The Return of la Otra
The Zapatistas Have a Diagnosis and Map of Social and Political Conflicts in the Country that Is Not Possessed by Any Other Type of Political Force
By Luis Hernández Navarro
April 1, 2007
The second phase of The Other Campaign began this Sunday. Six comandantes, seven comandantas, and a subcomandante will again travel around the country as a call to initiate the global Campaign for the defense of the indigenous lands and autonomous territories in Chiapas, Mexico and the world.
The first stage of the Other Campaign encountered unexpected circumstances. First there was the repression in Atenco, which meant temporarily suspending the national tour. Then it was the Oaxaca uprising, which changed the dynamic of social confrontation in the country. Finally there was Calderon’s electoral fraud, and victory, [of the Mexican presidency].
Although la Otra wasn’t strong enough to free the Atenco prisoners or manage to punish those responsible, they managed to organize a permanent solidarity campaign to assure the issue wasn’t forgotten.
The county of Oaxaca opened a focus of attention in public opinion and the media, which meant that media coverage of la Otra, already small, became even more limited. Before Oaxaca, the Zapatistas had problems with the decision to continue its policy of maintaining broad alliances, which included Andres Lopez Obrador and the PRD, when one of The Other Campaign’s central objectives was to clearly differentiate themselves from them.
Finally, the electoral fraud and the triumph of Felipe Calderón modified the scheme in which la Otra was conceived. The Zapatistas presumed that the winner in the elections would be Lopez Obrador, and they prepared for that. The fraud changed this result. Subcomandante Marcos denounced the fraud a few hours after it was perpetrated. However, the EZLN didn’t take part in the civil resistance actions that took place against it. This position was a step away from a some members of the la Otra and from the intellectual sector, usually supportive of it’s positions.
The new phase of la Otra begins in a complex political panorama. In Chiapas, the new governor Juan Sabines, who formally won the elections with the acronym of the PRD, has allowed the recomposition of the PRI. The former leader of the party, Sami David, heads the state governments Strategic Projects Corporation. The son of the infamous Roberto Albores Guillen was appointed secretary of Economic Promotion. The leader of the cattle farmers and town councilor of Comitán, Jorge Constantino Kanter, has a magnificent relation with the heads of state.
Occurring simultaneously to this re-accommodation in the state government, the dispute over paramilitary groups and reclaimed lands in the hands of the Zapatista support bases has been revived. Armed organizations from the PRI, like the URCI and Opddic, are seeking to stay on land where rebels and democratic rural organizations are working, and they regularly harass its members. ‘Environmental’ initiatives, under the pretext of defending the environment, seek to despoil other rural groups of the land they have possessed for years.
On the national scope, the Felipe Calderon government has been consolidated in spite of everything. The new ISSSTE law was approved without much political cost in the short term, and it’s fight against drug trafficking, although it has lacked real successes, has public opinion approval. Only the rise in the price of tortilla has eroded the presidential image. It still awaits to be seen what price will be paid for its attitude taken in the debate of the legalization of abortion in Mexico City.
The Progressive Extensive Front (FAP) hasn’t formally dissolved. It’s members are essentially still voting together. However, in current state elections, like in Yucatan and Durango, they’re divided. Their participation in the National Democratic Convention (CND) is more formal than real.
The second CND assembly demonstrates the significant amount of citizens who still resent the electoral fraud while acknowledging Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as their legitimate president.
However, this force seems to have little to do with the El Peje national tour, dedicated to building an electoral force alien to the peoples immediate problems.
Despite the repression in Oaxaca, the APPO still has an undoubted capacity for resistance and mobilization, not enough to force Ulises Ruiz’s resignation but enough to show his illegitimacy. However, elections to renew local councils and congress have put many members in a markedly electoral dynamic, and in complex and difficult negotiations with FAP.
All these elements mark the return of la Otra. The Zapatistas, as seen on Sunday 24, possess an undeniable force within Chiapas and great support from outside of Mexico. The participation of Via Campesina was notable with messages from Joao Pedro Stedile and Rafael Alegria. Today they have a diagnosis and map of the social and political conflicts in the country that aren’t possessed any other type of political force. In addition, they count on a directory and network of movements based across the whole country, which are usually ignored by political parties. If they manage to give a structure and a stable national coordination to those pockets of resistance that today work separately – though in politics nothing is certain – the plans of the right-wing will run aground. But the prediction of coming confrontation over the pretension of the government to destabilize their territories, the space occupied by cenedista activism, and against the option of diverse social forces in favor of the construction of representative politics through electoral means and the self-isolation of the mainstream sectors of society, is likely. The coming months will be decisive.
Published in Spanish March 27, translation: Deano
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