Why Marcos is not at the dialogue

May 5, 1995

To the national and international civic society
To the non-governmental organizations
To the national and international press

Brothers and sisters:

The initial sessions of the dialogue with the supreme government were attended by delegates named by the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation. Due to a series of circumstances, emphasized by the olive green people whom the supreme government facilitated, it was impossible for me to attend these first sessions. I have obtained the authority of the Committee to talk with you all through this medium. In this manner I want to take advantage of your attention and patience to touch on some of the points that have been left up in the air, abandoned because of the rapid developments of events at the national level.

It will not be new to anyone that there are prices on our heads, that the government has not stopped trying to assassinate us, thinking that by this means, the EZLN would be left without leadership, and would be brought to its knees and therefore would be forced to surrender. Seeing that it was useless to try and buy us off, the government decided on assassination and only waited for the appropriate occasion to carry it out. It thought that the deception of February 9th would be that occasion, but it did not work out that way. It will continue looking for a new opportunity. It has the resources to do so. As this sentence could be carried out at whatever moment, I am taking advantage of this opportunity to say what they want to keep silent.

There exists stories that in the EZLN there is a profound division regarding the dialogue, that the absence of the "Sup" was due to his being punished, or that the "hard liners" and the "moderates" of the EZLN's leadership could not come to an agreement. Regarding this and other lies, I want to say some things:

As you have already noticed (I don't know if the government also has figured it out), the EZLN is not just Marcos. In the CCRI-CG we have many companeros equal to or more capable than Marcos at explaining our struggle, at leading our movement, and at leading by obeying. The Comandante companeros who represent the different ethnic groups in the Committee are great companeros and good leaders, in their words we all talk and their decisions are ours. The CCRI has named delegates to the dialogue with the criteria of representation of the ethnic groups which comprise it, and they, like me or any other member of the leadership, are subjected to the vigilance of the entire Committee body and of the Bases of Support of the EZLN.

The particular circumstances in January 1994 caused the attention to be concentrated on the impertinent nose that was hidden, uselessly, behind a black wool ski mask. The need for a translator between the indigenous Zapatista culture and the national and international culture caused the obvious nose, in addition to sneezing, to talk and to write. All of you would be in agreement that he did it and to an excess. I talked and talked, and at times, it seemed to many that the EZLN was only this very visible nose. It was this error which we were late in seeing, and that we recognized in the celebration of November 17th, 1994. But we did not recognize that this protagonist was, not infrequently, counter-productive to the just cause that motivates us. During all of these months, the companeros of the Committee have been preparing intensively to carry, in their own voices, the voices of everyone, and so that this voice be heard and understood by all of you. The real protagonists will now be the formal protagonists. The pronounced nose will return to more sneezing and to less speaking but it will continue to be indigenous and dignified like any other Zapatista.

There is an act that caught many people's attention in the past few days, and that made it so that more than just one person, including a Chiapas bishop and journalists, felt obligated to say stupid things. The act that I am referring to is that the EZLN retreated in the face of the governmental offensive in February 1995, without fighting. Entire villages and military units retreated into the mountains without resisting with arms. Those analysts made an evaluation that it was a sign of military weakness of the Zapatistas, and they applauded the occupation of indigenous villages as a means of forcing a dialogue that had existed prior to the ostentatious deployment of military masses and technology. Inside the government the thinking was the same: the use of force is necessary, they say, to obtain advantages in the political negotiations with the rebels. This is the argument that tried to justify the unjustifiable: armed aggression against the indigenous of Chiapas and the taking of civilian hostages in order to impose a line for negotiations.

The government can command its soldiers to murder and die with only the objective being to gain advantages in the dialogue and negotiations. It can do this because, for the government, their soldiers are not human beings, they are things that are to be used for political ends, they are disposable.

The government is the commander of the federal Mexican army. The Army does not command itself, from its birth it has been this way. It is a disciplined army. We, who are their rivals, are the first ones to recognize this. Everything that the federal army has done in Chiapas, it has done to obey orders from its commander the federal government. The government wants the federal Army to be the one vilified; it wants to hide the fact that the government is who ordered the entire operation. It was the government who ordered the destruction of Aguascalientes. It was the government who ordered the destruction and sacking of the communities. It was the government who ordered the arbitrary detentions, the disappearances, the assassinations. The government ordered all of this to obtain advantages in the dialogue, because for the government human life, including those of the people who serve and obey it, is something disposable, something that can be "spent" to gain political advantages.

The Zapatista Army for National Liberation is not like this. For us our soldiers are our brothers and sisters, they are human beings with hopes and with sufferings which obligated us to follow this road of war which could lead us to death. For the EZLN the more valuable thing is dignity and life and, paradoxically, for this reason we are willing to die.

We knew that we should sit down and dialogue to seek a political solution to the conflict. We knew that we should do it not because we trusted the government, not because we feared them, not because we were weak. We should do it because we had and we have a commitment with thousands of citizens who asked us and ask that we try the political road and not the road of war. Since January 1994 many people have approached us. We have received much help, more that we had hoped for or even that we had dreamed of. But it has always been help for peace. No one since January 1994 has ever approached us to offer us help in waging war. No one has approached us to offer weapons, ammunition, explosives, or military training. Everyone who has approached us did it to offer us help to bring about peace, a peace that would not be like before, for a new peace, like our Comandante David speaks of.

Since January 1994 we have not received neither weapons, nor ammunition, not anything else that would be useful in waging war. Since January 1994 the only thing that we have received has been voices and help to continue the road to a just and dignified peace.

We could not be deaf to this help. We could not avoid seeing and hearing this movement that asked us not to continue the war, but rather advised us and offered to support us on the road to a new peace. We made a commitment to all of these people. And when the Zapatistas make a commitment, they do everything possible, including dying, to fulfill it. Like our men, women and children died in the first blockade, later in the retreat in February, and in the more than 80 days of exodus by the villagers who refused to surrender. The government could make commitments and not keep them, it could make promises and then forget them. But not the Zapatistas. For this reason we knew that we had to dialogue.

But we could not shed the blood of our companeros just to gain tactical or strategic advantages in the dialogue. For this reason since January 1994, the EZLN has not waged war against the government's forces. We have fired, this is true, (and it is what hurts the government), thousands of words saying our truth. Our truth that we are the first to recognize, is not the truth of everyone. Words do not kill, but they can be more lethal than bombs. The words, and not the weapons of the Zapatistas, is what the government is afraid of.

For this reason we retreated without fighting in February. We preferred to sit down to dialogue with all of the military conditions against us, rather than to have to do it with military advantages gained with the blood of our brothers and sisters, spilt uselessly, staining our words. The government can sit down with the blood of its soldiers on its conscience, because for the government this blood does not count because it has no value.

Anyway, the "parts" (as the government calls itself and the Zapatistas) returned to sit down to dialogue just like they had done in January 1995. The differences, however, were not small things. Now there is a mistrust that will be difficult to .... There also exists one thing clear: the government is willing to destroy libraries and rural hospitals in order to force a dialogue under the conditions that it imposes. Distinct from February 1994 and January 1995, now the dialogue is being held in a climate of tension and agony. The hopes that it will be a success do not yet overcome the fears that it will fail. However, for everyone it is clear that it is possible to return to the negotiating table, it is because of the will of the Zapatistas and despite the intentions, to the contrary, of the government.

More than a year ago, in February 1994, we came to San Cristobal de las Casas with a list of demands. Amongst the 36 demands, two were emphasized. One was the renunciation of the then usurper of the Federal Executive, Carlos Salinas de Gortari. The other was profound political reform that guaranteed liberty and democracy for all Mexicans. Both demands were classified, by the prominent thinkers of Salinism, as "the delirium of neo-Zapatistism". They stated to us that, although there were deficiencies in the political system, the regimen of Salinas de Gortari represented astonishing economic advances. We responded then that the country was living a lie, that economic bonanzas could not exist without political freedoms. Our voice was first lost in the soccer euphoria, and then later in the electoral hopes. We were the little army of crazy people who, armed with wooden guns, planned to bring down a "triumpher", a model of the "modern Mexico". With machetes and boards, surrounded militarily, the indigenous in southeastern Mexico persisted in their delirium: democracy, freedom, and justice for all.

We did not shoot. We waited. Patience is a virtue of the warrior. Before a year had passed since our small and crazy voice had asked, in San Cristobal de las Casas, for the renunciation of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the entire country awoke from the stupefying dream of the economic bonanza. Awakened from a dream that for us was always a nightmare, the Mexican people found themselves in worse economic conditions that when "neo-liberalism", this chaotic doctrine of improvisation, took us by the neck to take us, by force, into the first world. Millions of Mexicans demanded, and demand, that the person who tricked for all these years be punished.

The so-called "delirium of neo-Zapatistism" is now shared by millions of Mexicans.

Today we are demanding a dialogue with national themes. We are demanding a broad national dialogue in which a new social and political pact is discussed and agreed upon. To many people it appears to be a new example of the Zapatista propensity for delirium. It is absurd, they say, that a minimal military force under attack proposed a debate about broad national problems. This national dialogue could or could not happen. But the need for it, and its urgency, is something real. Sooner than later it will become clear that this new "delirium" of the Zapatistas was, and is, a unpostponable necessity.

This is a dialogue that is not equitable, it is not a dialogue among equals. But in this dialogue the EZLN is not the weak part, it is the strong part. On our side are the moral authority and historical reason. On the side of the government is only military force and the lies that some of the communication media spread. And force and lies never, never will be stronger that reason. They can impose themselves for a few days, months or years, but time will put each in its place. For this reason we understand that the government is weak in this dialogue; for this reason our delegates go with a understanding and conciliatory attitude. For this reason we have done everything possible so that the dialogue can continue developing, despite the government's efforts to make it fail.

Our demands, and not our form of struggle, wins day by day thousands of supporters; war could become a reality or disappear completely from the historical horizon of our country, but not the struggle for democracy, liberty and justice. In war or in peace, we the Zapatistas will continue struggling so that these three words become a reality, and that they, and not desperation and misery, become the heritage of all Mexicans. For this reason we do not have any problem sitting down to talk about peace, because peace does not mean withdrawal or surrender. Whatever is the result of this new process of dialogue and negotiation, whether it is successful in creating a just and dignified peace, or whether it fails, opening the door to war, we the Zapatistas will continue struggling.

At one time someone said, referring to the EZLN, that it was not possible to be without peace and without war, that it had to define itself. In reality this is not the dilemma of this country. This lie was already used by Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon in his electoral campaign, now the voters are paying for having believed him. The truth is that, until now, the system of the party-state has kept Mexico without democracy and without a dictatorship. It is no longer possible to keep this unstable equilibrium, it has to be defined: dictatorship or democracy. The evil government is doing everything possible to maintain a system that no longer sustain itself, wanting to stay without change will lead to ungovernability and fascism. We, and I do not refer only to the Zapatistas, struggle for the democratization of the country. The defenders of the party-state system and we will pass into history: those of the PRI for having done everything to take the country into fascism, we for having pushed for democracy, liberty and justice. I do not know what the immediate result will be, but I do know what the final one will be: the triumph of democracy.

The peace that the government wants and the peace that we struggle for are not the same. That of the government is a lie, an eternal postponement of change and improvements; ours is a wager for a new life. The supreme government is willing to kill to achieve the peace it wants. We are willing to die for the new peace, for all of us. Do you see why we are not talking about the same thing? When they say "peace", they mean "death"; when we say "PEACE", we mean "life"...For this reason the dialogue is slow, we have to make the government understand that PEACE is what we want.

The government negotiates like a terrorist. It has taken thousands of indigenous people in Chiapas as hostages, and a handful of innocent civilians in the city. With a pistol at the temples of all these people, the government wants to talk and negotiate. We know that we are working with terrorists and that we should be prudent. We should make the government understand that it should change for the benefit of everyone. The government responds to our conciliatory and prudent position with mocking, racist and authoritarian attitudes. They try to provoke us thinking that there will be a winner and a loser in a war that, they do not understand, will not be won with bullets.

The obstacles are not few that this process of peace will have to overcome to arrive at its goal. But we repeat now and in front of you all, the obstacles will not come from the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.

Vale, salud and buena letre in this effort to write and make history.

>From the mountains of Southeastern Mexico.
Subcomandante insurgente Marcos Mexico, May 1995


The supreme government sent word to us that IT DOES NOT WANT any type of mobilization in the next meeting in San Andres. "Neither organized nor disorganized", says the government that, as it is clear, has serious problems with Spanish. In addition it threatened to mobilize the "displaced" in support of the governmental delegation. They think that the cattle rancher in Ocosingo is the same as the one in Los Altos in Chiapas. They also sent word to us that the EZLN has now lost all of its capacity to convene people and no one cares about what happens to the Zapatistas and the dialogue. "The government has the initiative and it is not going to let it go", they told us. Doesn't it make you tremble?

(translated by Cindy Arnold, National Commission for Democracy in Mexico)

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