Marcos letter to Ernesto Zedillo,
President of Mexico

after his inauguration speech

Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional
December 3, 1994
TO: Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon.
Mexico, D.F.
FROM: Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Indigenous Clandestine Revolutionary Committee
General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation

General Quarters

"I must conclude due to lack of time, but I will add one more observation. Sometimes men are given to attack the rights of others, to take their assets, threaten the lives of those who defend their nationality, make the highest virtues appear to be crimes and give to his own vices the luster of true virtue. But there is one thing which neither falsity nor perfidy can reach, and that is the sentence of history".
Benito Juarez to Maximilian of Hapsburg in response to a confidential letter where Maximilian proposes a secret negotiation and a position in his government

Mr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon:

Welcome to the nightmare.

Through this letter I direct myself to you in reference to your inauguration speech.

You should know that the political system which you represent (the one to which you owe your position of power, although not your legitimacy) has prostituted the language to such a degree, that today "politics" is synonymous to lies, crime, treachery. I only say to you what millions of Mexicans would like to say: we don't believe it.

And I add what, perhaps not all believe: enough with waiting for the day when things will change. Your words today are the same ones we have heard at the beginning of other administrations.

The distrust of the Nation towards electoral processes includes he who took you to that deceitful transfer of powers. So I direct myself to you, as well as to your tutor, Mr. Salinas de Gortari, who, as evidenced by the cabinet which accompanies you in this new lie, refuses to retire from national political life.

How do you expect the Nation to believe you will secure justice in the assassinations which have stained the modern history of Mexico, and demonstrated the true and criminal face of your Party-State? How can we believe you if you award one of those who have been accused of the cover-up with the position of the management of the underground wealth of the Nation?

I see that you perpetuate that government office of alms, called Sedesol. What dignified relationship can you offer in exchange for a frank dialogue and respectful negotiation when you appoint as your conscience-buying teller one of the links of the chain inherited to you by Salinismo and which, since May of 1993, instead of assigning economic assistance to those places which most need them, has been dedicated to buying indigenous dignity as if it was a trinket in a market?

Is this your counterinsurgency plan? The proliferation of social work in order to weaken our popular base of support? It is a good strategy, it comes in all the Northamerican manuals of anti-guerrilla strategy (and in all its history of failures). Don't you realize that money only winds up in the pockets of the corrupt leaders and municipal presidents of the PRI in the Chiapanecan countryside? Is this advice from military advisors of Argentina? Are you to be deceived once again? Like the time you were told that millions and millions of old and new pesos were invested in the region which, after January 1, suddenly became a "conflict zone"? How much more money, how much more blood is necessary for you to learn that corruption, which up to now has allowed you to survive as political system, will tomorrow be your grave?

Allow me to continue to comment upon your cabinet, it is the proof that your inauguration speech is only a bunch of words. It is more a storefront than a governmental team; in it you have a group inherited from your tutor and distinguished by their opportunism in anything which refers to national sovereignty and Mexican dignity. In External Relations you have someone who looks good to outsiders but not to Mexican nationals. Have External Relations simply become Commercial Relations? In Agriculture and Hydraulic Resources you have the guarantee that poverty and discontent will increase in the Mexican countryside.

In general, a foreign and French shadow can be seen in all your cabinet, under which Mexicans suffered this past administration. So many lies and so much make-up will be useless, this country will explode in your hands no matter how much you believe that you control all the resources necessary to maintain all the Mexicans in the category of "puts-up-with- everything".

I listened carefully to your speech on the radio. You are correct when you say that it is not our violence which the Nation fears. But your lesson is incomplete, you characterize the climate of insecurity which the country lives as something amorphous. The principal promoter of instability, insecurity and violence is the party system of the State. The political system which you cannot destroy, because, quite simply, you owe the power you now hold, to its existence. The cabinet which you present today to the country is a small demonstration of the pending invoices with which your administration is born. All of your speech will crumble when you confront the debts you owe to the different accomplices which allowed you to assume the Presidency by covering up the crimes of the State. The crime began with the assassination of the one from whom you inherited your candidacy. It continued in the mockery of the electoral campaigns. It passed a self-test on the 21st of August and it culminates in this fateful December 1st.

Two first days now mark the history of this country in opposite ways; the first of January marks the increase of the volume of the cries of dignity and rebellion of Mexicans of all social origins but with the same disgrace. Since that day, with indigenous voices, men, women, children and the elderly of the city and the countryside, of different colors, of different races and languages, but of a common suffering. The first of December completes the burial of what began before the 21st of August; burial of a hope for the peaceful transition to democracy, liberty, and justice.

The indigenous communities do not just suffer, as you point out, "serious privations, injustices, and lack of opportunities." They have as well a serious illness which begins, little by little, to affect the rest of the population; rebellion. You will bear witness to this while your government lasts.

You say that "against poverty we will all unite, the government, society, the affected communities". Nevertheless, you appoint a cabinet along the same lines as that man who buried the country in misery: Carlos Salinas de Gortari. We do not want that kind of unity of Mexico upon which you call. It is a call to unity which will assure the permanence of the same system of oppression, now with the make-up of a new administration. It is not the unity which Mexico needs. The one which our history reclaims is the unity against the party system of government, the system which has the Nation submerged in a poverty of the body and the spirit.

You point out that "during this year the spirit of all Mexicans has been darkened by events in Chiapas, by violence, and more so, by the conditions of profound injustice, by the conditions of misery and negligence which fertilized that violence."

Neither the conditions of profound injustice, nor violence, belong exclusively to the state of Chiapas. The entire Nation suffers the high social cost imposed by neoliberalism. If there are not profound transformations, violence will darken all the national territory and not necessarily because we promote it.

You contradict yourself when you say "there will not be violence on the government's part" because the white guards of the large cattleranchers and businessmen act without impunity, with government complicity. You are starting wrong if all you can offer is half-truths.

You say you are "indignant to learn that women suffer violence in public; that children and adolescents are victims of abuse outside their schools; that workers lose their salaries in muggings, and small businessmen in armed robberies. I am outraged to learn of cases that are the result of the abuse of authority, venality, and corruption." Yes, and it is also outrageous to learn that there are 24 billionaires at the expense of a paltry 4% increase in the minimum wage; it is also outrageous to learn that our national identity has been robbed within the "legal" process of a North American Free Trade Agreement which only means freedom for the powerful to rob and the freedom of misery for the dispossessed; it is outrageous now that the one who wears the Presidential sash does so not by popular will but by the will of money and fear.

"The brutal assassinations of outstanding political figures of the country have deeply wounded the citizenry, they have sowed discontent and doubt about certain institutions and, we should admit it, have divided the Mexicans". Yes, but not only those crimes, also that perpetrated, day and night, by all the members of the governmental apparatus, beginning with the previous leader of the Executive branch and ending with the last of the minor bureaucrats at the municipal level.

You ask for unity and point out that "the moment has arrived when we must gather our wills, without sacrificing our differences". But you are only looking for the endorsement and legitimacy not given you by the popular vote. Your offer of a "permanent dialogue" has manifest itself in the repression which has inaugurated December. Perhaps you are thinking of a kind of "Dialogue Commission" made up of grenadiers and policemen to deal with the press and the opposition.

It is not necessary to declare that, as president of the Republic you will not intervene, "under any form, in the processes and decisions which belong only to the party" to which you belong. That will be done by Mr. Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Your cabinet and the impunity enjoyed by the PRI leadership is proof enough.

We are clearly in agreement with you when you say that "in this historic moment, no one should run from responsibility, lessen our effort, give in to the temptation of letting our arms fall."

The Zapatistas will not run from our responsibility, lessen our efforts, or give in to the temptation of letting our arms fall. We will continue to struggle, with our arms in our hands, against the system of the party-State, the same one which allows the figure of Salinismo t be perceived behind you.

Today, and since the 17th of November of 1994, I have been given the baton of the supreme command of the rebel forces, and consequently I assume the responsibility of responding to you in the name of all our Army.

In this your first speech as the President, you point out your desire to seek negotiations as a way of resolving the conflict and you offer us that road.

Mister Zedillo, it is my duty to say to you that we do not believe you. You are part of a system which has arrived at the greatest aberration, resorted to assassination in order to settle its differences as if you were a group of criminals. You do not conduct yourself as a representative of the Nation, you speak with an enormous stain on your word: the stain of the blood of thousands of assassinations, including those which belong to your own political circle, stain which covers the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Why should we believe in the sincerity of a negotiated solution?

From the beginning of the presidential assessment, the amount of troops have increased and the reinforcement of a clear disposition to annihilation is evident. From the 14th day of November there are obvious and continuous intrusions of airplanes, of "Hercules" transports which move men and military supplies to the units used against insurgents on the Guatemalan border. The foreign military "advisors" (and I want to say clearly that they are not Argentinian because these animals have no country) have their pupils prepared. You have now finished, I assume that you are ready. We know the number and location of your troops, your general strategy and a few tactical plans. Unfortunately we can do nothing on political and military terms. We are surrounded militarily and this prevents a military action of any breadth. Our repeated declarations against the increase of your belligerent preparations have only frustrated and bored the Nation.

You should know that I have circulated orders that the totality of the members of the CCRI remain in the rearguard in order to guarantee that the political direction of our just cause not be lost. Know as well that, as in January, the military leaders will be at the front of the different units. I will do the same. I have made the necessary preparations so that my successors in the military leadership can assume their responsibilities without major problems in case I should die.

Our major strength is also our major weakness. The support of the civilian population, that which allowed us to grow and become strong, now obliges us to abandon all intents at retreat which does not include them. That is why, for us, there is no backward step. We will fight at the side of the peoples who in the past have protected us, we will be the shields and guardians of their lives. I know that takes from us all possibility of survival. To confront as a regular army another regular army superior to us in weapons and personnel, although not in morality, nullifies the possibilities of success. Surrender has been prohibited; the Zapatista leaders who opt for surrender will be decommissioned. However, no matter the result of this war, sooner or later the sacrifice which today appears to be useless and sterile will be compensated in the thunderbolts which light up other skies. The light will come, it is sure, to the deep South and will sparkle in the Mar de Plata, in the Andes, the land of Artigas, Paraguay and all this inverted and absurd pyramid which is Latin America. Strength is not on our side; it has never been on the side of the dispossessed. But the historic logic, the shame and ardor which we feel in our chests and which we call dignity, makes us, the nameless, the true men and women of forever.

Through the dull exchange of a watch for a jacket, your offer to incorporate ourselves as "part of the solution" and to a secret and direct dialogue arrived. In reference to your offer to be "an active part of the execution of actions" I should say that if you refer to the price of Zapatista dignity, know that there is not enough money in the entire Nation capable of approximating its price. Don't deceive yourself into thinking that our cry of "Everything for everyone, nothing for ourselves" is a passing style or deceit which covers up our ambition for power. The Zapatistas don't have a price because dignity does not have a price.

In reference to the direct and secrete dialogue, in my role as supreme commander of the EZLN I solemnly reject your invitation to a secret negotiation, behind the backs of the nation.

You say that after years of war and thousand of deaths and great destruction, you and I will wind up negotiating. That it is best to do it now. That war should be avoided. But, which war is to be avoided? The one which we began against your system by making legitimate use of self-defense and rebellion? Or the one which you have made against us since you have been power and government in these Mexican lands? The war which we want to end is the one waged by the political system behind and above you against us. The war against any democratizing effort, against any desire for justice, against any aspiration for liberty. This is the war which all Mexicans suffer and which must come to an end. Once it ends, the other war, our war, everyone's war will extinguish itself. Useless and sterile it will end by leaving like a nightmare which is healed by the first light of day. This is the peace we want. Any effort in another direction is a deceit.

To avoid the war of the dispossessed by maintaining or increasing the war which follows the steps of the powerful is to postpone the execution of a historic sentence; the triumph of democracy, liberty and justice in the earth and skies of Mexico.

If you are a man of honor and dignity I invite you to resign your title. You should resign the shame of heading up that great lie which has betrayed the hope of the Mexican people of a peaceful transition to democracy. But before you do so, bring Carlos Salinas de Gortari to a political trial and help the world avoid another lie, the one behind the World Trade Organization, the one like the North American Free Trade Agreement. And before that, as supreme chief of the federal army, liberate officials, ranks and troops so they can choose the path dictated by their consciences and their patriotic sentiment. Don't humiliate them by obliging them to accept foreign intervention which advises them to kill Mexicans.

In my own case, I have done the same; I have liberated my troops of the commitment to continue and have allowed them to choose, to be able to give up, to choose conformity. Not one of them has accepted. Nothing binds them to our ranks, not a salary nor threats, but shame and dignity form chains which are difficult to break. All of them have chosen the same path of yesterday; the one of patriotism and justice.

For my part, I recognize that I have been mistaken in regards to you. In February I believed that your patriotic interest would be superior to your arrogance, that your intelligence would allow you to see that you have constituted yourselves into the major obstacle to the development of the country, that you would step to one side and open the door to a peaceful transition to democracy. But it did not happen that way. You decided to slam the door on the 21st of August and repeat the arrogance of a landslide victory. It so happens that, in history, the doors to peaceful change and violent change, of peace and of war, are inversely linked; when one is closed the other opens. Closing the door to a peaceful transition to democracy opened the heavy gate of war.

The stupidity which has guided your conduct in Chiapas; has beaten me back to reality; the system of the party-State is not intelligent. Even more, I see today that this imbecility is inherent to your state of decomposition. Having had the opportunity to deactivate the political knot of the conflict, you not only maintained it, you tightened it and incorporated sectors which were once on the margin in the extremes of polarization. The deterioration is irreversible; the middle ground has disappeared and the extremes confront themselves demanding the extermination of the other. We have grown by tens of thousands. As I pointed out to you, the supreme government has always taken pertinent measures and taken us out of a problem and made us grow. Instead of risking extinction by political isolation, by a vacuum, the government, with its clumsy local and regional politics, oxygenated a fire which will ultimately consume it.

You must disappear, not just because you represent a historic aberration, a human negation and a cynical cruelty; you should disappear also because you represent an insult to intelligence. You made us possible, you made us grow. We are your other, your siamese opposite. In order for us to disappear you must disappear as well.

It is very difficult to try to listen to you. One supposes that one is speaking with rational beings and apparently not. Accustomed to buying, corrupting, imposing, breaking and assassinating all which is in front of you, when you confront dignity you assume the pose of the crafty businessman seeking the best price for his goods. This has been the attitude of your system in this 11-month unstable cease-fire. The "intelligent" attitude of he who, in front of a slot machine after depositing a coin, waits until the product which he has chosen and bought drops out: peace.

You should know that we have done all that is possible to keep the conflict within the political realm, avoiding at all costs the re-initiation of hostilities. We have called upon different national political personalities, inviting them to an initiative which can head, through political and civil means, the discontent which now overflows towards violent means. If these personalities refused to risk their political capital in what justice demands; the annulment of the elections,a transitional government and a new electoral process, there will be no remedy and the horror will be inevitable. Mexico will not have today, statesmen who are willing to pay the price of their public image in exchange for being responsible to the struggle for democracy. Nevertheless, though they may not exist today this does not mean that tomorrow men and women will appear for whom politics is not synonymous with cynicism and surrender disguised as "gradualism".

Mister Ernesto Zedillo:

Until today you were nothing more than a citizen to us. Today you are the official inheritor of a system which sacrifices, without any vision at all, the future of the country and the national sovereignty. After today, in the unlikely case that you should try to make contact with us, I declare we will make public all communication which comes from your government, while it lasts.

I am sure that in your rise to power you have found men and women ready to sell themselves and compromise "under reasonable circumstances" which is nothing more than a rationalized surrender. The men and women who have confronted the party system since the 1st of January 1994 are perhaps of a kind which you have not come upon before.

We are men and women to whom "Country", "Democracy", "liberty" and "justice" should be, besides grand and noble words, a reality for the Mexican nation. For us, to live without reaching that goal is a shame, and to die fighting for it, is an honor.

I want you to know that, since today, I take with me the seven elements of the Baton of the Zapatista command, the two original volumes of a 1917 edition of the Diary of the Constitutional Congress from November of 1916 to February of 1917. As long as a new Constitution is not created, the one from 1917 for us is the true one. For it, as a national norm, we will fight.

In historic terms, you and I are of little value; random luck has placed us one against the other. In you is personified all the reactionary, antidemocratic and contrary sentiments to the interests of the dispossessed. In us, only hope is personified. The hope to have, at last, the opportunity to decide our own destiny. The hope that democracy, liberty and justice become more than the subject of speeches and textbooks. The hope that they become reality for everyone, but above all, for those who have nothing. You have a face, a name, a past, a present, and a future. In our name we carry the curse of carrying weapons in our hands and the honor of rescuing a history of dignity; in our last name is our national and liberating vocation. We are barely candidates for the common grave and immediate oblivion.

But in "us" there are thousands of Mexicans in all the national territory, men and women, children and old people who have recuperated, together with the word dignity, the conviction that human beings should struggle to be free when they are slaves, and that, once free, should struggle so that other human beings can join them.

We know that our refusal for a dialogue in the conditions which you propose will make a military solution your first choice in future decisions. We do not fear death nor the judgement of history.

If in truth the entire country is willing to submit its desires for liberty and democracy, then the clamor for our annihilation will be gigantic and you will not have to worry. High military commanders say they will annihilate us all in a few hours, days if the weather is bad. Therefore, the stock market may suffer a few days of uncertainty.

If, on the other hand as we believe, the people of Mexico wish to listen to our rebel cry for dignity, then millions of voices will unite with our demands for the three conditions for a dignified peace: democracy, liberty and justice.

You are no longer you. You are the personification of an unjust system, anti-democratic and criminal. We, the "illegals", the "transgressors of the law", the "professionals of violence", the "nameless" ones, are today and always, the hope of everyone.

This is all, Mister Zedillo. I have spoken to you with sincerity, in a way in which I don't believe you have spoken to me. I repeat our demands for peace: democracy, liberty and justice for ALL Mexicans.

As long as these demands remain unresolved there will be war in Mexican territory.


Health and a parachute for that cliff which exists in your tomorrow.

From the mountains of Southeast Mexico.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, November of 1994.

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