By Enrique Davis-Mazlum
On January 1, 1994 the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) rose in arms against the Mexican Government and the Mexican Army, since that day the EZLN has been a controversial topic. Since 1824 Chiapas has been in political, economic and social instability. With a population of approximate 4,056,000 and 118 Municipios (Municipal Districts) Chiapas is one of the richest states in Mexico in natural resources and at the same time one of the poorest (highest percentage of poverty among all the states).
On August 20, 2000 political stability started to emerge in Chiapas, when Governor Pablo Mendiguchia was elected Governor by a coalition called Alianza por Chiapas (Alliance for Chiapas) which was formed between PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution), PAN (National Action Party), PT (Labour Party), PVEM (Green Ecological Party of Mexico), PCD (Central Democratic Party), PSN (Nationalist Society Party), PAS (Social Alliance Party) and Convergencia (Convergence for Democracy Party) defeating Senator Sami David David of the PRI (Institutionalized Revolutionary Party). When President Vicente Fox took office on December 1, 2000 he addressed the issue of Chiapas and the EZLN. He said that he was willing to negotiate and sign a Peace Treaty between the Mexican Government and EZLN.
President Fox named Luis H. Alvarez as the Commissioner of the Mexican Government to find a solution with the EZLN and end the conflict in Chiapas along with the COCOPA (Com-mission of Harmony and Pacification) of the Mexican Congress. The delegation of EZLN on February 24, 2001 met in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas to start their tour, also known as "Zapatour".
When the Zapatour was announced members of the PAN made strong declarations against Sub Comandante Marcos and the EZLN. One of these members is Governor Loyola of Queretaro who declared that members of the EZLN should receive the death penalty, because they had declared the war against the Mexican Government another member of PAN a local Congressman of the State of Morelos said that he had snipers ready to kill Sub Comandante Marcos when he passes through Morelos. These declarations of members of the same political party as President Fox don't help the negotiations of peace that the Mexican Government is trying to achieve. If President Fox does not have the support of his own party members, why should the EZLN believe that he is willing to sign a Peace Treaty?
Rafael Sebastian Guillen (who is from Tampico, Tamaulipas) ,also known as Sub Comandante Marcos, during an interview said that he is a sub commandant and only those that are Indians are commandants. In the EZLN there are 23 commandants, which represent the different Indian Communities of Chiapas. Marcos explained that the reason of the Zapatour is to inform the people of Mexico and the world that minorities should be respected and taken into consideration.
In his speech in el Zocalo (Plaza of the Mexican Constitution in front of the Presidential Palace) Marcos addressed his speech to minorities, women, Indians, gays, lesbians, people with disabilities, senior citizens, children, etc. in which he asked them to fight for their rights and that the battle does not necessarily need to be with weapons, that it is time to convince the Mexican Congress and the Federal Government that the Mexican Constitution needs amendments to take into consideration all of these demands that were signed in the Agreements of San Andres Larrainzar.
But the COCOPA and many other members of Congress have said and met with representatives of the EZLN that the Agreements of San Andres Larrainzar cannot be accepted as presented to Congress. There needs to be some negotiation and changes without destroying the essence of the agreements. There are three main points of controversy which are: 1) full autonomy to the Indian Communities; 2) autonomy in the use of airwaves; and 3) communication and distribution of land. The essence of what the EZLN is asking for should be guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution, autonomy to the Indian Communities should be granted with certain restrictions like in the State of Oaxaca. Traditions and customs of Indian Communities should be promoted and explained, we should know what these traditions mean and the history behind them.
The two major TV Stations (Televisa and TV Azteca) organized a concert for peace in which Mana and Jaguares played, in this concert an Indian Ceremony took place which should not have occurred as it did. The ceremony should not have taken place because it did not explain the meaning of it and the essence, it was all a publicity stunt and that hurts us more. These two TV Stations talked and publicized that the concert was in favor of the signing of Peace Treaty between the Mexican Government and the EZLN, but when Marcos and the Zapatour arrived on Sunday March 12, 2001 to el Zocalo, not one TV channel transmitted the meeting. More people were gathered in el Zocalo than when President Fox took office and none of the two major TV Stations transmitted this historic event.
The signing of the Peace Treaty now rests on the Mexican Congress, they need to reevaluate the Agreements of San Andres Larrainzar come to an agreement with the EZLN and President Vicente Fox and pass it. As Mexicans we have the obligation to let our Congressmen and Senators know how we feel about this issue, which is something that hardly takes place in Mexico.
Enrique Davis-Mazlum, attends ITAM in Mexico City, studying for his Masters in Public Policy and is the Assistant Director of Vortice: Analysis and Proposals of Public Policy Journal. davismazlum @hotmail.com