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Onward to Mexico City


Justin Podur

To

call it waffling would be an understatement. But whatever you call it, Mexico’s

President Vicente Fox has been changing his position on the Zapatistas at least

every fifteen minutes. Maybe even every five minutes.

He

campaigned on a platform of bringing peace to Chiapas. One of his first acts as

president was to table a law on indigenous rights in the Congress. He proceeded

to endorse the freeing of 18 of the over-a-hundred Zapatista political prisoners

and close 3 of the 7 military bases the Zapatistas had asked be closed. All of

this looked like he was serious about dialogue and peace.

But

the 3 signals the Zapatistas wanted were minimal signals for dialogue: these

were 7 bases (of over 200 in the state, the closure of the rest of which the

Zapatistas are willing to negotiate over) freedom for all the Zapatista

political prisoners, and the enactment of the Cocopa law on indigenous rights

and culture. Other things are negotiable. These things aren’t.

So

why does Fox close 3 bases and say he’s waiting for the Zapatistas to give him

something, then close another one a day after, and then nothing? Why does he

allow some prisoners freedom and then announce firmly that there will be no

more? Why does he allow people in his administration to threaten that the

Zapatistas can be arrested if they go to Mexico City or leave Chiapas [which

they are doing tomorrow, February 25, to arrive in Mexico City to dialogue with

the Congress on March 11]? To say they won’t talk to the Zapatistas if they wear

masks? To say that the Cocopa law is too radical a change– because it allows

for communally held lands, something won in the Mexican Revolution almost a

century ago and only struck down after NAFTA?

His

latest swing in the anti-Zapatista direction was forbidding the International

Committee of the Red Cross to accompany the Zapatista delegation to Mexico City.

Since the Red Cross was there to ensure the safety of the delegation, Fox’s

refusal could be seen as granting license to paramilitaries and others who have

threatened the comandantes in the past. It could, in other words, be interpreted

as a threat.

That

isn’t the only swing that’s occurred either. A number of Zapatista communities,

including Polho and Ricardo Flores Magon, have been reporting steady military

and paramilitary activities– troop movements, patrols, threats.

I

shouldn’t blame the President of Mexico, though. It’s got to be hard to be the

President of a country which, to quote a Mexican saying, is so far from heaven

and so close to the United States. If he’s anything like other world leaders, he

has to be wondering how to please the US. Publicly beating up on indigenous

people doesn’t attract investors (who prefer that beatings be done out of sight

whenever possible). But neither would rolling back all those hard-won investor

rights to Chiapas’– and Mexico’s– wealth. And somehow, the Zapatistas have

managed to make it impossible for the Mexican government and its US patrons to

beat up on them quietly. Which leaves President Fox in a bind.

How

much peace can he deliver without annoying the right wingers and hardliners in

his own party or the Congress? How much can he antagonize the Zapatistas, fail

to meet their demands, deny justice to indigenous people, without alienating a

Mexican public to whom he promised peace and democratic politics? How many of

the Zapatista demands will he have to meet, and at what cost to his elite

friends in the US who make fortunes from Mexico and don’t want to see those

fortunes lost just so indigenous people can live with dignity?

The

answer to these questions is: it depends. Fox is no flake. If he’s waffling,

changing sides and positions constantly, it’s because he’s probing to see what

he can get away with. He’s made a lot of promises to a lot of people and he

can’t deliver to everyone. Who he does deliver to depends on who pushes the

hardest. Dissidents know that the right and the US corporations and government

can push pretty hard. The Zapatistas have shown that dissidents can push pretty

hard too. If you’d like to join the push, there’s a standing invitation.

The

Zapatista caravan of the comandancia leaves San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas,

tomorrow (February 25). It will meet with indigenous organizations all over

Mexico, and go to Mexico City on March 11 where it will stay until the

Zapatistas have had a dialogue with the Congress about the law on indigenous

rights and culture.

Znet’s

Chiapas site http://www.zmag.org/chiapas1/index.htm

If

you read Spanish, the official site for the caravan is http://www.ezlnaldf.org

 

 

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