We are closer than ever today to reaching peace in Chiapas, to removing our ski-masks in the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, said Subcomandante Marcos. "Closer than during the Cathedral talks in 1994" he added, because there has been a very profound change in society, measured by July 2, 2000.
The guerrillero added that on that date society discovered a means of acting, because it was no longer only informed, but also very worried, and it wanted to participate. In this case, the electoral process was one way of doing something. Mexico's problem continues to be that citizenship is only exercised every six or three years, or whenever there is an election which affects you. The rest of the time citizens become spectators or beneficiaries of what the government is doing.
This interview by Aurelio Fernandez F., correspondent appeared in La Jornada over three days, see end
The rebel leader was interviewed by Carmen Aristegui and Javier Solo'rzano, hosts of the News Image noon and evening broadcasts. This correspondent participated in the dialogue.
"Every time we've come out into public light," Marcos said, "the response we've had is yes. They haven't forgotten us. What we're therefore saying to society is that we're not going to continue being an unresolved issue now. We have the will to see this resolved. You, society, are different in many senses. Help us to push this so that it falls on the other side. And I'm not referring to a program where Marcos is going to take work away from Andre's Bustamente and compete with Viajes Ponchito. I'm referring to the indigenous peoples being recognized as such, that you're never again a 'pata rajada', which is an insult in this country. That the color of your skin, your language, your culture, your way of relating to the land, with religion, even with your partner or with whatever, not be a reason for discrimination or for persecution."
Marcos' reference to Ponchito had to do with the fact that Andre's Bustamente was also present during the interview, waiting his turn, which we will report on tomorrow.
In an outfit which appeared to have been changed only by the passage of time, with a scarf whose color was merely a trace, and whose fabric weft was barely supported by its warp, one more symbol from this man of symbols, Marcos appeared unwell. "You're thinner since the last time I saw you," Solo'rzano told him. "I'm on a diet," he parried.
Aristegui and Solo'rzano questioned the Sub concerning his reaction to President Fox's insistence that he had demonstrated his good will by having withdrawn troops, having presented the Cocopa's proposal to the Congress of the Union and having shown his willingness for dialogue.
"Look," Marcos responded, "the problem is that the EZLN carries a great mistrust, the product of previous governments, and Fox isn't to blame for this, I agree. But the Indian peoples are asking us to say whether this government is going to sit down for dialogue only to gain time, hoping that our presence in the media decreases and the people forget about us. And in that way they can make a military strike against us. It's obvious that there is a hard-line group in Fox's government, even within the Army."
"On the other hand," he continued, always flanked by Tacho and Moise's, "We see that there are contradictions in the government that make it unclear with whom to negotiate. Officially it would have to be Luis H. Alvarez, because he's the Commissioner of Peace, but we've received envoys from Secretary of State Jorge G. Castaneda, offering him as interlocutor of the government with us, even using international individuals. Diego Ferna'ndez de Cevallos doesn't want peace to be signed, in order not to give Fox any advantages."
And he goes on to say that the zapatistas think that, in response to the question as to whether he is willing to abandon the military route and use the route of dialogue, "one part of Fox is answering yes, and another part no."
He added: "What Senor Fox has done is to manipulate every withdrawal (of military groups in the region) as a media event." And that means a decline in the federal Army. They would have been reinforced in silence, and nothing would have happened, but he's cutting back in a way that is permitting that entire group to say: "He's giving a lot," when, from the beginning, it had been delineated that there were seven military positions, and he had said that was fine. "As far as we are concerned, Fox hasn't finished his election campaign, he's continuing it."
"Really?" asked Carmen Aristegui. "It's already been said that there's a media contest between you and Fox."
"We think that as far as that goes, with Fox, we'd lose," Marcos responded. "In the duel of vanities there are professionals and there are amateurs. We don't gain anything if our ratings go up or down. One way or another, the zapatistas' public life has been this rise and fall. How many times have they killed us off in media terms and we appear again? We're not interested in being more popular than Fox, or less. What we're interested in is that this problem be resolved, because we believe that now is the opportunity, and the PRI defeat on July 2 opened a space where it's possible for this country to decide, but in another way. We want to be part of that future, and we don't want to have ski-masks in the future."
Regarding whether they will visit the UNAM during the march to Mexico City, the Subcomandante noted: "This is a university community. In the case of the Metropolitan Autonomous, the UAM, we received an invitation from the community, the students, workers, teachers and researchers, but in the case of the UNAM, we haven't received an invitation like that."
"We can't go to a place where we signify, within the progressive forces - because, one way or another, the UNAM is a catalogue of progressive forces - a means of impacting on the division among those forces. If the university community of the Autonomous National of Mexico were to invite us, we would go. But if only one group within the community invites us, no, because then, in a while, they are going to say to us: and what about us? It's not like in the case of the strike, where it was the students who were on strike and that was that. They were there. But there isn't any strike now, right now the university is working like a community. The act of going only with a group of that group would show a lack of respect on our part towards a university community."
The light became too dim to be able to continue taping. The technicians asked for a respite in order to light the lamps. "This, my Sup, would not have happened if Ponchivision had organized the work," said Andre's Bustamente, decked out in his tropical shirt now, awaiting his turn.
Subcomandante Marcos set out clearly a series of points concerning the current moment regarding the negotiations between the EZLN and Vicente Fox's government. First, that three conditions had been established for sitting down to the negotiating table which President Vicente Fox publicly accepted and which have not been fulfilled: the withdrawal of the military positions in seven of the 246 positions, the release of the zapatista prisoners and steps towards the Congress of the Union accepting Cocopa's proposal on indigenous rights and culture.
The federal government has withdrawn its troops from four of the seven points, but it doesn't want to do so in the other three, despite the promise to do so, Marcos noted in the interview held with Carmen Aristegui, Javier Solo'rzano and this correspondent. "The case of Guadalupe Tepeyac particularly concerns us, where hundreds of people have been living outside their homes for 2000 days, 50 of which belong to Fox's government," he said. In a trip carried out by journalists, it was able to be confirmed that the military fort built in that town, following the EZLN uprising in 1994, remains occupied by troops, despite the fact that a checkpoint is not operating there, nor is it being occupied by its native residents.
The leader also noted that, regarding the political prisoners, even though there has been much publicity about the release of some, the majority continue imprisoned, approximately 80. According to Marcos, the zapatista prisoners who were released were those who had only been facing state charges, and it was Pablo Salazar Mendiguchi'a's government which obtained their release. Those facing federal charges have not been freed. "We're not talking about prisoners for common crimes," he said. "But about those denounced by paramilitaries, those who are there for having carried a civil band radio, or those who were found with a green militia cap - like yours, Carmen - or with a brown shirt, those are the ones we're referring to. But we're not asking them to release rapists and drug traffickers. If they were to release those accused of common crimes, they could even be held in the Autonomous Municipalities and be tried there. Fox has not given a response to this."
As far as the steps to see that the Cocopa law is approved, Fox has sent it to Congress, but he has not taken one other step for its ratification by the legislators. "Fox is saying: here's the law, here it's done. And it's not so. It's not about supplanting the Legislative branch, but that he does dedicate effort, like we're doing, in order to secure the approval of the Cocopa proposal. Or, in any case, that he clearly set out his doubts and his differences, because no one is doing that now. Now the discussion is whether or not we should be going with ski-masks."
"That's why we're going on the march, to meet with the Deputies, who have already expressed their willingness to receive us (Beatriz Paredes, among others).
"The communities are asking us for certainty about whether we can deal with this government. When they're sure it can be like that, they'll tell us: "Make agreements with the government, end the war." And we'll achieve an opportunity to build peace, because the signing of peace doesn't achieve peace. There will still have to be much work, but it's going to be an important step. That all the EZLN's zapatista communities, not just the leadership, will be able to end the declaration of war and go out an engage in political work in order to rebuild the social fabric of the communities, which are very damaged now. That's why we're resistant to media events they propose to us, like a meeting in order to have our picture taken with Vicente Fox."
In response to a question about the importance of the march they are organizing for late next month, Marcos stated: "It's so important for us, defining, that we think we are repeating January 1, 1994, when we ordered the zapatista leadership into the first line of fire, because that's the way of the indigenous peoples, the chiefs aren't in the back. We are sending a very clear signal: we aren't sending others, they can't say they aren't speaking with the leaders of the zapatista movement."
Marcos insisted that they won't be going armed;
"As far as this goes, we want to give a very clear message regarding January 1, 1994. At that time we came out as zapatistas to make war and we went armed. Now we are leaving as zapatistas in order to engage in dialogue. Why would we want weapons if we are going to engage in dialogue? We're willing to suffer an attack, for them to arrest us, for them to throw eggs, tomatoes, at us, for them to pull off our ski-masks. The ski-masks aren't so important to us, at the end of the day no one cares who's behind the mask. I can take it off, and when I put it on again I'm Subcomandante Marcos again, who is, among other things, also a ski-mask. In contrast to what is happening on the other side of the power, we don't assign that physical worth to the ski-mask, meaning that they take it off us and we're castrated and we're no longer good for anything. We are confident that, unlike what can happen in the media trivia, the people understand that what's behind the ski-mask is a debt the nation owes to a sector of the nation, which is also a native group, and that the greatest part of the population forms part of their blood and of their culture. Because there are the indigenous, although they don't want much, but there are many of the historical antecedents of a large part of the urban population."
The interviewers remember that Beatriz Paredes has offered, if it is necessary, to receive the zapatista march in the highway. The interviewee mentioned that on that February 8, 1995 he had a meeting with her and Esteban Moctezuma when the Army carried out an operation whose purpose was to arrest them. "We're willing to speak with her, we don't bear a grudge," he said. "I have another image. It seems like one of the ties that which dragged down the PRI was her bonds with the Executive."
Marcos notes that the movement he belongs to has much hope for the Congress as a legislative body. "Not just that, we think the nation should have hope. If the Congress doesn't make State policy, hold on, everything is going to be patch-patch every day, and there's going to be two Mexicos again: the one shown in the media and in the news stories, and the one going on below. 'El Chapo' Guzma'n is going to be just a caricature, what follows will be more serious. Because if there's no State policy in response to organized crime, in response to the main problems of the national agenda - it's Chiapas, but not just Chiapas, regarding the economic program and all that - I believe this is going to turn into chaos. The North Americans see this. That's why they're moving the border. What else is the Puebla Panama Plan?"
La Realidad, Chiapas.
It has been said that the Puebla Panama Plan is a counterinsurgency instrument, but, in Subcomandante Marcos' opinion, it's more than that: "The problem isn't just us. It's about the destruction of a nation. We have spoken of three Mexicos, and the businessmen have spoken about three Mexicos: the North works, the South sleeps and the Center consumes what the North produces, they say something like that. We said: the North is being absorbed, the Center is being fought over, and the South has been forgotten."
In this third and last installment of the interview conducted by "News Image" broadcasters - Carmen Aristegui, Javier Solo'rzano and this correspondent - the spokesperson for an important group of Mexican indigenous demonstrates what he considers to be the stratification of the economy and national geography: there is "the upstairs, the downstairs, and the basement, which is what we are."
He adds that the Puebla Panama Plan is an expression of those policies which are leading to the fragmentation of the nation: "If there is anyone who wants this country to be fragmented, it's this process of globalization, and they're going to do everything possible to achieve it." He said that the great world interests would be delighted if the zapatistas were to ask to separate from Mexico, because they would prefer to deal with banana republics, which they can control better.
Marcos refers, for the first time, to this project which is being promoted by Fox, which, according to important analysts, such as Carlos Fazio, is concealing transnational corporate interests, in a desire to try and control important social processes, such as migration to the United States, and to exploit available biodiversity resources and the region's geographic advantages. "The trans-isthmus project," the interviewee continues - "is transferring the functions of the Panama Canal to the Republic of Mexico, but cutting the country effectively into two or three parts. One has to ask oneself why the secessionist policies have been coming precisely from Yucatan and from Tabasco over the last few months. And it's not zapatistas who are proposing it. It's separating us from the rest of the nation. That's the program."
"Mexico City is going to be the 'switcher', a signal box between the two country. And it will be even worse for the indigenous who are north of Puebla. What the Americans are doing is renouncing the control of conflicts in this part of the continent. They recognize now that it's impossible to defeat the indigenous of the Southeast, or, rather, they recognize that they can't incorporate their skills into the free market, and they are ceding them to Central America. Then they are going to move the border from Guatemala to Puebla, they'll lower the border from the Rio Grande to the Federal District and the State of Mexico. That entire part is in order to cushion the migration of 'illegals', or, at least, of those who aspire to be 'illegals'. And then, like that, moving the border, the Northern states will be 'North Americanized', those in the Center [sic/South] will be 'Central Americanized', and the buffer will be in the middle: Mexico City, Puebla, Morelos and the State of Mexico."
"What globalization is doing is re-drawing the world. If you look at a world map prior to the Cold War, and after the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, there aren't fewer nations, but more. It's not a global village, rather more and more split up. Then they are re-drawing lands, what neoliberalism, globalization in North America, is doing is defining a new border between Central America and North America. It's moving Mexico's southern border towards the center of the country, and lowering the United States' border towards the center of the country. In this way the Northern states of the Republic will be incorporated into the productive process, circulation, even cultural, of the rest of the states of the North of the country. The Mexican Southeast, from Puebla down, will be incorporated into the market logic and policies of the Central American countries. And the Center, Mexico City and the State of Mexico, will function as a buffer, like a customs point between the two countries."
Marcos believes, nonetheless, that this policy is going to be a failure, because in the North of the country, "they're aren't only the big businessmen. There is an indigenous population, there are workers, there are neighbors, there are teachers, there are students, who will disturb the process of "North Americanization', and who, in addition, have historical and cultural ties and all that with the rest of the country. Finally, no matter who it upsets, Mexico continues to be a country, a nation. And I say that the Center of the country is for buffering what the North Americans want buffered. They want to turn them into the police of the Southeast. The country's Center is going to be turned into the police of the Mexican South-Southeast in order to be accountable to the North, but no longer the North of Chihuahua, but the North from Zacatecas to Canada. It's going to fail, what's at stake is this: we are going to be two national projects. The nation from here, up, from Puebla up, the political and customs center. And from the Center to the North the process of North American development, and from Puebla to Panama, Central America.
"I don't believe Cervera Pacheco, but I do believe that it's convenient for globalization to negotiate or to establish relations with small republics. It would be convenient for them to recognize the Mexican Southeast as a banana republic. They want to turn not only the indigenous, but also the poor in the rest of the country, into a great reservation. And there is going to be a fight to try and cross to where there's employment and better living conditions. But, instead of the trouble being at the border crossroads of the Rio Grande, it's going to be in Mexico City, in the State of Mexico, in Puebla, in that entire area. It's going to be completely on this side, but they're going to lose."
Marcos defends the resistance action in the country's South. "The South is already reacting. It's having its march in order to say: we want to be part of this country, that is, they would be willing to give us the autonomy we are not asking for. Really, if we asked for the Mayan state, the Mayan nation, we would immediately be recognized by the UN, the IMF and the World Bank. Doubly simple! 'Yes,' they'd say to us, 'Look, we recognize you, we'll finance you, we'll give you weapons and guerrillas, and whatever you want we're going to give you, because it's what suits us'."
He insists: "Yes, that's what's happening. It's going to fail precisely because what they expect the wounded, the 'globalphobes', as they call them, to do is to assume those losses. But this country has a history, what's happening is that it's being forgotten, but as soon as they remember it, this is going to take another route. The hope is, above all, that the space is open, believe me, it's in dispute. Those people there are still willing to listen to another national project. If there isn't any other project for the nation, then we aren't going to be able to blame the people, because if we don't offer them something else, just the neoliberal program - have we offered them anything else? - we've just told them it wouldn't do. That's a responsibility of the left."
"Marcos," this correspondent asked, "You've described the general ideas of the Puebla Panama Plan. Then there's an economic program that's probably more unpopular and savaged than the previous ones. But you suggest that peace is closer than ever, that it might even be achieved this year, but, under these conditions, isn't that a contradiction?"
"No. This globalization process and this economic program is happening, but people are also waking up. We are saying: we can offer a better resistance, more organized, and, in addition, contribute to the building of an alternative. That's why they don't want us to leave. It's not because they're jealous of our popularity ratings. It's because we're going to be able to engage in politics, and we know it, that's why we want to leave. We're going to be able to engage in politics in many ways. Because we're in ski-masks and armed and here and all that. That is, they are indeed afraid of the people organizing and destroying that project. But that program hasn't brought anything but adversity in other parts of the world. The world isn't a global village, nor is NAFTA an opening of borders, except when it's for money, not even for merchandise. Ask the truckers in the North how often they can cross there, or ask the dead migrants, or the migrants from Africa and Asia in Europe what's happening to them in the European Community.
He continues: "The world is becoming more and more closed, and it's becoming increasingly intolerant, and it's causing absurd fundamentalisms to proliferate. They're absurd, it's nothing else. And look: the one promoting it is not a Muslim, an indigenous, a Jew, an Israelite or whatever you want, but the one promoting it is the man with the money, who's in a big office, saying: that's what suits me, because that fragmentation works for me. We are saying: what's operating here is a world war. They are destroying lands like never before, riches like never before, they are eliminating populations like never before. What's happening is that if they win it, forget it, there won't be any way!
Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translated by irlandesa This interview by Aurelio Fernandez F., correspondent appeared in La Jornada over three days as below La Jornada Tuesday, January 30, 2001 Marcos: Achieving Peace Is Closer Than Ever La Jornada Wednesday, January 31, 2001. Unfulfilled, the 3 Conditions Which Fox Accepted, Says Marcos La Jornada Friday, February 2, 2001. Marcos: Globalization Doesn't Break Down Borders, It Creates Them