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Alerta Roja: EZLN Declares Red Alert

By: 
Melissa Mundt
Date Published: 
,

from Chiapas Peace House

In the past few days the EZLN has issued four communiqués declaring a state of Red Alert in autonomous zones in Chiapas as a "precautionary defensive measure." Significantly, this means that members of civil society have been asked to leave Zapatista territory as the EZLN circles the wagons in preparation for an internal consultation. The Peace House and many other groups in Chiapas are monitoring the situation for further developments. Currently, there has been no call for international human rights observers.

In the first communiqué, Subcomandante Marcos strongly criticizes Mexico's political parties; notably, he compares leftist presidential candidate Lopez Obrador to Salinas de Gotari, neoliberal president from 1988 to 1994. Marcos also specified that relations with the Chiapas state government have been cut since December 2004, due to the state's failure to fulfill "the few promises they made."

The second and most surprising communiqué declares the five Zapatista Caracoles and the offices of the Good Governing Councils closed. The members of these councils and all other autonomous authorities have been evacuated for their safety, and will continue their work clandestinely. The EZLN has quartered all regular troops and suspended transmissions of Radio Insurgente. Furthermore, the EZLN has asked members of national and international civil society to leave Zapatista territories, unless they wish to stay at their own risk. They thank all people and organizations that have been involved in supporting Zapatista projects and communities in the past 12 years, and formally releases all from any responsibility in the future actions of the EZLN.

The third communique states the reasons for the red alert to be an internal consultation and restructuring process. Marcos declares that "this red alert is a precautionary defensive measure." While conducting a similar consultation in 1995, the Zapatista Command was attacked by the federal army in an attempt to eradicate the movement. In the current consultation, the Zapatista Command "is proposing to its support bases, who constitute the supreme command of [the] movement, a new step in the struggle. [This] step implies, among other things, risking the loss of the mucho or poco that has been gained, and worsening the persecution and harassment against the Zapatista communities."

The final communique simply states that a reorganization of the Zapatista political and military structure, which began mid 2002, has been completed. Marco states "we have the necessary conditions to survive, as an organization, an enemy attack or action which would do away with our current leadership, or attempt to annihilate us totally." He continues that the chain of command and succession of responsibilities have been established, as well as actions to be taken in the event of governmental or paramilitary attacks.

There is little explanation as to what provoked these statements. The last red alert was issued in 1997 after the massacre in Acteal. There are several factors that may have prompted the release of the communiqués. According to the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center, over the past two months the Mexican Army has increased their operations and presence in the conflict zone, especially in the Highlands. Days before the release of the first communiques, a major drug bust was made, allegedly in Zapatista territory. The facts are much disputed and some claim that the government is using this incident in an attempt to discredit the Zapatistas by linking them to drug trafficking. Some speculate that this series of communiques marks the initiation of political maneuvering by the EZLN to affect the state and presidential elections in 2006.

Reactions to the Red Alert have been varied. Archbishop Felipe Arizmendi of the San Cristobal diocese has declared "Pastoral Alert." He urges a process of constructive dialogue to avoid violence. Luis Alvarez, the current representative of the federal government for peace in Chiapas, rejected the Red Alert and downplayed the declarations of the EZLN. The Chiapas State Congress has made no comment. The Red Cross is preparing to respond to a situation of conflict. The state hotel and motel association is concerned that tourists will be scared away by "misinformation" about possible violence. All are waiting to see how events unfold.

For complete communiques see:

FZLN: www.fzln.org.mx/

For more information see:

La Jornada (Mexico periodical) www.jornada.unam.mx

Cuarto Poder (Chiapas periodical): www.cuarto-poder.com.mx

Fray Bartolome Human Rights Center: www.laneta.apc.org/cdhbcasas/