A university filled with soldiers and a jail filled with students


February of 2000

To: Don Pablo Gonza'lez Casanova
From: Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

"I, who have a youth full of voices, of lightning bolts, of living arteries, moored to my muscles, alert to how my blood runs and weeps, to how my anxieties crowd each other like bitter seas or like dense tombs of sleeplessness, I hear all cries joining together a forest of close cramped hearts; I hear what we are still saying today, all that we shall yet be saying, point first above our grave throbbing, from the mouths of the trees, from the mouth of the land."
Jose' Revueltas. Canto Irrevocable.

Don Pablo:

We all send you our greetings. Not only for your courageous stance recently, but also for that. The firm distance you have taken from the violent and authoritarian attitude of those who head the government and the UNAM is worth much, especially during these times when consistency is a sarcasm and dignity a misunderstanding.

Know that our having been close to you fills us with pride. Your today is but the confirmation of what your life has been. Even before the time when you acted as a member of the National Intermediation Commission, your words helped us understand this sorrow we call "Mexico." Then, in the CONAI, at the side of those great men and women who made it up, your commitment to the search for a peaceful, just and dignified solution to the war was firm and for all times. I have read here that the former secretary of government and current official candidate for president, Francisco Labastida Ochoa, complained that the CONAI had been "unconditionally supportive" of one of the sides. If the "sides" were war and peace, it is obvious that those who made up the CONAI were "unconditionally supportive" of the side of peace. Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garci'a, as well as Dona Concepcio'n Calvillo, widow of Nava, the poets Oscar Oliva and Juan Ba~uelos, and you, all strove to achieve peace in the Mexican southeast in the only way it is possible to achieve it: with respect, with justice, with dignity, with truth. It is clear that Senor Labastida will have to confront many Mexicans who, like you, "unconditionally support" the side of peaceful solutions and are against the use of violence.

Your explicit and forceful condemnation of the use of violence in confronting the demands of the UNAM student movement is nothing more than the logical consequence of one who is for all times. We are certain that your example will be followed by other intellectuals who, in their own means and ways, will let those who use violence as a government argument know that they shall not do so with impunity. And those students who now find themselves in jail or persecuted, who are suffering injustice, that they are not alone now. One and another will have to hear the voices and the steps which, "from the mouths of the trees, from the mouth of the land," are saying and will say: liberty and dialogue.

Today, despite the electronic media, a wave of popular indignation is being raised in order to demand the release of the imprisoned university students and the renewal of dialogue. Headed by courageous parents, this movement incorporates the best of the social organizations, of the political parties of the left, of artists and intellectuals, of religious men and women, of people, of university students. Their common objective, that which unites them, is the demand for justice. And this, justice, cannot be achieved while even one university student remains behind bars. The best of the party left have not only understood exactly that, but they have also been one of the primary driving forces.

Running counter to this feeling which is translated into mobilization, the electronic media become pompous with the funds they receive from political parties for their political campaigns, and they believe they have the moral authority and legitimacy to turn themselves into - simultaneously - prosecutor, judge, jury and executor of everyone who has not paid for program time. You experienced that firsthand, Don Pablo, and millions of Mexicans are experiencing it with their own eyes and ears. At the entrance to the 21st century, television is applauding Mexico's current "democratic" double image: a university filled with soldiers and a jail filled with students (the intensity of a country's democratic life is measured by the number of publicity spots, not by the number of political prisoners). In the country of television, the Magna Carta is not the Constitution, but the program guide (which bills the cacophony out on a triple A schedule) and there are no IFE directors any more effective than the news directors.

Regardless, beyond the TV movie schedule, the people (who do not count if they do not have a publicity advisor and another for marketing) were moved to protest, like you, Don Pablo, against repression. As we were able to read in the written press, the February 9 march was the largest in recent times. The cry was one: liberty for the political prisoners. Six years ago, in 1994 and on January 12, there was a similar great mobilization. As they are doing today for the university movement ñ and yesterday for the zapatista uprising ñ the people are taking to the streets in order to make themselves heard.

Then, during that January of blood and gunpowder, we had to decide how we were going to "read" that great mobilization. We could have "read" it as a demonstration in support of our war, as a backing for the path of armed struggle we had chosen. Or we could have read it as a mobilization, not in support of our method (war), but indeed in support of our demands, and which was expressing itself against government repression.

We were isolated, falling back to the mountains, caring for our dead and wounded, preparing for the next fight. In that way, far away, very far away and under those conditions, we had to choose. And we chose to "read" that those people who took to the streets were against injustice, against authoritarianism, against racism, against war, that they were for dialogue, for peace, for justice, for the peaceful solution to our demands. We read that, and that marked our subsequent conduct.

Today the university student movement (and the CGH) are confronting a similar situation. Those who make it up can "read" the February 9 mobilization as a demonstration of support for the strike, or as a demand for justice (releasing the prisoners) and for dialogue. It is not the same.

Through the "reading" it chooses, the university student movement will have to decide its subsequent steps. They will choose, and they will do so well. They are not isolated, and they have the intelligence and the resources to achieve a good reading.

We? As always, Don Pablo: to all those who make up the university student movement, to their fathers and mothers, to their teachers, to those who support them and who are close to them, we love them, we admire them, they are going to win.

It is for all of this that, today, Don Pablo, we applaud you. You and all those who, like you, have expressed their repudiation of the soldiers disguised as police ("paramilitaries" in the strictest sense) entering the university campus.

We know that your voice and your step will also be joined with all of us who are demanding what is urgent and necessary: the release of the imprisoned university students.

Vale. Salud and may we never relinquish hope.

>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. Mexico, February of 2000.

PS - We read here that the student prisoners are asking for books to be sent to them. Send them that one that is entitled "Democracy in Mexico." It is as valuable today as yesterday, and it is one of those books that produce fertile sorrows.


ZAPATISTA ARMY OF NATIONAL LIBERATION. MEXICO. Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN ________________________ Translated by irlandesa

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