The Specter of Indigenous Mexico
With a Weakened Presidency, Here Come the Zapatistas
By Al Giordano
Part II: Fox at Half-Life
July 23, 2003
In March of 2001, we reported that, “Mexico’s two major internationally-known leaders threw out the pre-written scripts and made daring gambits on the world stage.”
President Vicente Fox, speaking to reporters in Mexico City, had made public statements in favor of the legalization of drugs.
Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos, also in Mexico City, denounced the “closed mindedness” of “cavemen politicians” that had broken the signed agreement for the indigenous rights law known as the San Andrés Accords, and announced that the Zapatista caravan in the nation’s capital was pulling up stakes and returning to the jungles and mountains of the southernmost state of Chiapas.
“Señor Fox has been handing out statements left and right, without actions to back them up,” wrote Marcos in a signed communiqué, “and he has played with the anguish and suffering of hundreds of indigenous families who remain, barely surviving, far from their homes, because their homes are being occupied by the Fox Federal Army.”
In essence, Fox was changing the subject from that season’s dominant headline – the quest to codify the indigenous rights law – by making a bold proposal on drugs that, more than two years later, he never backed with action. And Marcos was saying that it’s useless to try and conduct politics or negotiations with the Fox government because it does not back its words with action.
For these two years, Marcos and the Zapatistas have remained in Chiapas, mostly silent, waiting for the nation to catch up with their conclusion that Fox – who as a 2000 presidential candidate said he would solve the Chiapas conflict “in fifteen minutes” – is a dishonest person who doesn’t keep his word, so why bother with him at all?
On the Importance of Keeping One’s Word
Today, any reasonable observer can look at the two statements and see, clearly, who kept his word.
Marcos, speaking for the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, said his troops would go back to the hills and wait. What he said they would do, they did, patiently, and mostly silently.
Fox, whose statements in favor of legalizing drugs that same weekend raised expectations and considerable cheers around the world, has, however, done nothing, absolutely nothing, to implement his stated views. Indeed, he never mentioned them again. To the contrary, he has become more of a doormat for US-imposed prohibitionist drug policies, for the presence of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Mexico, for the sale of the money-laundering National Bank of Mexico (Banamex) to the money-laundering Citigroup in New York (the single largest auction of national patrimony in Mexico’s history), and to the continuance of a simulated drug war show in which gun-toting deliverymen (inaccurately named “cartel” leaders, since the word “cartel” defines those who fix the price of a product) are portrayed as the “kingpins” when the real narco-supremos are in government and giant financial institutions, wearing suits and ties.
These uncontested facts underscore a major point of Part I of this series: That Vicente Fox is owned not by the people of Mexico, but, rather, by foreign powers, particularly in the United States, who contributed “15 to 20 percent” of his 2000 campaign funds, and this explains why Fox did not, why he could not, do anything about his stated views – favoring drug legalization – even though his March 2001 statements invoked absolutely no opposition from any sector in the Mexican Congress, press, or Civil Society. Fox has served only one constituency: Washington, DC, and the big money interests behind it.
But as the July 6th election results reveal, ninety-two percent of the Mexican people don’t believe in Fox, do not support him, and the country known globally for its “presidencialismo” – it’s strong president form of government – will spend the remaining three years of Fox’s six-year term living under a government without a credible leader.
“Rope-a-Dope”: A Boxing Analogy
To explain the collapse of the Vicente Fox’s presidency in Mexico’s July 6th elections – and what a mostly silent rebel indigenous movement had to do with it – a boxing analogy serves: In professional boxing, there is a term called “rope-a-dope,” when a challenger allows his opponent to wear himself out throwing useless punches. The seemingly passive boxer then knocks his opponent out cold when the adversary has tired himself out. This is what has just occurred in Mexico.
Once again, without endorsing a single candidate, without entering the miasma of electoral politics in a fixed game dominated by money, the only clear winner of the 2003 elections in Mexico is the candidate who, if nominated, would not run, and who, if elected, would not serve. In fact, he did not even vote: Insurgent Subcomandante Marcos, the chosen spokesman for the bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
From “somewhere in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,” the poverty-stricken, forgotten-again-and-again-conflict-zone, of Chiapas – the southernmost state along the Guatemala border – a rope was provided to the presidential dope upon which he hanged himself on the political and economic strings by which his powerful backers held him.
Fox’s 2000 campaign promise to end the Chiapas conflict “in fifteen minutes,” his actions (and inactions) since he took office on December 1st of that year, and his brief, disingenuous, flirtation with the issue of drug legalization, have all been extensively reported, step by step, in Narco News.
His sell-out of the San Andrés Peace Accords provoked, after the Zapatista Caravan to Mexico City in 2001, a policy of silence by Marcos and the Zapatistas, as well as the Indigenous National Congress with its delegates from 56 of Mexico’s 62 distinct indigenous ethnic groups. The journalists, intellectuals, and politicians, who had, in sunnier times, flocked to be identified with Marcos and the Zapatistas, have spent the past two years sitting around complaining about the deafening silence by Marcos and the national indigenous movement: beware of “glommers” and fans… they are the ones who too often tend to turn on their heroes.
Meanwhile, without the Zapatista show to spice up the hope factor the national body politic, the lights went out on Fox. All that could be seen was endless evidence of national malaise, of how little has changed in the switch from PRI to PAN governments. The silence has served as a kind of Chinese water torture to snap the illusions that held the Fox mystique together. Fox, in campaign for president, was going to form truth commissions and unearth the big national secrets of the authoritarian state and its terror of recent generations. As president, he backed away from that pledge.
The Ongoing War
Fox, the candidate, claimed he was going to demilitarize Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero and other conflict zones. And yet, hundreds of cases of military, police, and paramilitary attacks on indigenous communities and civilians in Chiapas have been documented and denounced during the Fox presidency by the non-governmental organization Enlace Civil (one of the only “NGOs” that, instead of telling indigenous communities what to do, listens to and obeys the desires, democratically voiced, of those communities). The state of war in Chiapas has continued under Fox as brutally as it had under the PRI.
Assassinations, kidnappings, massacres, the unjust imprisonment of indigenous leaders has continued rapid-fire under Fox, and not just in Chiapas. One need only browse recent entries on Chiapas Indymedia to catch a whiff of the blood on Fox’s hands: In the state of Veracruz, Zapoteca indigenous leader Miguel Bautista was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the nonviolent “crime” of helping to form an autonomous municipality in Sochiaba. In the state of Guerrero, two days prior to the recent election, four unarmed Tlapaneco indigenous citizens – a father and his three daughters – who had protested military occupation in their community, were pumped with fifty rounds of bullets. Offices and homes of political organizers are routinely invaded, trashed, and/or destroyed. The national government under Fox has continued the PRI government’s support of paramilitary organizations and local political bosses, known as caciques, throughout rural Mexico, as a means of control through terror.
Meanwhile, under Fox’s watch, Citibank was generously rewarded after its participation on the Fox campaign’s foreign money trail in 2000. By the summer of 2001, it had made off with Mexico’s biggest economic prize: the National Bank of Mexico, or Banamex. The Fox administration marks, so far, the single largest three years of organized looting of Mexico’s natural resources by foreign powers in history; in dollars and cents, the damage is already worse than what occurred during the six year terms of super-villain Carlos Salinas and super-technocrat Ernesto Zedillo before him.
Although the national Congress forced Fox to backpedal on his market-driven desires to “privatize” (and thus allow foreign control) of Mexico’s oil reserves, he has, in practice, presided over a massive drop by drop transfer of the petroleum infrastructure into foreign hands, as if each drop is carried by ants, unseen, but persistent. A revealing tale came last December, when Fox called Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, during a top-down shut-down and sabotaging of that South American country’s state oil company.
“What can I do to help?” asked Fox, disingenuously.
“Loan me some oil tankers,” answered Chávez.
“I can’t,” Fox confessed. “I’ve leased them all to multinational oil companies.”
In other words, already, as a result of just three years of Vicente Fox at the helm, Mexico would not be able to structurally withstand the kind of attempted kidnapping of the oil industry that Venezuela withstood last December.
More Deaths than the Israel-Palestine Intifada
Meanwhile, what has Fox gotten in return for his subservience to a foreign agenda?
Mexicans continue to die in record numbers crossing the border into the United States, and no immigration agreement between the “desk ranchers” – each of them, Fox and Bush, born with silver dollars in their cowboy boots – is in sight or even on the table. As Narco News correspondent Reber Boult noted in his recent review of the new motion picture, The Gatekeeper, by writer-director-actor John Carlos Frey, that more Mexicans have died trying to cross that border over the past nine years, as a result of U.S. Border Patrol policies that force the aspiring immigrants to cross long desert tracts with extreme climates that range from arid to frozen: this intentional policy-of-death counts for more deaths than have occurred in the entire conflict between Israel and Palestine during the same time period. (That this form of institutionalized murder occurs on U.S. territory, however, does not inspire the United States commercial media to report on it with a fraction of its obsession on what happens halfway around the world.)
Fox is in much worse shape now than the proverbial “lame duck” president in any country. He is a “president” who remains behind his desk but without the moral authority to lead his country. No world leader will ever take him seriously again because his own countrymen no longer do. The knives are about to be revealed and flashed in his face from a thousand directions. And when you see, kind reader, where Fox takes his refuge – with which political and social forces, former sworn enemies, to whom he must now turn to in order to be able to serve out his six-year term – you will see that history is not yet over, that so much of what the English-language media has told you about Mexico is a lie, and that the dynamic will spill over and into the US border – and perhaps even come to play in the 2004 presidential campaign in the United States – like so many millions of immigrants have already done against steep odds.
Fox’s gamble was to try and adhere his country to the United States’ empire and utilize the corresponding foreign “investments” in his political machine to prop up his fiefdom with an unfair and undisclosed advantage over all political adversaries. Whereas virtually all Mexican administrations – minus that of Lázaro Cárdenas in 1934 – in the last century have, to varying degrees, done the same (as in 1918 when U.S. troops had to be sent in to crush the democratically formed “Socialist Republic of Yucatán,” which marked just one of more than 150 U.S. military incursions onto Mexican territory throughout history) Fox attempted to do it economically, with the illusion of “democracy” and “free markets,” the Siamese twins who, if not separated, will both die.
The “Change” that Never Was
Three years ago, the cheerleaders were everywhere.
Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer came to Mexico City to one of Fox’s opening press conferences in the autumn of 2000 and proclaimed the beginning of the “Foxato,” a Mexicanized term that suggested Fox would rule long beyond his limit of six years. Disgraced New York Times correspondents Sam Dillon and Julia Preston announced they were writing a book “about the great project of democratic change that the Mexican people have proposed,” said Dillon. Too late now: the “change” is over. (Memo to Dillon: Note that the politician you accused of being a narco-trafficker based on spoon-fed and flimsy evidence from the Zedillo administration, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, now reappears as one of the top national leaders of the reborn PRI. He received 92 votes to lead his party in the House of Deputies, vs. the Salinas-Fox candidate Esther Elba Gordillo, who won with 124 votes. But Beltrones is suddenly a player again, well positioned outside the most corrupt elements of his own party. And nobody is screaming “narco” because the New York Times’ flimsy “proofs” did not hold up, and everyone that counts now knows that Dillon withheld the mitigating information exonerating Beltrones from the Pulitzer Committee.)
The Great Mentioners and Anointers of the foreign press corps in Latin América who, three years ago, proclaimed Fox’s election as a sea change – and Fox as a hero of democracy – were wrong.
What occurred, in fact, was a political mugging, a robbery… it was a theft of democracy in democracy’s name… an economic coup d’etat by the Empire from the North, with Fox as its wire-transferred viceroy.
But the jig is up, and now come the consequences.
Marcos: Presence Through Absence
The French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guatarri once coined a term – “recruitment through exclusion” – that applies to guerrilla movements and none, more mediatically speaking, than the Zapatistas.
Time and time again since the Zapatista’s January 1, 1994, appearance, taking four City Halls in Chiapas with low-tech weapons and indigenous troops, this movement has alternated between epochs of dominating the national media and discourse, and then slipping back into the hills, silently, in the aforementioned game of “rope-a-dope,” giving their enemies enough rope and distance with which to hang. Their presence has often been most powerful through their absence.
But now comes another wave from below, this time hitting the weakest national government to date. As we reported and translated on Tuesday of this week, Marcos and the Zapatistas speak again.
In March 2001 they said, “Brothers and Sisters: We are going. With all of those whom we are, we shall return.”
Now, in the Summer of 2003, that promise prophesy is coming true. For those of us who understand “the importance of keeping one’s word,” it was always clear that this would occur. And we stand ready to report the facts as they unfold.
In the communiqué of July 19, 2003, the Zapatistas stated, “the EZLN has decided to totally suspend any contact with the Mexican federal government and the political parties,” and promised a series of communiqués over the coming days not just on behalf of the Zapatista command, but also on behalf of the 20 Autonomous Towns of Chiapas, representing 1,111 villages, that have refused, for years, to accept even a peso of state or federal government monies and remain in rebellion.
The second round of communiqués, dated July 20th, appeared publicly on Wednesday of this week, with the strongest, most militant, proclamations the Zapatistas have made since their public launch in 1994:
“One: The Zapatistas send a message to Luis Ernesto Derbez, Secretary of Foreign Releations, that his statements about ‘relaunching’ Plan Puebla-Panama could only mean tossing it into the abyss, because in rebel territories this plan will not be allowed. That is to say, the ‘big Zapatistas’ count with the means and the necessary organization to impede the completion of said plan. This is not a threat, but a prophesy.”
In addition to declaring that “Plan Puebla-Panama’s” coast-to-coast superhighway (a “Panama canal of the land”) and accessories advocated by the Fox government and foreign business interests on the Isthmus of Tehuantapec, in Oaxaca and Veracruz states, would be a highway-non-grata, Marcos and the Zapatistas issued a bellicose warning to the paramilitary death squads that continue to operate with impunity in Chiapas:
“Two: The General Command of the EZLN has sent a message to the paramilitary bands that infest Chiapas. The message says, more or less in these words: ‘According to Talión’s Law it’s an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,’ but we’re holding a sale and we offer, ‘two eyes for each eye and an entire jaw for each tooth,’ so tell us if you like that.”
The statement is clear: Any more Acteal-style massacres by government-backed paramilitary troops, and the Zapatistas are not going to turn the other cheek, but, rather, deliver the justice that the Fox government does not.
Marcos also mentioned that the Zapatistas will shortly begin to broadcast a short-wave radio signal around the world, including a late night program by the Subcomandante.
And, in a call to all their supporters throughout Mexico and around the world to put on our shoes and socks and get ready to speak en masse, Marcos wrote:
“It would be good if national and international Civil Society does not make any appointments for the days of August 8, 9, and 10. We don’t know why.”
That’s two weeks from this coming weekend.
Many more ears are perking up over that invitation than anything the “president,” Vicente Fox, has said since his party’s July 6th electoral defeat.
So, who is leading this country, now, anyway?
Go to next communiqué
Read All the Recent Zapatista Communiqués and analysis of them:
Marcos Ends Silence: “To The National and International Press”
Prologue: Zapatistas Serve Warning to the Paramilitaries
I. “Dawn in the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast”
II. Marcos to NGOs: Zapatistas Don’t Want Charity, but Respect
III. Old Antonio’s History of the Upholder of the Sky
IV. A Zapatista Plan for Reality
V. Education and Health in Autonomous Lands
VI. In Chiapas, Zapatistas Refine Democracy from Below
VII: Details on Zapatista Gathering, August 8-10, in Oventik
The Specter of Indigenous Mexico
Mexico’s “New Democracy” Has Not Yet Been Born
Zapatistas, Post-Mexican Elections, Make Their Move
Lea Ud. el Artículo en Español
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