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Communique from Subcomander Marcos (Part 5)
Masks and The Silence from Above:
"I have heard much of your cosmetics: God has given you one face, and you make another; you prance, you swing your hips, you mispronounce, you give nicknames to God´s creature, and you make of your ignorance your lasciviousness."
"Hamlet," William Shakespeare
What is the government's role in society? What should its role be? These questions are asked by the political parties, the analysts and by society. There are many responses to one and the other question, but the Mexican government has their own and, despite the madness of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Zedillo, Labastida, Green, Madrazo, Gurria, Ortiz, Rabasa and Albores (yes, I know already that I gave 8, but 4 are horsemen and 4 are beasts, you choose) - they impose them with blood (contributed by those from below) and fire (from those above).
Lacking the legitimacy which can only be obtained by the governed, these characters from the Mexican tragedy at the end of the century, supplant it with a mask made ´ex profeso,´ that of the State of Law. In the name of the "State of Law" they impose economic measures, they assassinate, they imprison, they rape, they destroy, they persecute, they make war.
Without rational arguments, without legitimacy, without morals, the government of Mexico seizes its only resource: violence. But the government does not direct this violence against organized crime or against delinquency (that is, it does not use it against itself), it is used against the most impoverished, that is, a now immense majority, but which continues growing at the same rhythm as the country is collapsing.
It could seem to us that a collapse could have a thunderous sound, but, in this case, a silence covers it and announces it, the silence of the forgetting.
In order to supplant its lack of legitimacy with legality, the Mexican State (and not just the government) must carry out a complex surgical operation on the entire social order. That is, to eradicate the historical memory from the governed. And they try to do this by substituting the true history (in lower case), with the Official History (in upper case). And this Official History is not learned in books, rather it was created in the mental laboratories of postgraduates in foreign universities. Harvard, Oxford, Yale, and the MIT are the modern "Founding Fathers" of the current Mexican leaders. And so the Official History comes from as far away as the indicators of economic growth, these have the constancy of a weather vane in the middle of a storm. And so the present is the only possible history for these "blackboard boys" (as Carlos Fuentes would name them), the "computer kids" (as who-knows-whom would name them), or the "Pines Cartel" (as their drug trafficking associates call them). If constancy and pain and hard work are characteristic of the history of those from below, the ephemeral is the preferred place for the Official History. The "Today" of the stock markets is the historical reference of these technocrats who, thanks to the criminal Carlos Salinas de Gortari, today find themselves in political power in Mexico. This Official History has its mask.
The Mask of "Modernity." Does it seem attractive? Functional? Aerodynamic? Biodegradable? Cool? Lite? It is nothing of that, but it is sold and consumed with similar arguments. The Modernity of the neoliberal leaders in Mexico reveals an empty and dry country. In spite of publicity and marketing techniques, and notwithstanding the millions spent in cosmetics and makeup, the mask of Mexican Modernity is being more and more chipped away. And it is more and more difficult to not see what it is hiding: the destruction of the nurturing bases of the Mexican State, that is, the bases of National Sovereignty.
With ´modernity´ as a spinal column, a series of arguments (mask's beyond a doubt) are wielded to justify (in the double meaning of "making justice" and "giving a reason for being") the dramatic destruction of all that which allows a country to keep its "national sovereignty" from being a mere rhetorical device. Ownership of subsoil wealth, of the territorial waters and air, of the lines of communication, of the businesses with social functions (education, health, food, housing, security), social policy, effective control of financial and commercial markets, money, language, government, armed forces, history, these are some of the foundations necessary for a State. Through various means, and behind several masks, but always with the same urgency, these bases of national sovereignty are being weakened, when they are not outright destroyed, by the neoliberal governments of Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado, Carlos Salinas de Gortari and (the student surpasses his teachers) Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon.
With the masks of "industrial restructuring," "adaptation to the modern era of globalization," the "streamlining of public spending," the "elimination of subsidies which hinder free trade and economic development," "the international fight against drug trafficking," and "the end of the populist State," the Mexican governments since 1982 until the present have operated a veritable extermination campaign against the fundamental supports of national sovereignty.
Selling off state enterprises for a song, giving in to the pressures of international markets, abandoning their social service functions (or changing their function into the buying of votes), ending supports for basic products and controlling salaries, leaving the future of the national currency to the discretion of large financial centers, yielding their governmental activities to the publicity campaigns which the sales market of countries demands, awarding the national armed forces the role of neighborhood policemen in the global village, rewriting (and erasing) national history, thinking in dollars, all in all, the last Mexican governments have managed, through various means, to make this country less and less ours, and less and less a country.
Pay attention. What remains of the Mexican State to allow it to claim that it is sovereign? Hundreds of state enterprises have been sold, the pompously named "Mexican Stock Exchange" looks like a branch of the Asian markets (and those who peddle the idea that it may be a branch indeed, but it´s a branch of the North American Exchanges), the only consistency in the price of basic products is their upward mobility, the Mexican peso lacks a language in the international currency market, the Mexican governments think in English and only translate into Spanish when they are directing themselves to nationals (although not with any luck, as Chancellor Green demonstrated), the Mexican federal army carries out (under orders from North American advisors) in the national mountains the same work which General Custer did with the indigenous in the United States, and high officials in the Mexican government respond swiftly and with certainty to the question: "When is Independence Day?" with a conclusive, "the fourth of July." Scandalous? Right, but for this we reach for the Forgetting. Another silence...
Yes, forget what we were, what brought us to here. Forget all the past, not just that of Deception and pain, but also, and above all, that of struggle and rebellion. But the peculiarity of that forgetting is that it doesn´t try to erase what came before, but rather to condemn it, being ashamed of it, regretting it. As is evident, all attempts to "bring" the past into the present is subversion of the "peace and tranquility," it is illegal, ultimately something to be combated. There you have, for example, those Indians who "bring" Zapata to these times of modern globalization and they have him speak and make history. And (what a scandal!) even on the Internet that terrorist cry of Zapata Vive! can be heard. Subversion, even to speak. How well off we were with that Zapata in his grave, in the museum, in the book that was never opened! Therefore, those who "bring" Zapata are illegal and subversive, that Zapata is illegal and subversive because of the nightmares he provokes, and, ergo, history is illegal and subversive - not just because it questions today, but also because it makes one believe (and struggle for!) that another today is possible. And to conceal this silence, another mask.....
The Mask of the Macroeconomy…and we say to that Mask…Zapata Vive y Vive!!
Communique from Subcomander Marcos (Part 5)
(You can find all the 5 parts of the Communique on the InfoWar Thread at: http://www.thing.net/ )
Zapatistas choose words over arms in Chiapas fight
By Laurence Iliff
EL BOSQUE, Chiapas -- For four months, the Mexican government has used battalions of soldiers, police and judges to crack down on Chiapas communities that sympathize with Zapatista rebels.
The Zapatista leadership, in turn, has resorted to powerful weapons of its own: humor, poetry and an appeal to the Mexican people. And, analysts said, their strategy seems to be working, even as the government pours millions of dollars into the poor state.
Last week, President Ernesto Zedillo visited Chiapas for the sixth time this year. From an orange grove in the Lacandon jungle, Zedillo promised agricultural subsidies to raise living standards. And in the urban center San Cristobal de las Casas, Zedillo handed out thousands of dollars in checks to communities to help market their handicraft projects and reiterated his administration's stance of seeking a political solution to the conflict.
What 4.5 years ago was a brief fight between the ragtag Zapatista Army of National Liberation, or EZLN, and Mexico's powerful army has become a political standoff in which the rebels have established 32 ``autonomous'' towns locally and garnered widespread political support nationally and internationally.
``It's like the government woke up one day and realized it was a hostage of the Zapatistas,'' said Luis Hernandez Navarro, a newspaper columnist and an adviser to a congressional peace commission. ``It cannot start an all-out war because the political costs would be too high. And it cannot make peace because it has already gone back on its promises. It is in the worst possible situation.''
Or as rebel sympathizer Venturo Morales, 50, said after eight comrades were killed by police and Army troops in El Bosque last month: ``The blows we receive from the government only make us stronger. Now, there are more Zapatistas than ever and they are madder than ever.''
What Former Foreign Minister Jose Angel Gurria once called a war ``of ink and the Internet'' in reference to the Zapatistas' impressive media machine, now consumes the activities of at least 30,000 troops and can still rattle the nation's delicate financial markets.
The first ``post-Cold War'' guerrillas, as historian Lorenzo Meyer calls the Zapatistas, have blossomed without having to fight or lay down their arms. Bloodbaths against peasant rebels, like those in El Salvador or Guatemala in the 1980s, are frowned upon by a world community no longer divided by East and West.
Zedillo's latest attempt to force the Zapatistas back to the negotiating table has resulted in a rebel challenge to the government to hold a national plebiscite on an Indian rights accord. Mexican authorities first signed an accord in 1996 and then rejected it.
Subcomandante Marcos, the charismatic Zapatista leader, also compared himself to Speedy Gonzalez, the Mexican mouse cartoon character who runs circles around his stronger opponents. And the Zapatistas began their latest message to Mexico's Indian people with poetry expressing dignity and solidarity among all indigenous peoples in their fight for greater rights.
To be sure, the Mexican government continues to have a near-monopoly on military power in Chiapas and would win an open confrontation with the Zapatistas, said observers, who do not rule that out, despite the potential political costs. And denied government funds, Zapatista communities are squeezed to the limit. They often rely on ``caravans'' of food and clothing brought by Mexican and foreign sympathizers.
The secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, gently chided the Zapatistas during a visit to Mexico City on Wednesday and Thursday, rejecting their call for the United Nations' involvement in the conflict and saying his message to the rebels would be: ``It takes two to tango.''
Despite the U.N.'s rejection of their appeal, analysts said the real fight continues to be for the hearts and minds of the people in Chiapas, throughout Mexico and around the world.
``If the strategy is to isolate the EZLN and its sympathizers, it won't work,'' said Primitivo Rodriguez, a political consultant who has worked for the government and the political opposition. ``The problem is that if it proceeds with a clear, open public renewal of hostilities, it won't be fighting the Zapatistas. It will be fighting Indian people and their right for self-determination.''
That, more than anything, analysts said, is what sets the Zapatistas apart from any other rebel movements in Mexico and around the world.
Early on, by naming themselves in memory of Mexican Revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata, the Zapatistas established themselves as an indigenous rights movement rather than a Marxist or Maoist one like their counterparts in Latin America in decades past, observers said.
And unlike isolated Indian uprisings in Mexico over the past five centuries, the Zapatistas have linked various Chiapas communities and different ethnic groups.
The movement was then glamorized through figures such as Subcomandante Marcos, who -- with his ski mask, pipe and penchant for being photographed on horseback -- became something of a sex symbol and an international icon. Marcos, who is white, was complimented by indigenous Zapatista leaders like ``Tacho'' and ``Ramona,'' who wear traditional Mayan clothing.
And the Zapatistas have never been associated with blowing up bridges or terrorist attacks, enabling a broad spectrum of prominent national and international figures to embrace them.
``This is not a clandestine rebel operation where people are afraid to say publicly that they belong to the rebels,'' Rodriguez said. ``These people are happy and proud to say that they are Zapatistas.''
Zedillo, after permissively allowing Zapatista towns to take hold in the Chiapas countryside, has now exchanged the carrot for the stick, trying to force the rebels into a settlement before the 2000 presidential balloting, in which the conflict is sure to be a major issue, analysts said.
In his two visits to Chiapas this month, Zedillo denied that the government was preparing for a war and laid the blame for the breakdown of peace talks in late 1996 on the rebels and on the former peace negotiator, Catholic Bishop Samuel Ruiz. The clergyman resigned his peace negotiator position in June after the government accused him of being partial to the EZLN.
``If everyone is in favor of a dialogue, then there are no more excuses,'' Zedillo said Thursday during his tour of Chiapas. ``In Chiapas, there has not been nor will there be war between Mexicans.''
Nevertheless, the last seven months have been marked by conflict. In December, 45 Zapatista sympathizers in Acteal were killed by paramilitary groups. Four communities have been broken up since April, including the one in El Bosque, where eight civilians and two police officers died in a clash between state forces and rebel sympathizers.
Zedillo blamed violence in Chiapas on the Zapatistas, accusing them of taking over pro-government communities by force. The Zapatistas have moved forward to establish governments based on Mayan customs and vow never to give them up.
Zedillo has tried to undercut rebel support through public works projects, education programs and farm subsidies. Chiapas, with a population of 3.6 million people, has received more federal aid than any other state during Zedillo's administration.
In the past three years, for example, the government has spent $90 million to buy and redistribute land in Chiapas. This year alone, the government will spend $90 million in agricultural subsidies in the state.
``Unfortunately, there are indigenous, peasant communities where conditions are getting worse,'' Zedillo said Thursday during his tour of Chiapas. ``It is precisely in communities where there are conflicts that conditions are getting worse.''
For example, poor Indians who leave the ranks of the Zapatista rebels said they can look forward to food, agricultural credits for coffee crops, and perhaps a haircut in one of the Mexican Army's ``social labor'' camps.
But there aren't any takers so far in the ``autonomous'' Zapatista community of Polho, where unarmed Indian women and children in white-and-red embroidered shirts form a human chain to keep out soldiers and police. Residents said they'd rather starve, which many of them appear close to, than give up their fight.
``The government can beat us, torture us and even kill our comrades, but the Zapatistas will only grow,'' said Roberto Arias, 34, a Mayan Indian peasant clad in a torn Bugs Bunny shirt and worn boots with no laces.
``We've always lived in misery, but before the Zapatistas, we were dogs,'' he said. ``Now we are men.''
(c) 1998, The Dallas Morning News.
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