<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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Marcos: Believing Politicians Can Change is a “Misreading” of the Sixth Declaration

In Tabasco, The Other Campaign Crosses Paths with the PRI’s Presidential Candidate


By Hermann Bellinghausen
La Jornada

January 27, 2006

Villahermosa, Tabasco, January 25: Subcomandante Marcos said tonight that it is a “misreading” of the Sixth Declaration from the Lacandon Jungle to believe that the political class can change. It is necessary to put an end to capitalism, to “join forces” to struggle against it. He added that the problem of social relations begins with economics, not politics, but that not understanding this is a trap into which the cynical and “doubtful” Left often falls.

This came at the end of a day in which Roberto Madrazo, leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), arrived just 10 minutes after Marcos to Viallhermoso, the capital of Madrazo’s home state of Tabasco. Those 10 minutes were enough for the city’s PRI supporters to go wild with applause at the entrance to Villahermosa when they saw the convoy with three Federal Police cars leading it, thinking it was the PRI candidate. Cheers erupted that were then quickly swallowed when they realized who they were cheering for.

The arrival in “Eden,” as the region is called, was the shortest caravan of the Other Campaign so far, led by three or four cars in need of being washed and the truck carrying “Delegate Zero,” followed by another truck covered in red stars and the initials of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). And a few more cars. Quite a let-down for the crowd, which was already playing drums and marimbas quite loudly.

And it was no small welcome that awaited Madrazo as he came out of the airport. More than two kilometers of vehicles, one behind another, were out to proclaim their support, and must have paralyzed half of Tabasco with their absence: hundreds of taxis from all the state’s cities, and lines and lines of buses with their compartments empty. It was a demonstration of automotive force for someone who really needs it.

Needing a “bath” in a friendly crowd after the beating he took yesterday (the local press call it his “black Tuesday”), Roberto Modrazo headed today towards his old backwater, where the old customs and fervors can still be felt, such as the corporatism of the CTM (the PRI-controlled labor federation), the National Confederation of Popular Organizations, and the loyal followers of the oil workers’ union, who guaranteed him rowdy streets and full plazas.

“Roberto can,” said a sign hung from every lamppost. “Roberto can.” The slogan had a certain element of prayer to it, or of an anesthetic.

Madrazo’s trip caused a bit of collateral damage. For example, 44,000 students from 46 local public schools were unable to go to class, despite the protests of many parents, as the teachers were ordered by their union to receive the former governor with PRI banners and hats; many whipped out their red shirts. It’s the PRI’s new style. Though the “redshirts” have their own history in Tabasco: that of the persecution and intolerance by caudillo Tomás Garrido Canabal and his men, who shook Graham Greene so when he wrote The Power and the Glory.

The “old politics,” in its biggest and most desperate expression, crossed paths, briefly, with “a new way of doing politics,” represented by a few dozen adherents in Villahermosa to the Sixth Declaration from the Lacandon Jungle. And despite the abysmal numeric disproportion between the two political tours that ran into each other here today, the media and dozens of obvious spies from the three levels of government surrounded, from very early in the day, the small art gallery where Subcomandante Marcos arrived to meet with the “Sexta tabasqueña,” Tabasco-based supporters of the Other Campaign, bestowing on him an importance that supposedly he did not have.

The Mukul Ja gallery (the name means “hidden water” in the Mayan Chontal language), located on a little street downtown, received Delagate Zero and the people and organizations who are onboard with the Sixth Declaration. In a small room at the back of the store, the participants from Villahermosa and nearby towns held a long day of meetings. After running up nearly six thousand kilometers touring the southeast, Subcomandante Marcos listened to them and, as he often says, “took notes.”

Members of the Independent Zapatista Agrarian Movement (MAIZ), the Committee for Unionist Action and Orientation (CAOS), and the Rural, Indigenous and Popular Unionist Front participated in the meeting, as well as cultural groups like the “Waking Jaguar” writers’ workshop and individuals who have subscribed to the sixth Zapatista declaration (which some students abbreviate as LSD, for the Spanish initials for la sexta declaración, “the sixth declaration”).

The labor front brings together, among others, oil, telephone, and social security workers, and although they are reduced in number, “they represent a step forward in Tabasco, where the political culture was always decided by the PRI, and later partly by the PRD, but it is now that we can finally see other alternatives,” said Alfredo, an oil worker for Pemex, the state petroleum company.

A member of CAOS, a worker from the oil platforms, after denying that his has been a “privileged” sector, said that the problem facing the oil sector does not have only to do with money, but also with political poverty. “I don’t want to compare us to the situation that the indigenous live in, but we of the so-called ‘middle class’ really are getting screwed.”

Rafael, a member of the local committee of the Social Security workers’ union, said: “we are social fighters of the left and we are willing to participate in the Other Campaign together with the labor front.”

Another member of CAOS said: “we must expropriate Pemex for social ends. Expropriate it again. We must reclaim what has been taking from us, both materially and symbolically.” As an example, he reminded those in the meeting of how the EZLN “reclaimed” the national flag from the Salinas government during the peace talks in the San Cristóbal de las Casas Cathedral, in 1994.

A central concern for the Tabasco adherents to the Sixth Declaration is the creation of common space, in order to overcome isolation. As a young writer said, “there’s no place for us inside the system.” For his part, Moisés, a professional philosopher and teacher at the Indigenous University and member of the so-called municipal universities, called for a “cultural and ideological education that lifts up consciousness.” Another young man, Isaac, talked about how he became a sort of “black sheep” and was rejected by his family and had to leave home. He is a lawyer, and worked until recently at a firm but “they kicked me out because they could see I was involved in this.”

The meeting, which went on into the night, took place in a small room that serves as a cafeteria in Mukul Ja, whose four walls are beautifully painted with images of the plants, animals, and waters of a jungle. The people could barely fit into what looked like a clearing in the forest. At the table, Marcos and the event’s coordinators sat in front of colorful plants that reached up to the ceiling.

“We are few, but before there we were none,” acknowledged another oil worker. Marcos described the method o analysis that the Sixth Declaration proposes: one that comes from below, to the left, and proposes a way to join together. He also made clear that in June, when his national tour has ended, “the national program of struggle will not yet exist; I will only say to you: compañeros of the Other Campaign, let me introduce you to the compañeros of the Other Campaign.”

Moving on to another issue, residents of the town of Chacalapa (in the municipality of Jalpa de Méndez) denounced the presence of Cisen (Mexico’s national intelligence agency) agents and an increase in military presence just before Delegate Zero’s arrival in the town. On Monday “people arrived who said they were judicial police, who only wanted to make sure this was the place. The compañeros told them yes, but no more. The agents informed us that they would be installing police surveillance.”

What’s more, on January 20 in the town of Francisco I. Madero – the possible location for a meeting between Marcos and Chol people from Tabasco – the people found a person taking photos and video of people and places, who identified himself as a Cisen agent. In this and neighboring communities, there is an increase in military presence,” and the soldiers “have been moving from one place to the next.”

The Zapatista prisoners in the Tacotalpa municipal jail, where Marcos will go tomorrow, sent a letter that was released today. In it, Angel Concepción Pérez Guirierrez and Francisco Pérez Vásquez write that they have spent “nine years and six months of unjust imprisonment; our crime is to have fought for the dignity and rights of my indigenous comrades.”

They invite Marcos to come visit them: “in our case unjust laws were used to convict us. The indigenous who search for the truth are a stone in the bad government’s shoe, which impedes its walking and doesn’t let it govern, and so the government looks for ways to kill, destroy, or imprison them. But it is not easy to silence what we are. Bars will not keep us quiet. They will not quiet the voices that should louder and louder, ‘justice and liberty.’ Meanwhile, our families and our children suffer from injustice. They are witnesses to our innocence.”

Hermann Bellinghausen is a special correspondent for the Mexican daily La Jornada, where this article appeared. Translation by The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign.

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