December 21, 1994
"This is not a threat nor a deception. We are everywhere, in other municipalities. There are a hell of a lot of us"
Comandante Javier of the CCRI in the Los Altos zone, affirmed vehemently. He explains his appearance on the 19th and his almost immediate disappearance from the roads and highways:
"We have not fallen back, we are waiting like this, to one side."
Interviewed in the middle of the forest, "in some place in Los Altos", Comandante Javier, dressed in a Zapatista uniform (black pants, brown shirt and ski mask) gives a message to the federal government:
"That they acknowledge we are an organized people; respect for the new rebel municipalities: recognition of the authorities in 30 rebel municipalities; the resignation of Eduardo Robledo Rincon and the recognition of the transitional government of Amado Avendano Figueroa; that there be justice, liberty and democracy."
Sitting on the noisy dry leaves left by autumn, rotting now by the humidity which peppers the ground and trunks with mushrooms, Comandante Javier is surrounded by an armed escort of 5 militiamen and a young insurgent captain who was "not authorized to give his name" yet, talked with correspondents from three national newspapers about the new situation of the Chiapas' conflict.
Clear in his arguments, the clendestine leader affirmed that the end of the cease-fire did not come from the EZLN but from the government, when they imposed Eduardo Robledo on December 8th.
"We want peace, but peace with dignity. We are not going to allow the government to screw the people. We have complied but the government has not" and he asked that the Mexican Army leave Simojovel "They are interred in our territory, there is no need for them to be there."
After two days of secretiveness, the high-ranking member of the Zapatista CCRI finally accepted the dialogue with the means of communication. Comandante Javier, who is approximately 30 to 40 years old, says he has been with the organization for ten years. Tzotzil, native to Los Altos, he has remained in the jungle. "they assigned me responsibility to organize these communities politically, to explain what is happening. As of January 1 I was member of the Comite."
His face, what could be seen of it, seemed familiar. He was present at the negotiations in San Cristobal de las Casas in february and march of this year. This is the interview the first ceded by the Zapatista commander after the 10 day mobilization which ended on December 19th.
"Before anything else I want to talk about our presence here in Los Altos, and in other municipalities. Long before, we were Zapatistas, we had just not shown our strength in this part. We belong to the same organization and had been preparing long before January 1st. We prepared to seek a solution at a state and national level. It isn't true that we exist in a few municipalities, closed in by the jungle, there are a hell of a lot of us in Chiapas and in other states as well."
"We want to present once again the causes and objectives of this movement. When we took San Cristobal the war began, there were various municipalities but we retreated into the jungle and stayed there for a while, waiting for the government's response to our demands."
The conversation was held 30 kilometers from San Cristobal, and 20 from the checkpoint of the Mexican Army which, this afternoon installed itself once again in La Ventana, between Zinacantan and Chamula.
"We complied and kept the cease-fire, we resisted together with civil society, which mobilized a lot to see if there could be progress through political means. We are conscious people so we waited. We have complied. Then the first Democratic National Convention was held. The towns waited, we allowed the possibility of voting, with a candidate from civil society. From various municipalities in Los Altos, the majority voted for a candidate from civil society, who is Amado Avendano. He is known to be from the PRD; not all of us are from the PRD, we took advantage of the possibility to launch a candidate. The villages controlled by the Zapatista Army voted for that reason. Later we saw there was no possibility, they did not recognize as governor he who had won the majority of votes of the people, and Robledo Rincon was installed by force. He is not a candidate of the people. He would not need the military if he was really a government of the people. We were there in the jungle, and since they tried to break the cease-fire the people in Los Altos asked that we act. We mobilized all our municipalities in order to pressure, to see what the government would respond."
In a clear castilian, sweetened with a Maya accent, the words of Comandante Javier flowed easily:
"After January 1st nothing changed in these towns. The government does put a lot of pressure on people, it tries to buy people with crumbs in order to cover its face, it doesn't know they are speaking to Zapatistas. Then, with each promise the anger grows, the people declare a war and they still continue to offer promises."
"After the Declaration in San Cristobal many towns came to look for us and ask for information: they told us what they wanted. So we explained the situation and the causes of it. And it was those same towns which decided to go faster. We didn't seek out the people. They sought us out."
"In this zone where there was no military circle we grew a lot. We advanced. Because the discontent is so great, they asked us to come into all these municipalities. The Zapatista troops were moved so that the government would respond. This time if the same thing happens, our response will be much stronger."
"The base of support and the EZLN grew much more. What they said would happen after San Cristobal did not happen, that we were very few, small groups, campesinos from a few municipalities who are trying to control. This is not true, there are a hell of a lot of us. The soldiers are present in Simojovel and Bochil, but we control there, and if they try to go further in by force, they will be held responsible for what happens. We mobilized on the 19th so that the government would act. So that our movement would be recognized this way, peacefully. We are not attacking barracks, we are present only in the towns where we have been asked to be present. We have a lot of signed petitions which were given to us with what people are asking for, they no longer want to wait. We did declare new municipalities, new authorities; legislated by their own laws, according to their customs, cultures, just as each people had before in their history." He insists on the new borders.
"Where there are new checkpoints; that is Zapatista territory, even if we have moved back a bit. Those who tear down the banners are people who do not yet understand, of the PRI, they trust the government". Asked about his relationship with these groups, Comandante Javier says.
"We are not organized with them yet. We have tried to explain but they don't understand very well. Since they are confused they expect a solution from the government, they believe there is a solution to their problem. Some still insist upon the PRI, but many more feel like we do; they also do not have food, or homes or lands to work. We will do nothing against them, we are trying to inform them. We have not been trained to attack the poor, the same campesinos. And where we are, we are the majority, we are conscious." In regards to the presence of the federal army in rebel territory he says;
"If they try to respond by force, if they attack us, or begin to harrass the people there, now we are ready for that." He laughs softly, with the confidence of his own thoughts.
"If they don't attack us, that is O.K. But the towns have asked us not to allow them in their territory, because it is a right of the people to take power and establish a new authority. But if they do not respect us, they do close another path, we'll see. Why is it necessary that the soldiers enter the villages? Have the people there asked for this? They are asking for justice, liberty, democracy, that there be all that is necessary so that each people can live. They are not asking that the Army go in order to provoke fear. His voice rises with enthusiasm. He gestures firmly with his hands, in a vehement emphasis on the seriousness of what he says: "We'll see what happens in Simojovel. But we are clear that the federal soldiers are not conscious, they do not understand, they are stuck in the middle, there where we control. We want people to know this, because they run the risk of a confrontation with our troops. Write this so that they understand. It is not a threat nor a deceit; we are here, we are everywhere in other municipalities. There are a hell of a lot of us then." In regards to the appearance of Zapatistas in territory in Tabasco, he answers:
"Well yes, they are Zapatistas. We can't even count them anymore, they are coming out of any place. If the government does not comply, they will demonstrate their strength in other parts. There are many problems, many needs, and these are at a national level. Our 12 points are a necessity. We did not make the war, it was the government, which does not allow us to have any rights. The war will never end under those conditions. How can there be peace in this municipality, when here people are more screwed than in the jungle? I know this. What is there here? Where do people go to work? There are no lands here, the bare hills give nothing? Where can one get firewood? Land for cultivation? This way there is no hope that things will calm down. The government offers peace, but what peace? Zedillo asks for a dialogue, but a dialogue without conditions is difficult. As long as the popular will is not respected, there will be no justice. When Robledo Rincon took power, he broke the cease-fire". Is there a possibility of a cease-fire? "There is a possibility to sit down to a new dialogue under Zapatista conditions. We want to see actions on the part of the government, not just words, like the ones made the first time in San Cristobal."
"No matter what happens, we are not retreating from the places we have won. If the Army comes in by force we are willing to resist."
"Since we carried out an action, we are waiting to see if they will attack us, if they prevent us from taking the municipalities. Any way, the new authorities will govern. If things are tense, the municipalities will be taken; if not, no.
"We have not retreated, we are waiting to one side. We speak of a peaceful path, but we are here to defend. We will not attack, the struggle is still peaceful. But we are here." Good humor is dominant in Comandante Javier. A levity which is enviable allows him to say the most serious things;
"We do not speak of war, but of a peaceful solution. But we are not afraid to die, that is why we came. If it is necessary we will die for the dignity of the people, not for cowardice. There will be others who will continue our work." Other times, other boundaries, but the work will continue.
Translated by : Cecilia Rodriguez
National Commission for Democracy in Mexico