BOOK REVIEW:  John Ross’ Zapatistas

A Review of John Ross’ Zapatistas

Stephen Lendman

John Ross is a Latin American correspondent and
activist who’s been living in and writing about Mexico
for nearly four decades turning out some of the most
important and incisive analysis of events there of
anyone covering the country, its history, politics and
people.  Few writers anywhere make the country come
alive like he can.  He lives among the people and
knows them well including Zapatista leader
Subcommandante Marcos who may have given Ross his
first ever interview.

Ross has written eight books of fiction and
non-fiction and is one of the few surviving Beat poets
with nine chapbooks of poetry in and out of print, the
latest of which is due out soon called Bomba.  He’s
also been called a new John Reed (who wrote the
classic 10 Days that Shook the World on the Russian
Revolution) covering a new Mexican revolution playing
out around the country from its most indigenous,
impoverished South in Chiapas and Oaxaca to the
streets of its capital in Mexico City. 

Ross’ books include the Annexation of Mexico, From the
Aztecs to the IMF and his eyewitness frontline trilogy
on the Zapatista rebellion beginning with Rebellion
From the Roots, Indian Uprising in Chiapas in 1995 for
which he received the American Book award; The War
Against Oblivion, The Zapatista Chronicles; and his
latest work and subject of this review - Zapatistas,
Making Another World Possible, Chronicles of
Resistance 2000 - 2006 just published.  It’s subtitle
is taken from the misnamed anti-globalization
citizens’ movement for global justice from Seattle to
Doha, Genoa, Washington, Prague, Quebec, Miami,
Cancun, Hong Kong and dozens of other locations
everywhere where ordinary people are struggling for a
better world against the dark neoliberal forces pitted
against them. 

The book’s theme is the heroic ongoing Zapatista
struggle for autonomy and liberation as “a dramatic
and inspiring effort to make this possibility a
reality” matched off against a made-in-Washington
world of permanent wars for conquest and domination
from the sands and streets of Iraq and desolate rubble
of Afghanistan to the Israeli genocidal terror war
against the Palestinians to the streets of Mexico City
and Oaxaca and the mountains and jungles of Chiapas. 


This book comes after Ross’ Murdered by Capitalism, A
Memoir of 150 Years of Life & Death on the American
Left in 2004 for which he received the Upton Sinclair
award.  Ross is a gifted writer whose prose is
passionate and poetic.  From its beginning, he
documented the Zapatista “rebellion from the roots,”
and in his latest book covers it from the July, 2000
election of corporatist Vincente Fox through the
mid-2006 stolen presidential election, unresolved when
the book went to press.  He notes like all other
elections in the country, it was orchestrated “before,
during, and after the ballots (were) cast” just like
they are in the belly of the bestial empire in el
norte whose current high office incumbent Ross calls
“an electoral pickpocket (twice over).” 

He also reminds us of past events that may foretell
Mexico’s future: “The metabolism of revolution in
Mexico is precisely timed.  It seems to burst from the
subterranean chambers every hundred years or so -
1810, 1910, 2010?  To be continued.” And he notes the
theft of the 1910 election from Francisco Madero
triggered the Mexican Revolution led by Emiliano
Zapata Salazar with readers left to wonder if
Subcommandante Marcos is his modern incarnation.  Stay
tuned.  As in Venezuela, the Mexican revolution will
not be televised, but John Ross will chronicle it.

The Zapatistas’ Chronicles of Resistance - From Its
Beginning

Ross begins his book with a Preamble of the
Zapatistas’ own words saying: “We are the Zapatistas
of the EZLN (who) rose up in January 1994 because we
were tired of all the evil the powerful did to us,
that they only humiliated us, robbed us, killed us,
and no one ever said or did anything.  For all that we
said ‘Basta’ (enough) we weren’t going to permit that
they treat us worse than animals anymore.”  The
Zapatista commentary continues saying they want
democracy, liberty and justice for all Mexicans, and
to get it they organized to defend themselves and
fight for it.  And so they have.  Their spirit of
resistance continues in their ongoing struggle for
autonomy and freedom.

Ross begins volume three of his trilogy in year 2000,
but let’s go back to where it all began to understand
its roots. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation
(EZLN) was founded in 1983 taking its name from the
Liberation Army of the South led by Emiliano Zapata
Salazar, the incorruptible Mexican Indian peasant
rebel leader who supported agrarian reform and land
redistribution in the battles of the Mexican
Revolution.  It began in 1910, went on till 1921, and
saw Zapata betrayed and executed by government troops
in 1919.  It wasn’t before he got new agrarian land
laws passed that for a time returned to the people
what President Porfirio Diaz confiscated to sell off
to foreign investors the way things work today where
everything’s for sale under market-based rules.  It’s
the reason for indigenous Mexican impoverishment today
the way it is everywhere and why modern-day Zapatistas
began their campaign to end centuries of imperial
repression to liberate their people.

They planned quietly for years learning from successes
and failures of earlier peasant struggles.  The were
all crushed or co-opted by the ruling Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI) showing real change in
Chiapas could only come through struggle from outside
the political process that time and again proved those
in power can’t be trusted even though the Zapatistas
gave gave the system a chance to prove otherwise
knowing it would let them down which it did. It’s the
way it is in all developing states and most elsewhere
as well.  Mexico is no exception, and it may be one of
the worst under repressive oligarch rule for the
privileged and the people be damned, especially the
indigenous Indian ones Mexico has plenty of.

Ross chronicled the Zapatistas’ struggle in two
previous books beginning January 1, 1994 when 2,000
from the EZLN marched into San Cristobal de las Casas
and five other municipal seats in Mexico’s Chiapas
state.  They seized control stunning the nation’s
leaders who knew something was up but kept it under
wraps so as not to affect passage of the NAFTA that
brought it on.  The EZLN declared war on the Mexican
state and its long-standing contempt for ordinary
peoples’ rights and needs now with new harsh
neoliberal trade policies in place that could cost
them their lives.  Their struggle would highlight the
plight of Mexico’s 70 million poor and 20 million
indigenous people including in the most indigenous
city in the world plagued by poverty - Mexico City.

Rebellion for change erupted in the open the first day
NAFTA went into effect.  Zapatistas in Chiapas called
it a “death sentence.”  It would threaten their
agriculture and way of life creating even more
hardship than Indian campesinos already face.  Chiapas
is the poorest of Mexico’s 31 states where most people
live off the land earning a meager living in the best
of times growing crops, the staple of which is corn,
“maiz.”  The state is predominantly rural with 70% of
its 4.3 million people living in 20,000 localities in
111 municipalities mostly in the countryside.  The
state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez is its one major
city with a population of 250,000 while several others
have populations half that size or less, one of which
is San Cristobal de las Casas in the mountainous
central highlands that was one of the six municipal
seats the EZLN took in its 1994 rebellion from the
roots against the Mexican government.

Their action stunned the nation and world, and
President Carlos Salinas de Gortari responded
ferociously against Chiapans cutting short his planned
celebration.  The Zapatistas weren’t to be denied as
they stated in their manifesto that “We are a product
of 500 years of struggle…against slavery….against
Spain (and then) to avoid being absorbed by North
American imperialism… later the dictatorship of
Porfirio Diaz (so) people rebelled and leaders like
Villa and Zapata emerged, poor men just like us (so we
continue the struggle for our) inalienable right
(under the Mexican constitution) to alter or modify
their form of government (and set up) liberated areas
(in which the people will have) the right to freely
and democratically elect their own administrative
authorities.”

They weren’t alone as hundreds of thousands of
supporters flooded Mexico City’s vast Zocalo plaza
near the country’s Palacio Nacional seat of power.
They sent a strong message of solidarity to the
“People the Color of the Earth” in the South forcing
Salinas to abort his effort after 12 days without
subduing the first major Global South blow against the
neoliberal new world order that prevailed triumphantly
unchallenged in Mexico following the dissolution of
the former Soviet Union - until the New Year’s day
rebellion from the roots changed things.

A single event may have inspired the EZLN’s shot heard
round the world launching their armed rebellion for
autonomy.  It was the Salinas government’s 1992
decision to repeal Article 27 in the country’s
constitution that came out of the 1917 Revolution.  It
gave only natural born or naturalized Mexicans the
right to own land and water, stipulated all land is
originally the nation’s property that can grant
control of it to private citizens with restrictions,
and that only the state may control, extract and
process oil and its derivatives.  It also returned
stolen peasant lands to their owners and generally
protected Mexican peoples’ land ownership rights from
foreign exploitation.

Repealing Article 27 changed everything for what the
Revolution had “giveth,” Carlos Salinas had “taketh”
away by ending land distribution to the landless.  His
action drove a “final nail in the revolution’s coffin”
polarizing indigenous peoples and igniting the
uprising beginning the day NAFTA became law.
Rewriting the Article was a key condition of NAFTA
that would henceforth deny indigenous peoples’ right
to the land so the state could sell or lease it to
private investors (aka corporate predators), mostly
from el norte.

Mexico’s poor, including its rural indigenous
population, suffered terribly in the last generation
from the disastrous effects of global restructuring
tight monetary and fiscal policies, unfair
“neoliberalized trade laws, privatizations of state
enterprises, and abandonment of earlier economic and
industrial development strategies.  The result was
regional growth collapsed throughout Latin America.
From 1960 - 1980, regional per capita GDP grew 82%
falling to 9% from 1980 - 2000 and 4% from 2000 -
2005.

It meant trouble always affecting the most vulnerable
poor the most.  It hit Mexico with falling oil prices,
high interest rates, rising inflation, an overvalued
currency, and a deteriorating balance of payments
causing capital flight that by 1982 saw the peso
collapse and economy hit hard.  IMF and World
Bank-imposed mafia-style loan arrangements followed
imposing their special kind of austerity to people
least able to tolerate it.  It included structural
adjustments with large-scale privatizations of
state-owned industries, economic deregulation, and
mandated wage restraint allowing inflation to grow
faster than personal income with the poor feeling it
most again.

As predicted, things got much worse under
NAFTA-imposed trade rules.  They hit the rural poor
the hardest especially the country’s farmers crushed
under the weight of heavily subsidized Northern
agribusiness they can’t compete against including for
corn, “maiz,” the sacred crop, the struggle for which
went to the root of the Zapatista rebellion also
against made-in-the-USA neoliberal new world order
rules of the game rigged against them.

They include Washington Consensus market uber alles
diktats that led to Mexico’s growing dependency on
capital inflows with lots of “hot money” free to enter
and leave the country under its deregulated financial
markets.  Again it caused an unsustainable current
account deficit and peso collapse in early 1995
resulting in the country’s worst economic depression
in 60 years after experiencing the same type collapse
14 years earlier. 

The Zapatistas got hammered by it with no relief when
economic conditions improved.  It caused mass
discontent and anger making the country ripe for
rebellion as an elite few grew rich at the expense of
the great majority sinking deeper into poverty and no
where more than in indigenous rural areas like
Chiapas.

The Oakland Institute think tank specializing in
social, economic and environmental issues documented
the harm done.  Their researchers reported heavily
subsidized US corn exports to Mexico tripled after
NAFTA and in 2003 topped 8 million tons.  It came at
the expense of Mexico’s farmers where corn is the
country’s staple.  It drove over two million of them
off the land that was predicted in advance and allowed
to happen anyway.  It ruined lives and led to suicides
but not like in India where WTO-imposed trade rules
caused 100,000 deaths because of farm foreclosures
from indebtedness.

The worst is still to come in Mexico if UCLA professor
and Research Director of the North American
Integration and Development Center Raul Hinojosa’s
worse case prediction comes true.  He believes NAFTA
will eventually force 10 million poor farmers off the
land with Ross saying it’s already over 6 million
people in a country where farm families average five
members and they’re all counted in the bloodletting.

Ross laid out the other ugly damage from NAFTA’s first
10 years through 2003:

—All Mexican banks controlled by foreign corporate
giants, mainly from the US.

—All the railroads sold off to Union Pacific with
former President Ernesto Zedillo now on its board as
his reward.

—The country’s mines and airlines in private hands.

—Two million hectares of tropical forest destroyed
for private development with junk tree plantations
sprouting up throughout Southern Mexico controlled by
corporate behemoths like International Paper and
Temple-Inland.

—Homegrown industries, especially in textiles and
plastics, shut down unable to complete with US giants.

—Even the “Maquiladora Miracle” once creating 2
million jobs on the US border losing out to China and
other lower wage countries in the inevitable race to
the bottom WTO one-way trade deals always cause to
countries from North and South.

—Real wages down 20% over 10 years with the
disparity of wealth far greater than in 1994 when the
Zapatista struggle began.

—600 Wal-Mart megastores crushing small homegrown
retailers and Mexican chains.  Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB
is the country’s largest private employer and biggest
retailer in Latin America far and away.  This
predatory colossus dominates Mexican retailing (like
it does up North) with forecasted 2007 sales of $21
billion and soaring profits gotten at the expense of
its workers even more than in the US because in Mexico
Wal-Mex can get away with anything.

—The Mexican landscape littered with thousands of
McDonald’s, Burger King’s, Wendy’s, and other US
retail chains destroying local culture and
homogenizing markets to sell the same stuff in Mexico
as in Milwaukee, Missouri and Maine.

—The importation and consumption of genetically
modified (GMO) corn presenting a clear danger to “the
People of the Corn” by displacing and contaminating
locally-grown varieties cultivated for thousands of
years as dietary and cultural staples.  The GMO poison
from el norte is now spreading like an uncontrollable
infestation from indigenous cornfield to cornfield.

Add to the above, former President Vincente Fox’s Plan
Puebla-Panama (PPP) that so far flopped but isn’t
dead.  He proposed it early in his term as a
multi-billion dollar development scheme to turn
Southern Mexico (including Chiapas) and Central
America all the way to Panama into a colossal free
trade paradise displacing indigenous people,
destroying their culture and sacred corn, and harming
the environment for profit.  He wanted to induce
private investment by handing over to them the
region’s natural resources including its oil, water,
minerals, timber and ecological biodiversity.  Fox
wanted to rip into the area with new ports, airports,
bullet trains, bridges, superhighways, 25
hydroelectric dams, new telecommunication facilities,
electrical grids, and a new Panama Canal - for
starters, with more development to follow.  He also
wanted to open the country’s wildlife reserves for
bioprospecting in a giveaway to giant seed, chemical
and drug companies and connect everything with new
highways linking Mexico to Central America
facilitating business throughout the region - meaning
indigenous people had to make way for it.

The area planned for development is enormous and so
far stalled.  It covers 102 million hectares with 64
million inhabitants in eight countries few of whom
would benefit from a scheme to exploit masquerading as
infrastructure and private development and more
without consent of the people the way it’s always
done.  It’s the reason the plan went nowhere - so far.
It’s irrelevant to the poor, rural South gaining
nothing except picking up the tab so corporate
predators can take their land for private gain selling
back to the people what’s already theirs like Chiapas’
fresh water that’s 40% of the country’s total
Coca-Cola is dying to get its hands on.  It would also
destroy the last significant tropical rain forest in
Chiapas’ Montes Azules Integral Biosphere in the
Lacandon jungle where the government wants to remove
native Mayans from lands belonging to them.

An Enduring Struggle for Liberation and Autonomy

The EZLN struggled to win redress for their major
demands, but the Zedillo government in the 1990s
reneged on a promise to address them.  The key
betrayal came in 1996 when EZLN leaders thought they
had a deal known as the San Andres Accords.  It was a
landmark document based on the International Labor
Organization’s Resolution 169, the universally
accepted benchmark for defining an indigenous people
stipulating they have both territory or habitat and
“territoriality” meaning they have autonomy over their
own lands free from government control.

Had it passed, it would have given Mexico’s 57
distinct indigenous peoples local autonomy over all
aspects of their lives - agrarian policy, natural
resources, the environment, health and educational
institutions, judicial system, and their overall
social and cultural rights.  It needed to be
legislatively approved by changes in state, federal,
local laws and the Mexican Constitution committing the
government to eliminate “the poverty, the
marginalization and insufficient political
participation of millions of indigenous Mexicans.”
But like before and always, it wasn’t to be as PRI
President Zedillo, an “inflexible globophile” and
technocratic servant of empire, upheld Mexico’s
business as usual mal gobierno (bad government) dark
forces reneging on the deal as fast as he could
unleash Mexican army troops against the people of
Chiapas stepping up his “dirty war” on them to
undermine their popular support and end the EZLN
rebellion.

“PRIista” Zedillo failed, biting off more than he
could chew, because the Zapatistas then and now aren’t
giving up their struggle or going away.  Their
response was a greater effort to mobilize broader
support throughout the country.  In 1999, the
collective Zapatista Revolutionary Indigenous
Clandestine Committee (CCRI) leadership made up of 23
commanders and spokesperson Subcommandante Marcos
organized a national consulta, or referendum, for
indigenous rights and implementation of the San Andres
Accords that were signed in 1996.  More than three
million Mexicans participated with 95% of them
endorsing the EZLN’s demands providing the kind of
mass support hard to ignore.

In December, 2000, National Action Party’s (PAN)
Vincente Fox (and former Coca-Colaista big cheese) had
to address it.  He shook Mexico’s political firmament
in the July elections becoming the country’s first
president able to end the PRI’s stranglehold single
party 71 year rule under a system known as
“Presidentialism.”  After taking office, he arrogantly
promised to cut the Gordian knot deadlock with the
EZLN and would meet with Subcommandante Marcos to “fix
things up in 15 minutes” by committing to submit the
San Andres Accords or La Ley Cocopa Indian Rights Law
to Congress for resolution where almost for certain
they’d be none. 

Still, the Zapatistas and their supporters went on the
road for it for 16 days going from Chiapas to Mexico
City in February and March 2001.  The climax was a
mass rally of hundreds of thousands in the capital’s
Zocalo, to no avail as the Congress gutted the Accords
ending the EZLN’s hope for redress through the
political process that was reinforced when the
nation’s Supreme Court upheld the legislators 8 - 3 on
September 7, 2002.  It left the Zapatistas high and
dry and more than ever determined to work for change
outside the political process that works for the
privileged, not the people.

La Otra Campana - The EZLN’s Other Campaign

The Zapatista’s Other Campaign grew out of the
organization’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon
Jungle (the Sexta) issued June, 2005 calling for a new
approach outside traditional party politics the EZLN
rejects because it doesn’t work for ordinary people.
The idea was to build a grand alliance of all jodidos
(the “screwed” over people) to include Indians and the
“real left” to join in solidarity from the bottom up
outside the political process and call a
constitutional convention to write a new
anti-neoliberal document protecting the nation’s land
and resources as well as enact an Indian Rights law.

The Other Campaign went on the road to all parts of
the country during the 2006 electoral period working
outside the political process withholding support for
opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD)
presidential candidate and ex-PRIista Andres Manuel
Lopez Obrador, popularly known as ALMO. 

Ross calls him El Peje, his nickname, noting while
serving as Mexico City’s popular mayor he eschewed
ostentation; provided essential social services for
the people like free milk for young mothers; shelters
for the homeless; and jobs for tens of thousands.  He
also cut deals with the business class from Mexico’s
Council of Businessmen (CMHN) made up of the country’s
37 richest men like he did with billionaire tycoon
Carlos Slim showing he was a “demon in disguise, a
demagogue, (a) dreaded politician.  A danger, in
short, for Mexico.”  A man who sleeps with the devil.
Not anyone the Zapatistas could trust or support, and
they didn’t, sitting out the campaign to further their
own to end Mexico’s unjust economic system of
corrupted predatory capitalism exploiting people for
profit.  Their goal is noble, and they’re committed to
it - to one day bring real social, economic and
democratic change to the country but do it outside
party politics within which it can never happen.

Working through the system always turns out the same.
The dominant PRI and PAN are Mexico’s Republicans and
Democrats - two wings of the nation’s property party
exploiting the masses to serve the country’s capital
interests, latifundistas, and foreign investors from
el norte.  It hardly matters whether PAN or PRI rules
with the PRD scarcely better as most in it are
recycled “PRIANS” (formerly from PRI and PAN) - aka,
Mexico’s bipartisan criminal class with softer edges
offering the people more crumbs, but still crumbs.  In
power they’d never address the Zapatistas’ original 13
demands - land, work, labor, bread, education, health,
shelter, communication, culture, independence,
democracy, liberty, and peace as well as foster
solidarity with the aggrieved.

Ross’ criticism is even harsher calling the PRD
“mortally flawed, venomously venial and vulnerable to
splintering into brittle battle over scraps of power.”
In his judgment, if ALMO became president (he didn’t,
but it was unresolved at press time), the dominant
business class, Washington, and even the Church would
slap him down each time he proposed overly generous
crumbs.  And if he managed doing more than thought
possible, Ross adds an exclamation point - “Think
Salvadore Allende” who was no match for
Nixon-Kissinger the way a Mexican progressive today
would be out of his league against the demon-duo
Bush-Cheney, even meaner and nastier than their
uglier-than-sin predecessors.

They don’t daunt the EZLN’s 13 year resolve against
mal gobierno, running strong and gaining strength with
the Other Campaign continuing throughout 2006.  It’s
still ongoing in the new year with the country now
under PAN president-by-mass-electoral-fraud Felipe
Calderon. Ross will pick up the story in his next
book, sure to come, continuing his chronicle of
rebellion for a better world Zapatistas are in the
vanguard for. 

La Otra Campana grew out of planning meetings and is
comprised of many thousands of supporters including
Indians, farmers, workers, social movements, NGOs,
autonomous collectives, all groups on the left and all
others willing to join a social movement for change.
The plan was to take Subcommandante Marcos (who’s
mestizo, not Indian) and a 16 member Sexta commission
on a six month barnstorming blizzard, beginning
January 1, 2006, to all 31 Mexican states to meet and
listen to a diverse range of people, groups and
organizations.  They want their ideas as input to use
toward building broader support toward the goal of
real change in a country stultified by decades of
corruption and mass exploitation. 

This was the fifth time the Zapatistas left their
Chiapas stronghold home taking their message to the
country, the last time being in 2001 for the “March of
Those Who Are The Color of the Earth” after Congress
gutted the La Ley Cocopa or Indian Rights Law.  This
time the plan was much more ambitious with goals great
enough to make Marcos tell his followers “we could be
jailed, we could be killed.  We may never return home”
because at stake is the future of Mexico also playing
out in the streets of Oaxaca since May for social
justice long denied because getting it is never easy
in a country ruled by powerful interests unwilling to
sacrifice their privilege and till now never having
to.

The Other Campaign aims high continuing into 2007.  It
calls for enacting a new constitution barring
privatization of public resources and getting rid of
the whole array of neoliberal poison served up by
Washington-controlled international lending agencies
and WTO one-way “bunko game” free trade deals unmasked
as unfair. It also wants indigenous autonomy for
Mexico’s 57 individual Indian peoples and a nationwide
public stage for the EZLN to spread its message to
people in every Mexican state.  It comes down to “the
Other Campaign vs. Politics as Usual” meaning
elections for sale to the highest bidder or easily
stolen when the Mexican power structure controls them
and won’t tolerate power to the people in a country
run by and for the privileged alone, the way it’s
always been.  The EZLN renounces them all while
knowing the PRI’s return to power would be a big step
backward in Mexico’s glacial struggle for democracy
that at best advances in mini-fragile steps easily
reversible.

The Other Campaign is still ongoing aiming toward its
longer range goal for a new constitution with regional
autonomy run from the bottom up outside the political
process it wants no part of.  Today the EZLN is the
most interesting, radical and important grass roots
democratic movement in the world.  Subcommandante
Marcos believes new fraudulently elected Mexican
president Felipe Calderon “is going to start to fall
from his first day (December 1 and) we’re on the eve
of a great uprising or civil war.”  He believes the
Mexican people will join him in “spontaneous
uprisings, explosions all over, civil war” the way
it’s gone on uninterrupted in Oaxaca since May.  “When
we rise up (he says), we’re going to sweep away the
entire political class, including those who say
they’re the parliamentary left” as the political
process corrupts them like all the others.

It’s the way all social revolutions take root that
begin from a committed core, then broaden into a
unified network of mutual support for real democratic
change.  The spirit of resistance is alive in Latin
America.  It bubbled up in Venezuela, Bolivia and
Ecuador, and in Mexico it’s electric and more alive
than since Emiliano Zapata Salazar led the 1910
Revolution that ushered in a period of real change,
albeit short-lived.  Today Mexicans again are fed up
with decades of fraud, corruption and abuse, and
modern-day Zapatistas are in the vanguard of
resistance for real social democratic change for
people long denied it.  No one knows how this will end
and if it will turn out to be a watershed moment in
the country’s history.  Those in power never yield it
easily, so things may get ugly as events play out.
For now, Mexico’s future is unfolding on its streets
and mountains and jungles of Chiapas that will chart
the road ahead for better or worse to an uncertain
time the Zapatistas are struggling to make a better
one.

It isn’t easy, and since early 2007 Zapatista
communities have been up against increasing opposition
from a government-allied paramilitary group called the
Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Peasant
Rights (Opddic).  It uses threats of violence, land
invasions, crop thefts, beatings and kidnappings to
expropriate Zapatista land so private developers can
exploit natural resources and develop large tourist
projects.  Opddic has been around since the late 1990s
but grew more powerful while Vincente Fox was
president.  It’s present activities signal what’s
ahead from the Calderon government’s policy to seize
Zapatista land, weaken the movement, and give
corporate predators an open field to develop the land
indigenous Chiapans claim as their own. 

Zapatistas say they’ll defend their lands against
Opddic incursions but up till now have avoided
violence.  That may not last as attacks continue that
may be intended to provoke a response strong enough to
set up the ominous possibility the government may step
in with force making things very ugly. 

It won’t step in to help the Chiapas-based NGO Center
for Economic Political Investigations of Community
Action (CIEPAC) threatened by a late February note
saying: “Enjoy your last day.  We will kill you I am
looking for you and now we have found you.”  This
followed other incidents of threatening surveillance
and harassment against CIEPAC members for several
months.  The organization takes the threats seriously
and asks for “national and international organized
groups (to join) in solidarity (to) maintain your
vigilance in anticipation of events that might occur
shortly, continue your solidarity with social
movements in Mexico, and denounce the continuous
violations to human rights that are affecting civil
society in this country.”  Whatever may happen, John
Ross will be there following the Zapatistas’ struggle
against the dark forces affecting them and ordinary
people everywhere.

Ross ends his current chronicle in 2006 where it began
- in Chiapas with the Mayan people the color of the
earth and the corn, “maiz” in the “milpa” that’s the
core of their life.  The country and people can’t
survive without it.  He writes: “The Zapatistas are
Mayans and the Mayans are the People of Maize, not
just because it is the center of their universe but
because they are actually made from it.  And like the
maize….the people the color of the earth return,
renew themselves, are reborn and flourish.”  They
won’t allow the country’s dark forces to take that
from them.  Their spirit is alive and so is their hope
another world is possible.  Their struggle for it
continues, and Ross will be there chronicling it all
for us.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
listen each week to the Steve Lendman News and
Information Hour on The Micro Effect.com Saturdays at
noon US central time.

 

 


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