For a Brighter World

The Zapatistas march

The EZLN delegation comprising 19 commnadantes, four subcommandantes and subcommandante Marcos went in a march from San Christobel to Mexico City accompanied by thousands of people. The caravan had swollen to more than one lakh people when it entered the capital of Mexico. The delegation was heading for the capital to open negotiations with the new government on the rights of indigenous peoples of Mexico. The massive caravan was called “March for the Dignity of Indigenous Peoples”. The people of Mexico poured out on to the streets to warmly greet the marchers. About two-thirds of the young organizers were women. This is the new Mexico, and the hope for Mexico’s future.

The newspapers, which were initially sceptical about the march saying that "the peasant caravan goes to town”, were taken aback by the overwhelming response to the march. The peasants marching here have the potential to rewrite history, not only of Mexico but of Latin America as a whole. They have arisen as a powerful insurgent force against neo-liberal policies. The policy of the government to privatise their lands through corporatisation and other means gave rise to armed struggle in 1994 in the Chiapas. Not yet assimilated into the political system, they have demanded withdrawal of the army from Chiapas, release of all political prisoners and legislative guarantees to their culture and autonomous rights, as agreed upon by the previous government under the San Andes accord.

And since Fox’s February 16th meeting with the US President George W. Bush in Mexico, his administration has turned newly aggressive and disingenuous regarding the Zapatista Caravan and the San Andes Peace Accords, yet to be complied with by the government that had signed them in Chiapas. Washington is alarmed at the popular support to the Zapatistas. Any hope of isolating them in their remote pockets of armed struggle or to trap them in protracted attrition of peace negotiations, aimed at assimilation and splitting, were belied by the assertive style in which the commandantes stormed into Mexico City to wage the “peace struggle”. The Zapatistas have also revealed their potential to emerge as the core of a new social coalition of peoples ravaged by NAFTA and other neo-liberal measures. Marcos and his comrades have only one demand: autonomy and dignity to the indigenous peoples. Marcos said in Tehuacan, Puebla,: The San Andes Accords, if faithfully complied with, mean “that the indigenous will no longer take orders from anyone.” The Zapatistas are hoping to gain constitutional recognition of the rights of the 15 million indigenous population. They are also reaching out to other oppressed and poor sections of the country to forge a coalition. This has the potential of revitalising the left in country.

The Zapatista march, the experiments in Brazil like Porto Alegre, the recent victories of popular movements in Ecuador, the campaign against Plan Colombia and the resistance developing against NAFTA and AFTA point to a new upswing in the popular and revolutionary movements in the continents in diverse forms. This is also the context of growing US interventionism in the continent and its intensifying hostility towards Cuba. As Zapatistas chanted in their march: “another world is possible, another life is possible”.