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A Review of John Ross' Zapatistas

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-- 600 Wal-Mart megastores crushing small homegrown retailers and Mexican chains. Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB is the country's largest private employer and biggest retailer in Latin America far and away. This predatory colossus dominates Mexican retailing (like it does up North) with forecasted 2007 sales of $21 billion and soaring profits gotten at the expense of its workers even more than in the US because in Mexico Wal-Mex can get away with anything.

-- The Mexican landscape littered with thousands of McDonald's, Burger King's, Wendy's, and other US retail chains destroying local culture and homogenizing markets to sell the same stuff in Mexico as in Milwaukee, Missouri and Maine.

-- The importation and consumption of genetically modified (GMO) corn presenting a clear danger to "the People of the Corn" by displacing and contaminating locally-grown varieties cultivated for thousands of years as dietary and cultural staples. The GMO poison from el norte is now spreading like an uncontrollable infestation from indigenous cornfield to cornfield.

Add to the above, former President Vincente Fox's Plan Puebla-Panama (PPP) that so far flopped but isn't dead. He proposed it early in his term as a multi-billion dollar development scheme to turn Southern Mexico (including Chiapas) and Central America all the way to Panama into a colossal free trade paradise displacing indigenous people, destroying their culture and sacred corn, and harming the environment for profit. He wanted to induce private investment by handing over to them the region's natural resources including its oil, water, minerals, timber and ecological biodiversity. Fox wanted to rip into the area with new ports, airports, bullet trains, bridges, superhighways, 25 hydroelectric dams, new telecommunication facilities, electrical grids, and a new Panama Canal - for starters, with more development to follow. He also wanted to open the country's wildlife reserves for bioprospecting in a giveaway to giant seed, chemical and drug companies and connect everything with new highways linking Mexico to Central America facilitating business throughout the region - meaning indigenous people had to make way for it.

The area planned for development is enormous and so far stalled. It covers 102 million hectares with 64 million inhabitants in eight countries few of whom would benefit from a scheme to exploit masquerading as infrastructure and private development and more without consent of the people the way it's always done. It's the reason the plan went nowhere - so far. It's irrelevant to the poor, rural South gaining nothing except picking up the tab so corporate predators can take their land for private gain selling back to the people what's already theirs like Chiapas' fresh water that's 40% of the country's total Coca-Cola is dying to get its hands on. It would also destroy the last significant tropical rain forest in Chiapas' Montes Azules Integral Biosphere in the Lacandon jungle where the government wants to remove native Mayans from lands belonging to them.

An Enduring Struggle for Liberation and Autonomy

The EZLN struggled to win redress for their major demands, but the Zedillo government in the 1990s reneged on a promise to address them. The key betrayal came in 1996 when EZLN leaders thought they had a deal known as the San Andres Accords. It was a landmark document based on the International Labor Organization's Resolution 169, the universally accepted benchmark for defining an indigenous people stipulating they have both territory or habitat and "territoriality" meaning they have autonomy over their own lands free from government control.

Had it passed, it would have given Mexico's 57 distinct indigenous peoples local autonomy over all aspects of their lives - agrarian policy, natural resources, the environment, health and educational institutions, judicial system, and their overall social and cultural rights. It needed to be legislatively approved by changes in state, federal, local laws and the Mexican Constitution committing the government to eliminate "the poverty, the marginalization and insufficient political participation of millions of indigenous Mexicans."  But like before and always, it wasn't to be as PRI President Zedillo, an "inflexible globophile" and technocratic servant of empire, upheld Mexico's business as usual mal gobierno (bad government) dark forces reneging on the deal as fast as he could unleash Mexican army troops against the people of Chiapas stepping up his "dirty war" on them to undermine their popular support and end the EZLN rebellion.

"PRIista" Zedillo failed, biting off more than he could chew, because the Zapatistas then and now aren't giving up their struggle or going away. Their response was a greater effort to mobilize broader support throughout the country. In 1999, the collective Zapatista Revolutionary Indigenous Clandestine Committee (CCRI) leadership made up of 23 commanders and spokesperson Subcommandante Marcos organized a national consulta, or referendum, for indigenous rights and implementation of the San Andres Accords that were signed in 1996. More than three million Mexicans participated with 95% of them endorsing the EZLN's demands providing the kind of mass support hard to ignore.

In December, 2000, National Action Party's (PAN) Vincente Fox (and former Coca-Colaista big cheese) had to address it. He shook Mexico's political firmament in the July elections becoming the country's first president able to end the PRI's stranglehold single party 71 year rule under a system known as "Presidentialism."  After taking office, he arrogantly promised to cut the Gordian knot deadlock with the EZLN and would meet with Subcommandante Marcos to "fix things up in 15 minutes" by committing to submit the San Andres Accords or La Ley Cocopa Indian Rights Law to Congress for resolution where almost for certain they'd be none.

Still, the Zapatistas and their supporters went on the road for it for 16 days going from Chiapas to Mexico City in February and March 2001. The climax was a mass rally of hundreds of thousands in the capital's Zocalo, to no avail as the Congress gutted the Accords ending the EZLN's hope for redress through the political process that was reinforced when the nation's Supreme Court upheld the legislators 8 - 3 on September 7, 2002. It left the Zapatistas high and dry and more than ever determined to work for change outside the political process that works for the privileged, not the people.

La Otra Campana - The EZLN's Other Campaign

The Zapatista's Other Campaign grew out of the organization's Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (the Sexta) issued June, 2005 calling for a new approach outside traditional party politics the EZLN rejects because it doesn't work for ordinary people. The idea was to build a grand alliance of all jodidos (the "screwed" over people) to include Indians and the "real left" to join in solidarity from the bottom up outside the political process and call a constitutional convention to write a new anti-neoliberal document protecting the nation's land and resources as well as enact an Indian Rights law.

The Other Campaign went on the road to all parts of the country during the 2006 electoral period working outside the political process withholding support for opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) presidential candidate and ex-PRIista Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, popularly known as ALMO.

Ross calls him El Peje, his nickname, noting while serving as Mexico City's popular mayor he eschewed ostentation; provided essential social services for the people like free milk for young mothers; shelters for the homeless; and jobs for tens of thousands. He also cut deals with the business class from Mexico's Council of Businessmen (CMHN) made up of the country's 37 richest men like he did with billionaire tycoon Carlos Slim showing he was a "demon in disguise, a demagogue, (a) dreaded politician. A danger, in short, for Mexico."  A man who sleeps with the devil. Not anyone the Zapatistas could trust or support, and they didn't, sitting out the campaign to further their own to end Mexico's unjust economic system of corrupted predatory capitalism exploiting people for profit. Their goal is noble, and they're committed to it - to one day bring real social, economic and democratic change to the country but do it outside party politics within which it can never happen.

Working through the system always turns out the same. The dominant PRI and PAN are Mexico's Republicans and Democrats - two wings of the nation's property party exploiting the masses to serve the country's capital interests, latifundistas, and foreign investors from el norte. It hardly matters whether PAN or PRI rules with the PRD scarcely better as most in it are recycled "PRIANS" (formerly from PRI and PAN) - aka, Mexico's bipartisan criminal class with softer edges offering the people more crumbs, but still crumbs. In power they'd never address the Zapatistas' original 13 demands - land, work, labor, bread, education, health, shelter, communication, culture, independence, democracy, liberty, and peace as well as foster solidarity with the aggrieved.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.
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Interesting and depressing to see how a handful of... by Professor Emeritus Peter Bagnolo on Thursday, Mar 22, 2007 at 12:42:42 PM