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Tuesday, Jul. 05, 2005 at 6:56 PM
When Comandante Marcos sent out a general red-alert last week from the Zapatista community in Chiapas, Mexico, ripples of concern could be felt worldwide.
First came the announcement that the Caracoles, or political community centers in the villages throughout Chiapas were being closed and that the EZLN troops were being called back to their clandestine mountain barracks. At the same time the EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional) distanced themselves from all civilians and outside support teams in the area, saying that if they chose to stay, they would be on their own as the EZLN could no longer be responsible for them or guarantee their safety,.
This was followed by a series of communiqués from Marcos and the EZLN leaders. The first condemned the three Mexican political parties: the PRI, the PAN, and even the more recent and considered by many to be more progressive PRD; saying that little has changed since the people took up arms in January of 1994, that the system has reneged on the contracts and promises made to the indigenous people of Mexico, and that the time has arrived to take new measures.
What would those measures be? Would they include military attacks? The world held it’s breath and awaited words from the mountains.
Subsequent messages appeared on email lists worldwide stating that the Zapatistas were involved in “consultas”, community meetings, where a proposal drafted by the EZLN was being discussed. Next, came the news that the EZLN plans to organize forums across Mexico to create a national agenda that will include the voices of all of the indigenous poor and the working class. The Zapatistas have a very inclusive agenda and see this forum spreading to the rest of the world as well
All of these communiqués have been written with great care to explain the Zapatista philosophy and to make it clear that nothing said is the voice of only one person or one group; but that tens of thousands of people are involved with every decision, and that not days, but months if not years have gone into every process.
Then the announcement hit the newswires and internet that whatever is planned definitely does not include an offensive attack and this came as a major source of relief to the worldwide community which had been in a state of baited breath awaiting any news to come from those mysterious mountain juntas.
E-mails have been flying and voices of L.A. delegates in Chiapas have been heard on KPFK, many describing a sense of eerie tension. These same delegates have explained that the EZLN distancing itself from the communities and from the outside delegates has most likely been in order to protect everyone from possible attacks on the part of the Mexican government. Apparently several years ago in a similar pull-out by the EZLN, the government used this as a pretext to attack the aldeas or villages, and so by stating that the EZLN is an isolated group and that no one else is related to it is an attempt to prevent a similar occurrence.
Still, from all reports there is no evidence of any overt attempts made to step-up military activity in the villages of Chiapas, and aside from a few more road stops; there is no real change. Just the waiting and the tension
The Mexican government, however, has not been silent throughout this process. Immediately following the first communiqué; the find of a large marijuana farm in Zapatista territory was reported in the major Mexican media, along with the speculation that the EZLN was cultivating drugs in order to finance their munitions supply. This was an obvious attempt to discredit the Zapatistas right from the start, and although the government backed off of this false story a few days later, it is clear that this was a blatant attempt to plant the idea in the minds of the people that the Zapatistas are nothing more than a group of drug running thugs
Then the news came that the indigenous people had come to a conclusion; “tens of thousands of people” have agreed on the Zapatista proposal. This with a 98% majority and Marcos was very clear in his communication that only people of 100% indigenous blood voted. This excluded Marcos and any other Meztizos from the actual decision making process.
All of this has caused a flurry of meetings and discussions all over the world; and here in L.A. a coalition of groups who work in solidarity with the Zapatistas and other community members came together to discuss and analyze all this activity and try to determine if any action is merited here at this time.
Members of the Los Angeles coalitions in solidarity with the Zapatistas, the Eastside Café in El Sereno, Casa del Pueblo in Echo Park, Estacion Libre, and other concerned activists and community members met June 29, Wednesday evening, at the Eastside Café.
After everyone was brought up to date on the history of the Zapatistas and the current events that have led to this point the discussion was opened to ideas. However due to the fact that the communiqué stating what exactly the Zapatista proposition consists of has yet to be released, it’s difficult to know exactly what is needed or expected from the community.
There were ideas relating to how to deal with the Mexican government, including approaching the consulate here in L.A. with petitions signed by members of the community, although what these petitions would demand is not clear at this point. There were ideas on how to educate and mobilize the communities of color, and on being inclusive and involving as many people as possible. There was discussion of utilizing the talents and resources available in the group, as well as the possibility of forming alliances with other community struggles such as the efforts to re-open Self-Help Graphics.
This is a fledgling group and is reaching out to as many people as possible. The next meeting will be Wednesday July 6 at the Eastside Café located at 5469 N. Huntington Blvd. in El Sereno. Everyone is invited.
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