First interviews with Marcos

Jan 1 - 1994

Testimonies of the First Day

[The following are excerpted transcriptions that were published in La Jornada. They were recorded in San Cristo'bal de las Casas just after the EZLN liberated the city on January 1, 1994, and the transcription was published in La Jornada on January 19. They begin with Subcommander Marcos answering questions after reading the Declaration of War from the balcony of the Municipal Presidential Palace.]

[La Jornada, 1/19]

Q: Have there been any losses?

Marcos: No. Neither ours nor the enemy's. Only in Ocosingo. There were two dead and two wounded and four prisoners on their side.

Q: The military zone is here, less than 12 kilometers away. They have not responded?

M: You have to take into account that it is a difficult situation, because this is the command of the 31st Military Zone. And they attack the back and three fronts. It is not as though you say, OK, now I will come and finish with San Cristo'bal.

Q: Why are some of you masked and others are not, although you are all from the same movement?

M: Those of us who are more handsome always have to protect ourselves... What is happening is that, in this case, the officers are those who are masked, for two reasons. One, the primary one, is that we have to watch out for protagonism, in other words, that people do not promote themselves too much.

The mask is so that there is no protagonism, if you understand me, that we sometimes have a lot of, those of us who get into this business of appearing a lot. So now, since it is not well known who is who, probably in a little while another will come out, or it could be the same one. It is about being anonymous, not because we fear for ourselves, but rather so that they cannot corrupt us; for that reason some wear ski masks, so that they will not appear often and say, "What about me over here?" We know that our leadership is collective and that we have to submit to them. Even though you happen to be listening to me here now because I am here, but in other places others, masked in the same way, are talking. This masked person today is called Marcos here and tomorrow will be called Pedro in Margaritas or Josue' in Ocosingo or Alfredo in Altamirano or whatever he is called.

Finally, the one who speaks is a more collective heart, not a caudillo. That is what I want you to understand, not a caudillo in the old style, in that image. The only image that you will have is that those who make this happen are masked, then. And the time will come when the people will realize that it is enough to have dignity and put on a mask and say: Well then, I can do this too, and OK, I do not need to be of a particular physique. That is the truth, and for that reason, you should not believe what I said when I said I was very handsome. I am doing propaganda for myself.

Q: And women are in this movement voluntarily?

M: Did someone obligate you to come? They are Tzotziles, Tzeltales, Tojolabales- Indians.

Q: What is the average age?

M: A scandalous 22 years old. It has gone up. When we started it was 16 years. Then, four years ago, it was 20, and now the average age is between 22 and 23 years old. There are people much younger than that, but the average of the troops is that. Those who have masks are officials or people that...

Q: Command?

M: No, that is what will not check out. You are going to check out all that you see with what you read. You will check Tupamaros, Montoneros, the Sandinista Front (Frente Sandinista), 26th of July Movement (Movimiento 26 de Julio), URNG. Nothing will check out. "They are a mess." "They are going to win." This is an organization that has been preparing itself for over 10 years without a single assault, robbery or kidnapping. "Where did they get money for what they did?" "Who protected them for so long?" They are going to say that we were part of the government. Today had to come so that we could demonstrate that we are not.

Q: How many people make up the Zapatista Army... Can you tell us?

M: I will tell you that there are thousands, and that they are all moved to take these actions.

Q: Will there be more?

M: Of course. After this, here, when we leave here, from these positions, when we advance, we are certain that more will join us. Three or four hours ago we received information that an element of the Federal Army deserted and joined our ranks. They have offered to show us the location of the barracks... No, he will not show us tactics. We know more than he.

Q: Who was the source?

M: The deserter from the Army who joined our ranks.

Q: What assurances does the press have to enter into the zones?

M: In our zones, with us, you will not have problems; but I am sure that the Army will not let information pass through. Or that your editorial boards or your bosses will not let you publish it.

Q: Can you provide the resources of the City Hall for our work, what you have here, like the phone lines, fax?

M: Go in and look for them if you like. Oh, you're asking... I was already up there looking for a telephone because I had to talk to Human Rights, to the National Commission. No, man, they have stolen everything. There are computers and all of that, we do not do anything with that... Yes, there is communication. The only thing I can guarantee is where we move, and if you present your newspaper credentials, they will let you pass.

Q: Are you only here, in the state of Chiapas?

M: No.

* * * * *

M: [...] We hope that the people understand that the causes that have moved us to do this are just, and that the path that we have chosen is just one, not the only one. Nor do we think that it is the best of all paths. We only think that this is one that needs to be taken and we invite all of the people to do the same, not to rise up in arms, but to struggle for a truly free and democratic government in Mexico that can fulfill the aspirations of each and every person. We do not want a dictatorship of another kind, nor anything out of this world, not international Communism and all that. We want justice where there is now not even minimum subsistence. This is in the whole state of Chiapas. And one can say: Well, soon I am going to rise up in arms. No, but do demonstrate your agreement, each person where you work, students, teachers, and all of that, make count what they have denied us until now, which is the right to have an opinion, to feel, to dissent. That is what we want. We resorted to this because, well, because they did not leave us any other way, really.

Q: Do you think the conditions are right to do what you are doing?

M: Yes, we think that the time is ripe at an international level. We think that at the international level there is a sensibility for the Mexican people to rise up against a dictatorship of such long standing, in this case of a party, as it was in Europe. And at the national level, there is much discontent, but what was needed was for someone to give a lesson in dignity, and this fell to the most ancient inhabitants of this country that is now called Mexico, but when they were here it did not have a name, that name. It fell to the lowest citizens of this country to raise their heads, with dignity. And this should be a lesson for all. We cannot let ourselves be treated this way, and we have to try to construct a better world, a world truly for everyone, and not only for a few, as the current regime does. This is what we want. We do not want to monopolize the vanguard or say that we are the light, the only alternative, or stingily claim the qualification of revolutionary for one or another current. We say, look at what happened. That is what we had to do.

We have dignity, patriotism and we are demonstrating it. You should do the same, within your ideology, within your means, within your beliefs, and make your human condition count.

Q: It is speculated that you are a member of some political party.

M: Well, they have asked this question often, if we are a member of the PRD or of the PAN or some faction within the PRI that is against [then-Presidential-candidate Luis Donaldo] Colosio.

But the truth, we tell you sincerely, is that the political parties do not come to Indigenous people in Chiapas. They do not come and the people are tired of butting their heads against the wall. For that reason, we grew here, precisely because the political parties do not have consensus.

* * * * *

Q: Don't you think that people are afraid of you?

M: I think that they did not have bigger problems than us... Well, more than fear. That yes, but that we would rape and mutilate and all of that, no. But aside from that, I hope that the fear has gone. You should understand than any mess that we could have made here we would have done at dawn, when you were sleeping; that is, you should recognize that. You realized what was going on when the morning was quite advanced, when we were already here. You drank a toast to the new year and went to sleep, and we fell on you, but like a slap. I think that the force is not against everyone, quite the opposite.

Q: Why did you pick those four towns, did you have that already planned?

M: We have everything planned.

Q: In the state [of Chiapas]?

M: Comita'n, Tuxtla, Palenque, Arteaga, Tapachula...

Q: Not just four towns?

M: Well wait, and we'll be right behind you. Everything is planned down to the hut of Tres Mari'as and the Cuernavaca-Mexico highway. And from there we have planned how to enter. Some say that we should stay and eat some quesadillas in Tres Mari'as... The plan is to go on to all of the towns. We will go on to all of the towns. The thing is that we are the majority. That is the truth. But we will try to follow the bosses of San Cristo'bal and not cause any problems to the civil population and try to convince the Army to come over from the side of injustice.

The immediate objective is that our agricultural laws begin to operate in the liberated zones, that the campesinos organize themselves, taking land, respecting small rural property and working in collectives, ignoring all of the debts with the government. Banrural (Banco de Cre'dito Rural), all of the taken assets, all of that, we don't know anything about in the rural zone because where we move those laws will start to operate, that is, the old Constitution before they reformed it. That is the immediate plan that we have, that is, to organize the rural life of this country according to the will of the majority of our compan~eros. That is, that there be land, because there is land, and that it be distributed, because they just said that they were not going to give any more out.

So before it was running around in Agrarian Reform, which they would probably give you. Well now, even if you run around, they won't give it to you. That is what Hank Gonza'lez and Salinas de Gortari said when they said: Land reform is over.

Q: Listen, what about the stores?

M: I said a little while ago up there that businesses will be permitted to open. We will not do anything to private commerce, only to the government. But everything, the mini-buses, the gas stations, we are not prohibiting them from opening. We guarantee them that we will not attack any store because the law about that says...

Q: Could tomorrow be a normal day?

M: Yes, let's see if you can live with that. In any case you will have to live always with that threat over your head, until the problem of social justice for these people is resolved, they will come back any moment. You were always scared of the black legend that we would kill you, rape you and mutilate you, and you saw that we didn't.

* * * * *

[In the tape a man can be heard who, with difficulty, reads a document.]

I am going to communicate some of the decisions that our Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee, leadership of our revolution, has decreed today:

First: that the stores and businesses that belong to the oppressor government be opened so that the people of San Cristo'bal can take from them what they need. Only the stores and businesses that belong to the federal and state government, nothing against local commerce.

Second decree: directed at the command of the 31st Military Zone with headquarters in Rancho Nuevo, of the federal government, to invite the body of officers, classes and troops to abandon the ranks of the evil government and pass, with all of their instruments and all of their experience, to the side of the struggle of the people. In case the garrison of the 31st Military Zone does not accept the abandonment of the cause of the evil government and embrace the cause of the people, then I am ordered to ask for the unconditional surrender of those barracks at the date and time that it be communicated appropriately. I make public, therefore, the offer for the 31st Military Zone and the battalions and units of the Federal Army to abandon the federal government and join our cause in one single army, respecting their ranks and their chain of command. [applause]

It has already been agreed and tomorrow a commission is ready to certify that we did not harm anyone: It will be allowed to leave on the side of Tuxtla. After this time [six in the morning] when the delegation is formed and can see that nothing happened to them, you will be able to leave the city on the side I already mentioned, and you will be able to come here for a safe conduct so that they will let you pass. We are speaking with the National Human Rights Commission so that there can be a representative of theirs on the other side to guarantee the passage of tourists without being harmed by the federal troops. This is a negotiation that we are doing. What we can guarantee is that when this delegation is formed, we will let them out. What happens beyond our lines? Go at your own risk. That's clear. Here they are fewer, but some people have approached us to ask how they can help us. I have told them clearly that what we hope is that they will understand the justice of our demands.

You may not agree with the path that we have chosen, but you have to understand that the conditions that brought us to this are very cruel and very desperate. If you can understand that, it is a great help to us. If you realize that we have done everything possible to respect your lives, your goods, because the problem is not with you, and if you can also take it into account, because right now the press and the propaganda are saying very much that we are raping, stealing, robbing gasoline stations, looting businesses and many things that you have seen with your own eyes, we have not done here in San Cristo'bal. If anyone would like to go further [applause]... Also, here a person is telling me to make public the guarantees that we give to all civilians regardless of their political affiliation, nationality, race, or creed, that they will not be touched by our forces.

Whenever we can, what I want to say to people that want to go further, if you can give some food or money, it would be welcome. You know that we do not steal. Whoever wants to help us in something more material, they can give us that, food and money. If you cannot or do not want to, it is enough [to] understand why we did this. Then, we will be satisfied.

We will continue towards the regular troops of the Zapatista National Liberation Army and the orders that our leadership gives us to go where they direct us. Now they are sending us to Rancho Nuevo. Well, it will be there. If it is on the other side, then to the other side we'll go. But it should be clear that we are inviting the federal troops to come over to our side. That is all, if you have any question, that is all I can say. Don't worry about your goods or your persons. They will be respected, as will your liberty. In case of problems, we are not going to take hostages or take anyone by force with us to protect us. In the case that we have to leave, or that we have to fight, that is the guarantee, that we will not take civilians or hostages... [vigorous applause].

We will fight until the fall of the capital of the Republic. My compan~eros have said it very clearly in their declaration of war, that their fundamental demands imply the creation of a transitional government that calls for elections, clean, real elections, and for that they are calling for the House of Deputies and the House of Senators to disregard and unseat the illegitimate president, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and from among them a coalition government of various parties and people of known prestige; a transitional government that would call for clean elections so that the will of the people could win. That is what the compan~eros explain. I was ready to talk with anyone but the only thing they have sent is airplanes. That should be clear: We have not denied the dialogue to anyone. There has been no attempt, other than that of the National Human Rights Commission, which did approach us to ask for the free passage of foreigners. All of us are Mexicans. The movement is national, and among our troops that fight here are people who have visited various states of the Republic but mainly the troops that are here are Chiapanecos and mainly Indigenous. We are not requiring the reaching of an accord as a condition for leaving San Cristo'bal. We may leave even though there is no accord, according to orders that may tell us to leave and attack another place. We would have to march to other places. In this case Tuxtla, since if the order is that we have to go there, we have nothing to do here. What I want you to understand is our situation here. We have not prohibited any commerce, not the gas stations, not the bus stations, not the mini-buses, not that, nor have we prohibited the radio stations. The only thing we have prohibited is leaving the city because we cannot guarantee that the federal troops will respect you. As for the rest, we have not done anything but get things a bit dirty. That we have done, but we will try to fix that as well, very soon. So we advise with this, then, to the small and medium businesses, that they will not be touched, only the business that is of the federal and state government.

* * * * *

[Marcos is speaking again.]

M: Let me finish.

Q: Wait a minute.

M: Of course, finish.

Q: Compan~eros of Chiapas, Indians, permit me a minute, if you were brought tortillas, water, pozolito, would you accept it?

M: Yes, of course. That is what we are eating. That is the situation. What has to continue is our advance to Mexico City. We started this very day. Today the North American Free Trade Agreement begins, which is nothing more than a death sentence to the Indigenous ethnicities of Mexico, who are perfectly dispensable in the modernization program of Salinas de Gortari. Then the compan~eros decided to rise up on that same day to respond to the decree of death that the Free Trade Agreement gives them, with the decree of life that is given by rising up in arms to demand liberty and democracy, which will take them to the solution to their problems. This is the reason that we have risen up today. Any other questions, because they are going to cut me off?

Q: We don't want free trade. What is happening?

M: What I know is nothing more than you know. There were displays of adherence and sympathy in four or five states of the Republic, among them Veracruz, Oaxaca, Puebla and another state in the North that I can't remember. Our organization will also speak on a national level. A column was lost as they entered and then they went in there, they left to look, but we are not going to enter any civilian house. We did not do it when you were sleeping [applause], and won't now that you are awake. I think we did well, because you did not awaken until very late. [applause]

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