<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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A Two-Wheeled Rocinante from the Jungle

Marcos and the Zapatista Comandantes in San Cristóbal de las Casas


By Giovanni Proiettis
From Chiapas

January 4, 2006

SAN CHRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS, CHIAPAS, MEXICO: Updating the myth of Don Quijote and his horse Rocinante, but also that of Che Guevara, Subcomandante Marcos, now named “Delegate Zero,” appeared in San Cristóbal de las Casas during the afternoon of January 1, riding an eye-catching black motorcycle.

That night, he and the other Zapatista comandantes that accompanied him received a warm reception in the Cathedral Plaza, which could not fit all the people in attendance. It is difficult to give an exact figure, but there were thousands of San Cristóbal residents, Zapatista supporters from the highlands, and both Mexican and foreign vacationers.

Preceded by a New Year’s Eve party in the Caracol (base community) of La Garrucha, the “Other Campaign,” winning both new followers and critics at a steady pace, has gotten off on the right foot. An unseasonable afternoon downpour left a rainbow over the Valley of Jovel, a good omen for the future. For is it not a rainbow of different forces that the Zapatistas propose to weave together in the next six months?

The Vicente Fox administration and the country’s three main political parties, as well as the Catholic Church hierarchy, have given their blessing (how sincerely is unknown) to this new step for the Zapatistas that, like it or not, will end up interfering with the 2006 electoral campaigns. Certainly the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), the old dinosaur from which Fox and the PAN (National Action Party) wrenched the presidency after 70 years in power, believes that the Subcomandante’s tour will put some wind in its sails, considering Marcos’ declared aversion to the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) candidate. “The left hand of the Right” is one of the labels Marcos has used to stigmatize Mexico City Governor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is the favorite candidate in current polls.

This position on the part of the Zapatistas, though understandable if one considers the PRD’s betrayal on the Indigenous Law of 2001, has created a certain discomfort among the Left, which feels divided by such radical positions. In reality, though, many citizens see no contradiction in supporting the Zapatistas and the indigenous cause but also voting for López Obrador next July, at least as a way to hold back the devastating neoliberal policies of the PRI and the PAN.

In an event that filled downtown San Cristóbal the night of January 1, twelve years after the EZLN occupied the city without resistance, the great support (as well as interest and curiosity) that the Zapatistas provoke was very visible. The support is understandable, if one considers their objectives: weaving together a network of all the anti-capitalist and anti-neoliberal struggles that exist in Mexico; creating a new Constitution; and, especially, inventing a new way of doing politics that includes ethics, something completely forgotten by today’s politicians.

The call of the Other Campaign is directed to the political and social forces that do not seek power via elections, but wish rather to “organize society from below.” In the comandantes’ speeches, popular demands old and new mixed together and gathered strength.

Comandante Tacho denounced the situation of desperate agony in rural Mexico. “The Free Trade Agreement a the plan to destroy the Mexican countryside and allow the introduction of genetically modified products and seeds into our soil. And in order for this to be legal, they changed Article 27 of the Constitution. In order for our lands to be legally taken and for us to once again become servants for the big landowners, they are pushing forward a land privatization program through ‘PROCEDE’ (Program for the Certification of Communal Land Rights).”

Despite her small stature, Comandanta Kely has shown herself to be quite spirited and aggressive. “This is how we show all those macho men that we are able to, and have the obligation to, fight and work for our rights, because now, as women, we have worth beyond just the bed or the house. We don’t just obey and do when men tell us to do; we can put on pants as well.” She concluded: “Compañeras and compañeros, here I leave you with Delegate Zero. We’re leaving him with you, so take very, very good care of him.”

After reminding the crowd of the decisive role women have played in the organization of the Zapatista Army and in the 1994 uprising, Comandanta Hortensia directed a clear call to “the other half of the Heavens.”

“We want to tell all the women of the fields and of the city that it is time to do something to change this sad reality we are living in our society. We cannot keep letting the bad politicians impose their unjust, discriminatory and racist social system on us women. That is why we invite you to take advantage of the possibility that the Other Campaign offers, as a place where all can participate in order to unite, organize, and say our word about how we want to build a new society.”

Comandante David remembered how “twelve years ago we appeared here armed, but also with our work tools and our power of reason. Today we formally begin the new stage. The time has arrived for this new stage of the EZLN’s political struggle. Delegate Zero will clear the way and open doors. Despite the fact that this initiative is full of danger and threats, the Zapatistas took this decision and now we must keep our word.”

Comandante Zebedeo also evoked the Zapatista uprising of 1994, speaking to those who were children then, to remind them that the demands of that time are still in force.

The last speech belonged to Subcomandante Marcos, who said he was not afraid to die in the struggle. “The good word has been sown in good earth. This good earth is your heart, the heart where blooms the dignity of the Zapatistas.” This time declining to denounce the political parties or Lóperz Obrador, Marcos instead denounced the “Chapultepec Pact,” a government program created by Mexico’s top businessmen.

“Today we can say that on January 1, 2006, the joint forces of the Other Campaign have taken the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas and made it theirs, a symbol of the sovereignty and pride of their power.”

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America