to have been, or to be able to be, a bridge to the government. They could not and cannot for the simple reason that in the Executive they do not want the bridges to peace which the Cocopa and the Conai offered them, but rather the abyss of war offered by their advisors.

But if the federal Executive does not want peace, we would like to think there are others who do desire it and who will have to extend the bridges in that direction.

We are now making a new effort, and we are appealing once again to those who have been fundamental to this process, to those men, women, children and old ones who are asserting their will and their collective action under the name of "civil society." We add them to our call to the Congress of the Union, so that they may support the peace and join in the effort to stop the war of extermination which the federal Executive is perpetrating on the indigenous Mexican southeast.

Finally, as I told you at the beginning, we are trying to retake the point with the legislative commission and to retake it just where it was left off. For that, this brief recounting of histories and challenges unmet, for that, this brief sketch of what could be a path to peace or to a new frustration. Now, as before, we expect difficult times. The government's clumsy plans for the election process of 1997 ruined the peace process and the conciliatory efforts of the Cocopa. The complications in the political scene are being repeated and are increasing today.

Ladies and gentlemen, federal legislators who make up the Commission of Concordance and Peace:

In the name of the zapatista children, old ones, men and women, and with the representation of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee - General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, we communicate to you that, with this letter, we are reopening public contacts between the EZLN and the Commission of Concordance and Peace. That is all.

>From the mountains of the Mexican southeast.

In the name of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee
- General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
Subcomandante insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, October of 1998.

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