VI. In Chiapas, Zapatistas Refine Democracy from Below
Part Six: A Good Government
By Subcomandante Marcos
Translated by Irlandesa
August 6, 2003
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa
...In each one of the five “Caracoles” which are being created in rebel territory, they are working at top speed to see that everything is ready (well, like a compa committee member told me: “It’s going to be a bit ready, but not nearly, but a bit enough”). With more enthusiasm than wisdom, they are constructing, painting (or repainting) buildings, cleaning, straightening up, reordering. A constant hammering-sawing-digging-planting is resounding in the mountains of the Mexican southeast, with background music that varies from one place to the other. There, for example, are “Los Bukis” and “Los Temerarios.” Someplace else, “Los Tigres del Norte” and “El Dueto Castillo.” Over there, “Filiberto Remigio,” “Los Nakos,” “Gabino Palomares,” “Oscar Chávez.” Over that way, “Maderas Rebeldes” (which is a zapatista group which, surprisingly, has been climbing the local “hit parade” by leaps and bounds – but I haven’t found out if they’re climbing up or down).
And, in each “Caracol,” a new building, the “Casa de la Junta de Buen Gobierno” [House of the Good Government Junta] can be made out. As far as can be seen, there will be a “Good Government Junta in each region, and it involves an organizing effort on the part of the communities, not only to confront the problems of autonomy, but also to build a more direct bridge between them and the world. So…:
In order to counteract unbalanced development in the Autonomous Municipalities and the communities.
In order to mediate conflicts which might arise between Autonomous Municipalities, and between Autonomous Municipalities and government municipalities.
In order to deal with denuncias against Autonomous Councils for human rights violations, protests and disagreements, to investigate their veracity, to order Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Councils to correct these errors and to monitor their compliance.
In order to monitor the implementation of projects and community work in the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities, making sure that they are carried out in the time frames and methods which were agreed by the communities; in order to promote support for community projects in the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities.
In order to monitor the fulfillment of those laws which, by common agreement with the communities, are operative in the Rebel Zapatista Municipalities.
In order to serve and guide national and international civil society so that they can visit communities, carry out productive projects, set up peace camps, carry out research (ojo: those which provide benefits for the communities) and any other activity permitted in the rebel communities.
In order to, in common accord with the CCRI-CG of the EZLN, promote and approve the participation of compañeros and compañeras of the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities in activities or events outside the rebel communities; and in order to choose and prepare those compañeros and compañeras.
In short, in order to see to it that, in rebel zapatista lands, governing, governing obeying, the “Good Government Juntas” will be formed on August 9, 2003.
They shall be seated in the “Caracoles,” with one junta for each rebel region, and it will be formed by 1 or 2 delegates from each one of the Autonomous Councils of that region.
The following will continue to be the exclusive government functions of the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities: the provision of justice; community health; education; housing; land; work; food; commerce; information and culture, and local movement.
The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee in each region will monitor the operations of the Good Government Juntas in order to prevent acts of corruption, intolerance, injustice and deviation from the zapatista principle of “Governing Obeying.”
Each Good Government Junta has its own name, chosen by the respective Autonomous Councils:
The Selva Border Good Government Junta (which encompasses Marqués de Comillas, the Montes Azules region, and all the border municipalities with Guatemala to Tapachula), is called “Hacia la Esperanza” [“Towards Hope”], and takes in the Autonomous Municipalities of “General Emiliano Zapata,” “San Pedro de Michoacán,” “Libertad de los Pueblos Mayas” and “Tierra y Libertad.”
The Tzots Choj Good Government Junta (which encompasses part of those lands where the government municipalities of Ocosingo, Altamirano, Chanal, Oxchuc, Huixtán, Chilón, Teopisca and Amatenango del Valle are located), is called “Corazón del Arcoíris de la Esperanza” [“Heart of the Rainbow of Hope”] (in local language, “Yot’an te xojobil yu’un te smaliyel”), and includes the Autonomous Municipalities of “17 de Noviembre,” “Primero de Enero,” “Ernesto Ché Guevara,” “Olga Isabel,” “Lucio Cabañas,” “Miguel Hidalgo” and “Vicente Guerrero.”
The Selva Tzeltal Good Government Junta (which encompasses part of the land where the government municipality of Ocosingo is located), is called “El Camino del Futuro” [“Path of the Future”] (in local language: “Te s’belal lixambael”), and includes the Autonomous Municipalities of “Francisco Gómez,” “San Manuel,” “Francisco Villa” and “Ricardo Flores Magón.”
The Northern Region Good Government Junta (which encompasses part of those lands where the municipal governments of the north of Chiapas are found, from Palenque to Amatán), is called “Nueva Semilla Que Va a Producir” [“New Seed Which Shall Bring Forth”] (in Tzeltal: “yach’il ts’ unibil te yax bat’poluc”; and in Chol: “Tsi Jiba Pakabal Micajel Polel”), and includes the Autonomous Municipalities of “Vicente Guerrero,” “Del Trabajo,” “La Montaña,” “San José en Rebeldía,” “La Paz,” “Benito Juárez” and “Francisco Villa.”
Los Altos of Chiapas Good Government Junta (which encompasses part of those lands where the government municipalities of Los Altos of Chiapas are found and which extends to Chiapa de Corzo, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Berriozábal, Ocozocuatla and Cintalapa), is called “Corazón Céntrico de los Zapatistas Delante del Mundo” [“Central Heart of the Zapatistas in Front of the World”] (in local language: “Ta olol yoon zapatista tas tuk’il sat yelob sjunul balumil”), and includes the Autonomous Municipalities of “San Andrés Sacamch’en de los Pobres,” “San Juan de la Libertad,” “San Pedro Polhó,” “Santa Catarina,” “Magdalena de la Paz,” “16 de Febrero” and “San Juan Apóstol Cancuc.”
Among the Good Government Juntas’ first regulations are the following:
One. – Donations and help from national and international civil society will no longer be allowed to be earmarked to anyone in particular or to a specific community or Autonomous Municipality. The Good Government Junta shall decide, after evaluating the circumstances of the communities, where that help most needs to be directed. The Good Government Junta will impose the “brother tax,” which is 10% of the total cost of the project, on all projects. In other words, if a community, municipality or collective receives economic support for a project, it must give the 10% to the Good Government Junta, so that it can earmark it for another community which is not receiving help. The objective is to balance somewhat the economic development of the communities in resistance. Leftovers, charity and the imposition of projects shall, of course, not be accepted.
Two. – Only those persons, communities, cooperatives and producers and marketing associations which are registered in a Good Government Junta shall be recognized as zapatistas. In that way, persons shall be prevented from passing as zapatistas who are not only not zapatistas, but are even anti-zapatista (such is the case with some organic coffee producers and marketing cooperatives). Surpluses or bonuses from the marketing of products from zapatista cooperatives and societies shall be given to the Good Government Juntas in order to help those compañeros and compañeras who cannot market their products or who do not receive any kind of aid.
Three. – It is not unusual for dishonest people to deceive national and international civil society, presenting themselves in cities as “zapatistas,” purportedly sent “on secret or special missions” to ask for money for sick people, projects, trips or things of that nature. Sometimes they even go so far as to offer training in purported, and false, EZLN “safe houses” in Mexico City. In the former case, intellectuals, artists and professional persons, and not a few local government officials, have been deceived. In the latter, it has been young students who have been the victims of the lie. The EZLN is emphasizing that it does not have any “safe house” in Mexico City, and it does not offer any training whatsoever. These bad persons, according to our reports, are involved in banditry, and the money they receive, which they are supposedly requesting for the communities, is used for their own personal benefit. The EZL:N has now begun an investigation in order to determine who is responsible for usurping their name and for swindling good and honest people. Since it is difficult to contact the Comandancia General of the EZLN in order to confirm whether such and such a person is part of the EZLN or their support bases, and whether what they are saying is true or not, now they will just have to get in contact with the Good Government Juntas (the one in the region where the “swindler” says he is from), and in a matter of minutes they will be told if it is true or not, and whether or not he is a zapatista. To this end, the Good Government Juntas will be issuing certifications and accreditations which should, however, still be corroborated.
These and other decisions will be taken by the Good Government Juntas (which are so called, I want to make clear, not because they are already “good,” but in order to clearly differentiate them from the “bad government”).
And so, “civil societies” will now know with whom they must reach agreement for projects, peace camps, visits, donations and etcetera. Human rights defenders will now know to whom they should turn over the denuncias they receive and from whom they should expect a response. The army and the police now know whom to attack (just bearing in mind that we, meaning the EZLN, have already gotten involved there). The media which says what they’re paid to say now know whom to slander and/or ignore. Honest media now know where they can go in order to request interviews or stories on the communities. The federal government and
its “commissioner” now know what they have to do to not exist. And the Power of Money now knows who else they should fear.
...The noise and activity continue. Someplace someone turns the radio dial and, suddenly, one can clearly hear: “This is Radio Insurgente, Voice of those Without Voice, transmitting from somewhere in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,” and then a marimba sounds the unmistakable rhythms of “The horizon can now be seen.” The compañeros and compañeras stop their work for a moment and begin exchanging comments in indigenous language. Just for a moment. Once again the celebration of work resumes.
It’s odd. It has suddenly occurred to me that these men and women do not
appear to be building a few houses. It seems as if it is a new world that is being raised in the middle of all this bustle. Perhaps not. Maybe they are, in effect, just a few buildings, and it’s been nothing but the effect of shadow and light which the dawn is extending across the communities where the “caracoles” are being drawn, which made me think it was a new world that was being built.
I slip away to a corner of the dawn, and I light my pipe and uncertainty. Then I hear myself, clearly, saying to myself: “Perhaps not…but perhaps yes…”
(To Be Continued…)
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, July of 2003.
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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