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Zapatistas in Consulta, Announce Precautionary "Red Alert"

By: 
Mexico Solidarity Network
Date Published: 
January 01, 0001

On June 19, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) declared a precautionary "red alert" to offer security for a movement-wide consultation around future strategic options. The red alert, only the third since the Zapatista uprising in 1994, set off a storm of speculation and analysis, with many commentators pointing to increased paramilitary activity and the recent destruction of marijuana plants by federal troops. Local groups and the federal government quickly clarified that the marijuana was not located in a Zapatista community, and on June 21, Subcomandante Marcos issued a clarification, assuring civil society the Zapatistas are not contemplating military options. In a sign of the importance of the Zapatistas, the Fox administration announced on Friday the army would not attack during the consultation.

A series of five communications released from June 19-21 indicate the Zapatistas are in the midst of a movement-wide political analysis and strategic evaluation. Having recently completed an internal reorganization that strengthened and diversified the command structure in Zapatista communities, the movement is preparing to face a new political moment as Mexico enters the 2006 presidential election season. While presidential elections in Mexico are always times of uncertainty, this election season promises to be particularly difficult.

PRD presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador leads most polls, but the PRD has little power outside of Mexico City, and the PRI and PAN see the presidency as up for grabs. This may help to explain the battle for control of Mexico's lucrative drug markets, which is claiming dozens of lives every month. Drug money may prove the difference in close elections, and all three parties appear to be feeding at the trough, with PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo the most closely linked.

Subcomandante Marcos issued a stinging critique of Mexico's political parties on June 19, accusing them of ignoring the needs of the masses while battling for power and money. None of the major parties offers a substantial critique of the neoliberal model or genuine alternatives.

Neoliberal policies, many promulgated by the US Treasury, the IMF and the World Bank, have been in effect in Mexico since at least the early 1980s. The result has been an historically unprecedented redistribution of wealth.

Mexico now has two dozen billionaires, while more than half the population lives below the official poverty level. Neoliberalism is accompanied by a formal political process that is increasingly divorced from the reality of most Mexicans. Political parties battle "from above" every six years for power and control, with little concern for the welfare of those "from below." (A parallel situation exists in the United States.) Political elites are increasingly isolated from the majority of the population, and the so-called "democracy" on both sides of the border is in an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy.

The Zapatista consultation is taking place in this context. Recent communications promise "something else" from the Zapatista movement. By releasing all supporters from previous commitments, the Zapatistas will be looking for a renewed commitment to new strategies once they are announced. The Zapatistas have always proven resilient, ethical and intelligent in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, and we have no doubt that the current consultation will result in new strategic initiatives that will address today's neoliberal reality and the government's crisis of legitimacy.