We know nothing about the EPR nor are we in any way associated with it: Marcos

Subcomandante Marcos expressed clearly that the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) had absolutely no connection to the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) which recently appeared in the state of Guerrero. Nor, Marcos added, had he any previous knowledge about this group's existence.

Marcos avoided expressing his sentiments towards this new military group, stating that the EPR would need to "demonstrate and gain its legitimacy" in order to defend its position before the Mexican nation and the process of pacification of Chiapas. It will need to explain what role it attributes to the armed struggle and how it conceives of political power and its distribution, said Marcos.

At a large conference in the City Theater, the spokesperson for the Zapatistas asserted that the most affected by the presence of the EPR in the first anniversary of the massacre of Aguas Blancas was Cuauhtemoc Cardenas and not the EZLN, the Special Forum for the Reform of the State, or the dialogues that took place in San Andres.

"The immediate reaction of the PGR and the Secretary of the State was an unambiguous attempt to implicate him in this act," noted Marcos.

The director talked about the possible presence of other armed groups in the country. In fact, certain sources have been informing the ex-commissioner Manuel Camacho Salis and the federal government about the existence of an armed group in guerrero since 1994, but they thought we were just bluffing."

"Since 1994, we have been aware of the existence of armed movements in other parts of the republic, which--of course--are not related to the EZLN. Since then we have been saying it over and over again, but everybody thought we were inventing it and we were presenting a threat of what might happen in other regions," stressed Marcos.

"Let us take as an example Guerrero. We stressed that it was necessary for the government to express its firm commitment to the peace process; we communicated this to Mr. Camacho as well as to the press when we were in the cathedral. However, soon after that, various news began appearing about drug-traffickers and other delinquents, about clashes with the Army and the police , and about destroyed helicopters. We noted that when such clashes with a political group occurred, the group was denied its political identity, being designated as delinquent or criminal.

"We observed that underlying these clashes were organized politico-military groups which the government was trying to suppress. And we realized that now we would not be the only ones, and that as a result the government would try to hinder the pacification of Chiapas," maintained Subcomandante Marcos.

Having said this, Marcos went on to assert that one of the immediate consequences of the events in Aguas Blancas was the fact that the government could no longer continue in its strategy of manipulation of facts : that is, that the EZLN 'problem' was just a local one, and not an all-state action.

"The problem of peace or war is a national one, and it appears clear that in one way or another armed groups such as the EPR will be very attentive to the results, and the development, of the negotiations. Were there doubts about the results of the peace process in Chiapas, it would have an impact on the entire nation," stated Marcos.

As to the use of military or armed means to which the EZLN resorted January 1, 1994, and which now mark the struggle of the EPR in Guerrero, Marcos explained that it was a controversial method which involved an anti-democratic structure and which--for the Zapatistas--was the result of despair and not a project or an end in itself.

Marcos commented: "Our intentions were not to become and remain an army based on military structure. We did not want to be soldiers but we had no choice; we had to become them. After 1994, we realized that even though our arm,ed struggle allowed us to be heard so that the people of this nation could be brought out of their oblivion or ignorance of the existence of indigenous peoples, in the moment of serious attempts for a transition to democracy and incorporation of other unarmed groups, the fact that we were an army slowly but surely began to turn into an obstacle rather than an advantage."

Marcos added that the EZLN did not believe that arms could elicit a transformation toward democracy. "We think that they [weapons]have a role in a certain instant; for us this instant has already occurred, and now our arms serve for our defense. We no longer use them in political life; we use politics. Arms can open up a space for dialogue, but the time comes when this space becomes too small, like a shirt in which one can no longer grow."

At the meeting with the national and international press, in response to the EPR's call for the formation of one united political force, the rebel leader pointed out that the local communities prohibited the EZLN to form alliances with other armed and clandestine organizations. The reasoning of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee, according to Marcos, is that the process of dialogues can by no means be put into jeopardy.

After admitting that since 1994 there have been many armed groups interested in forming an alliance, Marcos explained: "If we do initiate contact, or form an alliance, with politico-military organizations, then we will appear to be preparing a war, which we absolutely cannot do in view of the commitment to legitimacy that we have gained before the people. In any case, should we do such a thing, then it must be done publicly, in a way that the people, the supporters of the EZLN, and the Mexican nation all know what it is that the EZLN is doing. Since then, the communities forbade it, because we had been approached by various armed organizations, but replied that we could not make any accord.

Stressing this idea, Subcomandante Marcos made it clear that the appearance of the EPR did not affect or alter the political path which the EZLN had chosen to follow at the peace talks in San Andres Larrainzar in order to resolve the conflict in Chiapas, with the participation of the federal government as well as various civil, social, and political groupings--the FZLN being one of them--that were interested in a political solution.

As far as the issue of the assistance of Chilean mercenaries is concerned, Marcos noted that the EZLN had information that these mercenaries were preparing "white guards" (guardias blancas) of the wealthy landowners (such as Jorge Constantino Kanter) and that they were training a certain part of the police squads in Mexico City. He also confirmed that the mexican government had bought from its Chilean counterpart several million dollars worth of computer software concerned with military strategies.

Marcos: We know nothing about the EPR nor are we in any way associated with it La Jornada, July 2, 1996 Jose Gil Olmos, envoy,
  Elio Henriquez, correspondent,
  San Cristobal de las Casas, July 1.   Translated by Premysl Macha, Institute for Social Ecology, Plainfield, Vermont, USA

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