Two Abuses, Two Rebellions (and, of course, some questions)


Letter 3

Letters, relationships,
letters.
postcards,
dreams, fragments of tenderness
projected in the sky,
sent from blood to blood
and from desire to desire
Miguel Hernandez

This time the moon gives out merely a dim gleam. And just for a little while, because then the rain arrives and everyone is silent. It does not speak, this rain in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast quite shouts. And, despite the shouts, there are few who listen and understand.

When it rains, everything down below appears quite silent. Perhaps not. Perhaps it is just that this storm blots out every noise other than its tapping above rooftops, people, animals and shadows. Finally, being night and being rain, it is strange that that light is still lit. Yes, that one, the one in that corner. That hut looks like a solitary board in the midst of a storm on the high seas. But no, the one inside, acting as captain and crew, all one, is resting, on his back, his eyes wide open, his mind who knows where.

There is something on the little table, next to the veiled candle. It looks like a piece of paper with something written on it. Let's see. Yes. Make a note of it...Good, it looks like a letter. Mmh. Heading the letter, in the center, it reads: "Zapatista Army of National Liberation. Mexico." Then, further down and to the left, the word "August" is crossed out, then "September," similarly crossed out, and afterwards "August-September." Are you making a note of all of this? Good. Mmh. Several similarly crossed out numbers follow successively: "6," "8," "15," "27," then "1999" follows, and, new paragraph, "To the Students of the UNAM." Two points. Next, what follows follows, that is...

If this letter I'm sending you appears, by times, to be a "collage" of postcards and letters, then it's because that is how it left. I began writing it in August, and now it's September, so you can easily assign the guilt to the calendar for its probable incoherence.

I am writing to you in the name of the men, women, children and old ones of the EZLN. There is not much I can add to what I have already sad before concerning what your struggle represents and means to us, the zapatistas. We continue to have - perhaps even more greatly now, after your defiance in coming to the mountains of the Mexican Southeast to accompany the indigenous who were resisting the military occupation - admiration, respect and affection for all of you, the students and "estudiantas" who are sustaining and carrying forward the movement against the privatization of the UNAM.

As you certainly know - after a group of students, teachers, workers and researchers from the School and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (ENAN and INAH), along with other persons from civil society, went to Amador Hernandez in order to bear witness to the militarization in the region - a fierce campaign of lynching and persecution was unleashed across chiapaneco lands, against anyone who might appear to be "young students." To the federal army, immigration, public security police, judicial police, paramilitaries, PRIs and officials of various stripes, every young mestizo person was "a striker from the DF."

It did not matter that they were not from the UNAM, that they were not students, or that they were not from the DF, to the government and their appendages, they were guilty of being young and of looking like students. To the cry of "Ultras get out of Chiapas," dozens of young persons were, and are being, harassed, persecuted, mistreated, humiliated and threatened with death.

Motion. - If this climate of lynching found one of its ideological supports in the arguments of one part of the left, that is something that should not surprise us. The right is without thoughts and arguments, the use of force is the only "rationale" they know. But, when they are in need of a "thought," there is the left, to give them reasons and arguments. The epithet of "ultras," tossed out so lightly (and concealing the mental laziness of not even trying to understand and to explain a social movement) was quickly appropriated by the electronic and print media of the right, by Barnes' gang, and by that eminent defender of animal rights, the croqueta Albores.

Despite the fact that Chiapas was obviously the most inappropriate place to display UNAM student credentials, dozens of men and women - young persons, students and university students - traveled to the Mexican southeast and joined their voices with those of the rebel indigenous in the community of Amador Hernandez.

Motion to the Motion. - During their travel to Amador Hernandez, during their stay in La Realidad, I was able to listen to men and women representatives of the CGH and of the UNAM student base. I asked them how they saw the movement, its current situation and its prospects. Flaming speeches abounded, calling for get-conscious-and-continue-forward-companeros-the- struggle-is-for-Mexico-we-should-not-take-even-one-step backwards. I know that it makes one laugh a bit that they said that to the zapatistas, but we did not laugh, we listened and we waited. Then they seemed to realize they were not at the CGH, and that they could speak, argue and, above all, listen to the other.

Each and every one of them spoke. Aside from an Arts student, their common characteristic was their lack of a sense of humor, regrettable in one who is fighting for Change, and something terrible in one who is young. But all of them were, and are, sincere, they believe in what they are doing (something more and more rarely found in the world of "politics").

There were those who saw the movement as being exhausted, and those who saw it sailing and on the rise. There were those who defended the position of staying firm on the movement's demands, and there were those who were for flexibility. There were many reasons on one and the other side, all good, of substance, thoughtful and well argued. Their words, attitudes and convictions seemed to me to be very far from those that seem to predominate in the marathon sessions of the General Strike Council. And not just that, one and the other side complained that one could not argue or discuss in the CGH, that it was shouts and insults that predominated. And one and the other side defended the CGH as representative and legitimate. "And, nonetheless, they function" was the sentence that summarized their bittersweet assessment of the CGH.

I spoke also. No, I didn't tell them slogans. I told them the truth, that they were going to win, that we respected them, that we cared for them, that we admired them, that we would be attentively following what they were doing and what they were not doing. That we saw many new things in them, and also old things: very wrapped up in themselves (everything revolves around the university movement, and if it did not revolve, then it should), a lack of a sense of humor, stilted seriousness and, above all, very little hearing of the other.

Noting the fact that, in the painting of the new Mexico sketched in their arguments, the word "indigenous" did not appear anywhere. "We don't seem to have a place with them, either," I said to Tacho. "We don't seem to," Tacho responded as we were saddling up the horses.

"And, nonetheless, they function" I said and said to myself when the first group returned from Amador Hernandez with another sparkle in their eyes and talking nonstop about the zapatista indigenous communities. "There are universities and universities," I said to Tacho while we saddled up the horses. "There are," Tacho responded, smiling, with his foot already in the stirrup.

But it wasn't just Albores and his barking dogs who were shown the synchronicity between the UNAM and Chiapas. These came previously:

While in Chiapas the protagonists are Mexican indigenous, despised and forgotten, the UNAM movement is being carried out by young, equally despised and forgotten, Mexicans. When it began, doubts abounded as to whether the zapatista uprising was being carried out by the power of the indigenous, and whether this sole force had been capable, as it had been, of rocking the Mexican political system, displaying it in all its mediocrity. At the UNAM in 1999, there has been doubt that the young people "of Generation X," those without cause, organized and carried forward a strike that, at its foundation, questioned the privatization policies of the Mexican state.

Since the beginning of the uprising, the 2 largest private television companies clamored for the annihilation of the indigenous, and, in complicity with the government and part of the written and radio press, organized a campaign to marginalize them. At the UNAM, and since the beginning of the strike, TV Azteca and Televisa have dedicated themselves, with particular emphasis, to slandering the students. A good part of the national press goes along with them, and the radio, the government and the Rectory second them. "They're just a few manipulated Indians," they shout on television. "They are just a few loafing manipulated young people" they shout their heads off on TV Azteca and Televisa. The government insists that there are "dark interests," "white university students, the "red church," and the PRD" behind the indigenous uprising. Government and the Rectory repeat over and over again that there are "non-university interests," "zapatistas" and the "PRD" behind the UNAM strike movement.

The primary demand of the zapatista indigenous is "WE ARE HERE," "we want a country that includes us, a free, democratic and just country, we are not struggling for handouts or maize grinders, we rose up in arms for a better Mexico." "WE ARE HERE," "we want a country that includes us, and free public education, we are not struggling because they are not covering our semester, we made a strike for free education for all Mexicans" the UNAM students are saying. The government offers roofing sheets and handouts to the insurgents - "What more do you want? Lay down you arms and surrender" they cry out in the media. Rectory offers to disguise the quotas, "What more do they want? Give back the facilities and surrender," they shout in the media.

The government puts in as negotiators stupid, inexpert, fascist and repressive persons, with instructions to torpedo the dialogue. Rectory puts in an authoritarian, intolerant, fascist "liaison committee" with orders to torpedo the dialogue. The "lawyers" of the ultra right, Carranca y Rivas and Ignacio Orihuela demand that the San Andres Accords be ignored, they demand the use of public force and the massacre of the insurgent indigenous. Orihuela and Carranca y Rivas demand the use of public force against the students on strike. Zedillo obstructs the dialogue between the university officials and the strikers with his statements and torpedoes the proposal by the "8 emeriti" threatening to use "the legitimate force of the state" if that proposal is not respected.

The intellectuals of the right spare no ink in asking for the intervention of the federal army and the annihilation of the zapatistas. The intellectuals of the right demand a strong arm against the strikers. The COPARMEX demands the repression of the zapatista indigenous. The COPARMEX asks for the closing of the UNAM and repression against those participating in the university movement. At one point during the dialogue, the EZLN was doing everything possible to keep it going, and the government did its part by breaking it. At the UNAM, the students made their proposal more flexible, and they gave clear signs of wanting to dialogue, and the government and the Rectory made that impossible because the dialogue failed. The government accused the EZLN of intransigence and not wanting dialogue. The Government-Rectory are accusing the students of intransigence and not wanting dialogue. The government and their writers are spreading the story that inside the EZLN there is a "hard" line that does not want dialogue, and that it is confronting a "conciliatory" line. The government and its appendages are spreading the story that the university movement is divided between "ultras" and "moderates," and the "majority of the strikers are being manipulated by the ultras." The "ultras," for their part, are accusing the media of allying themselves with the "moderates" in order to "sell out" the strike.

Motion for the motion of the motion. - Several questions arise concerning the movement:

1. - Why didn't the emeritus professors who appeared before the CGH, in order to explain and argue the proposal by "The 8," not tell the students that neither the Rectory nor the government are going to carry out any commitments? Isn't it true that at least two of the eight emeriti of the same old proposal were EZLN advisors at the San Andres Dialogues, and one of them was present during almost the entire process of dialogue and negotiation? Did they forget to tell them what happened after the government signed the first accords? Isn't it true that they did not carry them out, nor are they carrying them out, nor will they carry them out? Is it "ultra" to think that the Rectory and the government are not going to keep their word, no matter what they sign or promise? The emeritus professors say that they are committed to bringing their moral authority to bear in order to back up the accords that are reached, but did they not forget to tell them that the San Andres Accords have mobilized persons and organizations throughout the world, not just in Mexico, who have brought their moral authority (equal or greater than that of the emeriti), and the government has not carried them out? Is it not true that intellectuals with all the academic degrees imaginable, Nobel prize winners, singer-songwriters, painters, sculptors, writers, dancers, actors, scientists, researchers, political and social leaders, non-governmental organizations, people from the street and the countryside, persons with recognizable names and faces, and persons without names or faces, have mobilized in Mexico and the World in order to demand that the government keep its word? Has it done so?

2. - When at least two of the eight emeriti have taught ethics classes and have written some books on the subject. Days before the CGH discussed the proposal of the 8 emeriti, Senor Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon threatened to use public force "if the generous and lucid proposal of a group of teachers" were not accepted. Is it ethical to support a proposal that needs the argument of the threat of repression in order to demonstrate its "generosity" and its "lucidity?"

3. - Over the last few days, the CGH "vetoed" several of the so called "moderate" university students, preventing them from speaking in the name of the CGH or from participating in its committees. The argument was that they had given interviews, made statements or published their positions in the media. Members of the "Heroic" (JA!) Committee of Political and Social Sciences have given frequent interviews to national newspapers, and even free guided visits to reporters (with a rest stop at the taco stand), occupying several pages (with color photos) in a national weekly. Why doesn't the CGH do the same thing with them? If the criteria for a "veto" is the number of agate lines, did the CGH count the space occupied by the so-called "moderates" and compare it with that taken up by the alleged "ultras?" The method for winning an argument is imposing silence on the opposing side? Does the CGH make itself stronger by "purging" and turning itself into a homogeneous entity? That's the "university" the CGH wants? Don't the General Payment Regulations, the CENEVAL and everything that the 6 point document was raised against, signify an attempt to "purge" the university and to convert it into a homogeneous entity with pure students "who can indeed pay?"

4. - On August 4, 1999, police from the Federal District government crushed striking students from the UNAM: the photograph of the young students, forced to their knees, with their arms raised and against a railing, surrounded by police, the accounts of the students, humiliated by the "representatives of the law," in addition to the statements by Senor Cardenas after the repression (he said it is "a warning to become aware of the necessity of renewing dialogue" - beat them up in order to dialogue - remember Chiapas), resolved many of the doubts in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast, but why the silence from the intellectuals of the left? Tolerance and inclusion for everyone except for "the Ultras" (in addition to the fact that the ones repressed weren't "ultras," but students without a "wing")? The left in the DF government today: was it not "ultra" just yesterday?

5. - The writing by an intellectual from the PRD in a newspaper column that the strike must be lifted because the Chiapas conflict requires all our attention: isn't that an excellent demonstration that being intellectual does not mean being intelligent?

6. - The PRD left argues against the UNAM strike movement, saying it has already taken up much time, that it is affecting Cardenas' image, that it distracts attention away from Chiapas, and that it's about the plebeian (they don't say it like that, being, then, the most comfortable of "ultras"). Are there no coherent and reasonable arguments for asking for the strike to be lifted? (in addition to its already having been negotiated).

7. - In addition to being the arena for competition between the "ultras" and the "moderates" to see who can say the most "ingenious" chant, to see who manipulates better, to see how and where the "defeats" can be paid for or the "victories" scrubbed, does the CGH continue to be the visible, representative and legitimate head of the university movement?

As proof that, at least among the zapatistas, there is awareness of the importance of the university movement, I am taking advantage of this trip to see that you get some letters sent by EZLN companeros and that are self-explanatory. I am sending them as is, respecting the writing and original spelling. Sale, then, they go without prior anesthetic:

I. From Omar, Tzeltal indigenous, EZLN support base:

"Student companeros(as) and amigos(as). We are sending you greetings with special affection of friends, fighters for a more just life. Hoping to the all-powerful that you are in good health. After my humble but sincere greeting, I go on to the following.

A special greeting to the general Strike Council and to their entire student base. Much faith and much strength and on to victory.

I have not had the opportunity of meeting you and extending our hands to fighters for a more useful and just life.

Friends your struggles is our struggle and you are not alone aside from the Lord, we are with you.

I invite you to continue to victory and thus to be what you want.

How beautiful it is to die doing good but it is terrible to die doing bad.

No one will do you harm if our effort is good, just and brave.

>From the mountains of the Aguascalientes IV chiapaneco southeast.
Omar."

II. From an EZLN support base:

"Date: July. Subject: Supporting

The EZLN Zapatista Army of National Liberation Support bases are supporting student brothers of the UNAM autonomous university of Mexico, you are not alone, we are with you.

You with us, we with you. Do not be afraid. Student brothers, ya basta in the injustices of the bad government, we want democracy in our country for everyone in the nation, where there will be liberty and dignity for all the UNAM students it should be free, we must struggle student brothers remember that the EZLN support bases without fear because we want dignity and equality for our nation and internationally. Brother students we will be with you at all moments.

Greetings, all, brother students.

EZLN support bases. Zapatista Army of National Liberation."

III. From Veto (I do not know if the compa writes his name like this or if he's being ironic regarding the latest decisions by the CGH), EZLN support base. This letter arrived with everything and envelope (but without stamps), in it, it reads: "Thinking is difficult, acting is even more difficult, but acting as one thinks is the most difficult thing in the world." "For the UNAM and General Strike Council."

"Dear brothers and sisters All young students To the General Strike Council PRESENTE

Cordial and affectionate greetings to each and every one of you, hoping, as ever, that your voices are resounding in one single ideal... "Education does not belong to the one who imparts it or receives it, but to the one who defends it"

Then dear brothers; I want on the first line to tell you that your struggle is our struggle: No to the privatization of education!...No to the f...of Barnes and his puppets behind him.

We take up our just demands with courage and in one single heart we are joining our efforts, raising the truth: PUBLIC AND FREE EDUCATION, that truth is our flag.

All of our support is with the demands you are making, For these and so many reasons, we declare ourselves in favor of a better education.

We know you are very clear and aware in the struggle, there is no need to tell you that even though things appear to be going badly, you cannot stop. Not one step back, many steps forward.

With the conscience clear, honest and open, you are overthrowing that puny crowd of bureaucrats, because the only thing they know how to say and do is to lie, yes, make a lie of truth.

How shameful that those who consider themselves political trainers of the UNAM, great experts according to them, educated men, but it turns out that the true men and the patria have characterized them as the most corrupt, the most despotic, men, politicians or however they are designated, are just empty like balloons to the emptiness, with their only interest like a nasty character.

It makes me sad and it is the most shameful in humanity to see a despised (at best, hated) machinery that is the media, Truly! Some; Look at Azteca for example.

BROTHERS ALL!

It makes us proud to see that youth full of victories, To see a boy with his fist held high...! To see a young woman with victory in sight...!

Yes my brothers: To victory always!!
>From the mountains of the chiapaneco southeast, Aguascalientes IV.

Your friend and brother ready for the struggle Companero Veto EZLN support base."

I believe these letters summarize very well what you represent to us, and they are a demonstration of the degree to which the UNAM and Chiapas are not mirroring one another, but are symptoms of something that is emerging.

Students of the UNAM:

I know well that things are not going easily for you now (but, on the other hand: When have you had it easy?), and that the days to follow (like those that have preceded) will require much imagination and audacity. We know that you know that firmness is not surrendered with intelligence, and that reason and conviction have nothing to do with the volume at the moment of expounding arguments.

Motion to the fourth power. - When finishing this letter, we learned of the Strike Committee of the UNAM Faculty of Political And Social Sciences (published in La Jornada, September 19, 1999, directed to "the people of Mexico."). I would like to clarify "to the people of Mexico" that we zapatistas are NOT brothers of the "heroic" (JA!) Strike Committee of Political and Social Sciences (it would be very difficult for us to put "heroic" in front of "EZLN" without even blushing a bit). As to "La Jornada" being "at the service of the PRD," well, that's what the government and their press are already saying. One question: that about "there is nothing left for us but the underground press." Does that mean that one can write badly and with spelling errors in the underground press? Another question: As the "heroic" (JA!) Strike Committee of Political Science so kindly informed us, "La Jornada" and "Proceso" are allied with the reformist bourgeoisie, then "Milenio," which has given you wide coverage, several pages and color photographs, is allied with the revolutionary proletariat? It's not that I have anything against "Milenio" (they did indeed invite us to their anniversary - and "La Jornada" didn't, what happened is the invitation arrived late), but I am unaware of their insurrectionist nature (true things, Sancho).

I know that you already know it, if I tell you it is only so you will not forget. We, the zapatistas, understand your struggle, we support it, and even when everyone abandons you, we will be by your side. Not just because it is our duty, but also because it is.

Vale. Salud and don't forget that some of your companeros and companeras are in Amador Hernandez and they have 500 soldiers facing them armed to the teeth (but they have us by their side, and so they are going to win).

>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos Mexico, August-September of 1999.

PD THAT DOES NOTHING FOR RHYME. - Olivio and Marcelo (approximately 7 years old) arrived, and they said to me: "Yo, Sup, we made up a slogan for the struggle for you. Are you going to listen to us?" They didn't let me respond, they looked at each other and began, fairly unevenly, saying: "Grape, lemon and pistachio. Grape, lemon and pistachio. Long live the UNAM and the EZLN!" I had the same expression on my face that you must have on yours. Marcelo turned around to look at Olivio, and he said: "Maybe he doesn't like pistachio? It's pecan!" "Sale!" Olivio says, and the two turn around now with: "Grape, lemon and pecan. Long live the UNAM and the EZLN!" I applauded, what else could I do?


Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN ______________________ Translated by irlandesa

To the Mexico page