Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Mexico City, Thursday, January 2, 2003
NINTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ZAPATISTA UPRISING
The EZLN Commanders Break Silence and Take San Cristobal
More than 20,000 Indigenous ask president Vicente Fox where is peace?
- Warn Peace Commissioner that they will impede his entry into
BY: Hermann Bellinghausen, Correspondent
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, January 1, 2003.
In the most numerous concentration up to now of Zapatista Army of
National Liberation (EZLN) support bases, more than 20,000 indigenous
campesinos literally took the city of San Cristobal this evening. Coming
from all regions of the state, some 20,000 machetes in the hands of
tzotzils, tzeltals, chols, tojolabals and zoques rang like bells through
Avenida Insurgentes during the more than three hours that it took to
fill the central plaza of this city in a column that seemed unending.
The demonstration concluded with a concentration presided over by the
commanders of the Zapatista movement. Commanders Esther, David, Tacho,
Fidelia, Omar, Mister and Bruce Lee directed themselves to the multitude
with seven speeches which, if any doubt remained, completely broke the
EZLN's almost two years of silence.
Through them, the EZLN's Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee
repeatedly backed up subcomandante Marcos. "We say to you that when
subcomandante Marcos says he supports the people's political struggle,
all the Zapatista men, women and children say it," expressed Comandante
Commander Esther directed "a few words" to Mr. Vicente Fox: "I just say
to you that the people are disenchanted with the your deceit."
After mentioning the threats of eviction in the Montes Azules, wrapped
in the same white flowered shawl which she showed to the world from the
Congress of the Union almost two years ago, the commander asked: "Where
is the peace? Isn't it important to you that the spirit of those that
made you president is spoiled?"
A few days before, the indigenous were saying "They are going to have to
widen the streets of the city of San Cristobal so that we can fit."
Tonight we see that it was no boast: the Zapatistas overflowed the
streets and did not fit in the plaza of the cathedral. According to
experts, it holds 18,000 people. Today it was not sufficient. Thousands
of natives had to stay in the adjoining streets during the whole
The demonstration, more valiant than most, concluded around midnight
with thousands of lighted ocote torches, illuminating the air red with
their flames. And they again sounded the machetes, woodcutting axes,
hoes and other work tools.
Thousands of indigenous people coming from Los Altos began to congregate
since morning on the outskirts of this city, but the march started at
six in the evening, when the last contingents arrived from the
Aguascalientes of La Realidad, which took 15 hours by road.
The chants, which were adding themselves all day to the banners and
signs, were chorused nonstop this evening by the Zapatista support
bases. "The three powers of the government are racist. Fox just like
Zedillo. The PAN is like the PRI." Another time they chorused: "No to
the terrorism of Bush and Bin Laden" and they proclaimed their support
for the political struggle of the Basque people.
They emphasized greetings and admiration for the "rebels of Argentina,"
and they proclaimed the "globalization of rebelliousness and dignity."
They also supported the struggle of Salvador Atenco (without the San),
asking: "don't stop struggling, because the Zapatistas want freedom," as
well as the disobedient Italians. In Italy, thousands of them were
joined together this evening to follow directly the Zapatista
concentration in San Cristobal.
Shouting vivas to subcomandante Marcos, the CCRI, the autonomous
municipios and the EZLN insurgents, the demonstrators sent a clear
message which commanders David and Omar would make explicit around
midnight: "We came to tell you that we are here and we continue alive.
We have not surrendered. We are not disunited nor fighting. Why would we
have to fight among ourselves if we still have those who fight us."
Calling time and again to the "bad government" of Vicente Fox, the
Zapatistas from about 40 autonomous municipios expressed strong
criticisms of the political parties, which because of their respective
interests refused to approve the Cocopa law, "because it is not
convenient for them that there be peace in Chiapas."
In what was the harshest of the speeches, Commander Tacho called PAN
Senator Diego Fernandez de Cevallos an "advocate of criminals," and
accused him of opposing peace in Chiapas "because he wants to be
president, even before 2006," in place of Vicente Fox, "and to convert
the country into a big plantation." About PRI Senator Manuel Bartlett,
Tacho said that he was opposed to the Cocopa law and to peace to make
the U.S. authorities happy, which are investigating him for drug
In relation to the PRD, he said that this party supported the so-called
Bartlett-Fernandez de Cevallos-Ortega Law only in the Senate "in
exchange for the governorship of Michoacan," and pointed out that "if
only one senator that had said no to the language," the law would have
had to be discussed again."
Esther, directing herself to the peace commissioner, Luis H. Alvarez,
told him: "you were able to choose between being like Camacho or like
Rabasa, and you chose being like Rabasa," and she announced that the
EZLN communities no longer will permit him passage through their con-
trolled territories, because he gives out money in the communities" to
divide them, and he says that the Zapatistas are "divided" and "other
In its severe balancing of "how things are in the world," the general
command of the EZLN did not fail to denounce TV Azteca's operation
against CNI, Channel 40, recognizing that the Channel 40's commenta-
tors were not always objective in relation to the Zapatistas, Commander
Tacho expressed, nevertheless, the Zapatistas' backup of the workers of
the attacked TV station. "We cannot see how the work of reporting is
impeded and remain quiet."
Commander Fidelia directed a moving message to the "exploited, scorned
and violated" women, and Commander Mister vindicated the indigenous
right to know the world situation, "to have opinions and to decide." He
accused the "racist" government for blaming them of not understanding
the world and not having the right to speak, for example, about the
struggle of the Basque people.
Before the "globalization of death" that the powerful impose, Mister
proclaimed the right of everyone to "globalize freedom."
To the Zapatistas, he said, "we are not afraid to speak of the political
struggle of the Basque people," and he expressed special backup for the
self-determination of Venezuela and to the "rebel people of Argentina."
The city of San Cristobal received the Zapatista takeover in silence,
with doors and windows closed, and its residents heard, barely showing
themselves, the ringing of the machetes and the thousands of voices
saying that they will not surrender. As Commander Bruce Lee said: "We
do not have to ask the government for permission to be free," and
defending the universal human right of defiance, he closed: "We don't
have to ask for anyone's permission."
This evening's Zapatista demonstration is, also, the affirmation of
belonging to the world and the most profound citizen force of the modern
Mexican indigenous peoples. They know that they are capable of teaching
Mexico and the world, and not only of learning.
Upon filling the San Cristobal Plaza this evening, a voice at the
microphone was asking: "Companeros, let's see if those who are more
forward can advance." It is a good expression as a metaphor of what
just happened this evening, which just ended in flames and smoke in the
plaza, and an echo of voices and work tools (or like those of the
campesino and indigenous struggle). The civil indigenous Zapatista is
mature fruit. The racism of the powerful ones no longer can detain
them. "This struggle is just beginning," David said, in tzotzil and
castellano, in the last speech of the Zapatista commanders.
And the night was inundated with torches. "Let's make a big light so
that the people may see that we maintain the rebelliousness (defiance),"
said David concluding. * mat