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Mexico, 1998

Above and Below: Masks and Silence

Communique from Subcomandante Marcos
Chiapas, Mexico

Translated from the Spanish by Irlandesa for Nuevo Amanecer Press. Original communique published in Mexico in La Jornada.

"For the public man, most especially for the political, we have to demand of him that he possess the public virtues, all of which can be summarized in: fidelity to his own mask (....), keep it in good repair, for there is no political mess which is not an exchange, a confusion of masks, a bad rehearsal for a play, in which no one knows their parts.

Endeavor, however, those of you who go into politics, that your mask be, as much as possible, your own work, make it yours yourselves, in order to avoid that others might put it on - or take it off - your enemies or your fellow politicians; and do not make it so inflexible, so impervious or impermeable that it suffocates your face, because, sooner or later, you will have to show yourself." -- Antonio Machado, "Juan de Mairena"

I. Mexico, the middle of 1998 ...

Leaning against my shoulder, the sea sighs when it sees the complex plans of this new construction, drawn up through long and silent dawns, thought up from behind the masks that we are. And suddenly a gust of wind arrives, whipping the trees which are our windows, and shaking the large sheets of paper, full of drawings, of staggered scales, incomprehensible logarithms, of illegible letters that look more like obscure formulas of alchemy than scientific calculations.

In the middle of the year 1998 in Mexico and a wind arrives to break silences and to pull off masks.

After a long and heavy dry period, the rains begin to appear on the horizon of this country whose leaders are striving to take it to catastrophe. Protected by a trail of cloud, damp and amazed, I see half of 1998 go by and the last death rattles of a century which refuses to leave without scandals and outrage.

Far from here the World Cup assembles and summons emotions. The spell that is cast each time the ball rolls has been well understood by the South Americans, one to describe it, and the other to practice it. Eduardo Galeano, collector of these daily showers which some call "the history from below," and Diego Armando Maradona, who uses the ball to sing and to demonstrate that magic does not necessarily have anything to do with potions and esoteric formulas.

But from up here I do not see either Don Galeano or Don Maradona. Neither do I manage to see Olivio exercising his vocation of breaking nets ("and heads," says the sea, while trying to hide, to no avail, the markswoman that Olivio abandoned in his flight, after splitting Marcelo's head open). I do see, though, millions of Mexicans in the role in which the powerful have always wanted to see them, as spectators.

With national history stopped each time the Mexican football team faces off, the leaders of this country win a respite which reality relentlessly denies them. Millions of eyes glued to French soil allow the Power a short rest. The pleasure is short-lived, defeat arrives and the impasse which the role of spectators has allowed them comes to an end.

On this side of the world, the tragicomedy of national political life is also converted into spectacle, and the disorderly charade which is displayed every day in the halls of Power in Mexico receives no applause at all. There is time for the majority of Mexicans to stop being spectators to the scandals with which the governing class plans to end the century...and the country. Millions of nationals are now the victims of mega crimes and jumbo frauds.

If the shameful acts of the Mexican political class are merchandise for the powerful communications media, and whose successul presentation is measured in "rating" points, for the immense majority of those who struggle and die between the Rio Bravo and the Suchiate, they are only a continuation of the State crime which spans almost the entire century.

Determined to alert the citizenry to the growth of delinquency and violence, some communications media (those tied to the government) conceal the essential: the bloodiest and most brutal delinquents hold government positions (or are closely tied to them), and violence finds the federal government to be its primary executor, its largest instigator and its apologist par excellence.

In the spectacle of "great" Mexican politics, the confusion of masks and speeches keeps one from knowing for certain who is the judge and who is the criminal, who is the fraudulent and who the defrauded.

But it becomes more and more clear that Mexico at the end of the 20th century has its most criminal mask in the State one party system. In this Mexico, the growing State criminality (that which is exercised by the political Power) sees itself only equalled by the impunity with which it gives money, influence and proximity (or professed or embarrassed membership) to the select circle hovering around what some people still call (not without blushing certainly) "Senor President."

The middle of Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon's six-year term has indelible marks, but the bloodiest of those is the daily crime of an economic model imposed through the indisputable arguments of bayonets, jail and the cemetaries. Even so, this State crime finds somber marks. Aguas Blancas in Guerrero in June of 1995. Acteal in Chiapas in December of 1997. El Charco in Guerrero in June of 1998, and Union Progreso and Chavajeval in Chiapas in June of 1998.

This face, the most irrational which the Mexican state has had in all its history, conceals its terrifying image behind another mask. And the sound of the blood which it collects day after day, is quieted through silence.

It would seem evident that masks conceal and silence quiets.

But the truth is that masks also reveal and that silences speak.

To conceal and to quiet, to reveal and to speak, masks and silence. These are the signs that will help to understand the end of this century in Mexico.

Yes, this is a country of masks and silences. I tell this to the sea, and she answers me, from behind her ski mask, with a silent gesture of paradox, which is more than eloquent, as she rolls up and guards the great plans.

But I tell you, and I tell myself, that there are masks and masks, and silences and silences.

There are, for example:

II. Masks and the silence from above

"I have heard much of your cosmetics: God has given you one face, and you make another; you prance, you swing your hips, you mispronounce, you give nicknames to God's creature, and you make of your ignorance your lasciviousness."- "Hamlet," William Shakespeare

What is the government's role in society? What should its role be? These questions are asked by the political parties, the analysts and by society. There are many responses to one and the other question, but the Mexican government has their own and, despite the madness of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Zedillo, Labastida, Green, Madrazo, Gurria, Ortiz, Rabasa and Albores (yes, I know already that I gave 8, but 4 are horsemen and 4 are beasts, you choose) - they impose them with blood (contributed by those from below) and fire (from those above).

Lacking the legitimacy which can only be obtained by the governed, these characters from the Mexican tragedy at the end of the century, supplant it with a mask made 'ex profeso,' that of the State of Law. In the name of the "State of Law" they impose economic measures, they assassinate, they imprison, they rape, they destroy, they persecute, they make war.

Without rational arguments, without legitimacy, without morals, the government of Mexico seizes its only resource: violence. But the government does not direct this violence against organized crime or against delinquency (that is, it does not use it against itself), it is used against the most impoverished, that is, a now immense majority, but which continues growing at the same rhythm as the country is collapsing.

It could seem to us that a collapse could have a thunderous sound, but, in this case, a silence covers it and announces it, the silence of the forgetting.

In order to supplant its lack of legitimacy with legality, the Mexican State (and not just the government) must carry out a complex surgical operation on the entire social order. That is, to eradicate the historical memory from the governed. And they try to do this by substituting the true history (in lower case), with the Official History (in upper case). And this Official History is not learned in books, rather it was created in the mental laboratories of postgraduates in foreign universities. Harvard, Oxford, Yale, and the MIT are the modern "Founding Fathers" of the current Mexican leaders. And so the Official History comes from as far away as the indicators of economic growth, these have the constancy of a weather vane in the middle of a storm. And so the present is the only possible history for these "blackboard boys" (as Carlos Fuentes would name them), the "computer kids" (as who-knows-whom would name them), or the "Pines Cartel" (as their drug trafficking associates call them). If constancy and pain and hard work are characteristic of the history of those from below, the ephemeral is the preferred place for the Official History. The "Today" of the stock markets is the historical reference of these technocrats who, thanks to the criminal Carlos Salinas de Gortari, today find themselves in political power in Mexico. This Official History has its mask.

The Mask of "Modernity." Does it seem attractive? Functional? Aerodynamic? Biodegradable? Cool? Lite? It is nothing of that, but it is sold and consumed with similar arguments. The Modernity of the neoliberal leaders in Mexico reveals an empty and dry country. In spite of publicity and marketing techniques, and notwithstanding the millions spent in cosmetics and makeup, the mask of Mexican Modernity is being more and more chipped away. And it is more and more difficult to not see what it is hiding: the destruction of the nurturant bases of the Mexican State, that is, the bases of National Sovereignty.

With 'modernity' as a spinal column, a series of arguments (mask beyond a doubt) are wielded to justify (in the double meaning of "making justice" and "giving a reason for being") the dramatic destruction of all that which allows a country to keep its "national sovereignty" from being a mere rhetorical device. Ownership of subsoil wealth, of the territorial waters and air, of the lines of communication, of the businesses with social functions (education, health, food, housing, security), social policy, effective control of financial and commercial markets, money, language, government, armed forces, history, these are some of the foundations necessary for a State. Through various means, and behind several masks, but always with the same urgency, these bases of national sovereignty are being weakened, when they are not outright destroyed, by the neoliberal governments of Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado, Carlos Salinas de Gortari and (the student surpasses his teachers) Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon.

With the masks of "industrial restructuring," "adaptation to the modern era of globalization," the "streamlining of public spending," the "elimination of subsidies which hinder free trade and economic development," "the international fight against drug trafficking," and "the end of the populist State," the Mexican governments since 1982 until the present have operated a veritable extermination campaign against the fundamental supports of national sovereignty.

Selling off state enterprises for a song, giving in to the pressures of international markets, abandoning their social service functions (or changing their function into the buying of votes), ending supports for basic products and controlling salaries, leaving the future of the national currency to the discretion of large financial centers, yielding their governmental activities to the publicity campaigns which the sales market of countries demands, awarding the national armed forces the role of neighborhood policemen in the global village, rewriting (and erasing) national history, thinking in dollars, all in all, the last Mexican governments have managed, through various means, to make this country less and less ours, and less and less a country.

Pay attention. What remains of the Mexican State to allow it to claim that it is sovereign? Hundreds of state enterprises have been sold, the pompously named "Mexican Stock Exchange" looks like a branch of the Asian markets (and those who peddle the idea that it may be a branch indeed, but it's a branch of the North American Exchanges), the only consistency in the price of basic products is their upward mobility, the Mexican peso lacks a language in the international currency market, the Mexican governments think in English and only translate into Spanish when they are directing themselves to nationals (although not with any luck, as Chancellor Green demonstrated), the Mexican federal army carries out (under orders from North American advisors) in the national mountains the same work which General Custer did with the indigenous in the United States, and high officials in the Mexican government respond swiftly and with certainty to the question: "When is Independence Day?" with a conclusive, "the fourth of July." Scandalous? Right, but for this we reach for the Forgetting. Another silence...

Yes, forget what we were, what brought us to here. Forget all the past, not just that of Deception and pain, but also, and above all, that of struggle and rebellion. But the peculiarity of that forgetting is that it doesn't try to erase what came before, but rather to condemn it, being ashamed of it, regretting it. As is evident, all attempts to "bring" the past into the present is subversion of the "peace and tranquility," it is illegal, ultimately something to be combated. There you have, for example, those Indians who "bring" Zapata to these times of modern globalization and they have him speak and make history. And (what a scandal!) even on the Internet that terrorist cry of Zapata Vive! can be heard. Subversion, even to speak. How well off we were with that Zapata in his grave, in the museum, in the book that was never opened! Therefore, those who "bring" Zapata are illegal and subversive, that Zapata is illegal and subversive because of the nightmares he provokes, and, ergo, history is illegal and subversive - not just because it questions today, but also because it makes one believe (and struggle for!) that another today is possible. And to conceal this silence, another mask.....

The Mask of the Macroeconomy. There you have Senor Zedillo's speeches, a demonstration of contagious optimism, where he explains-scolds-warns us that


Ah, the macroeconomic achievements! But, where are they? In the fortunes of the richest men in Mexico who are on the Fortune 500 list? In wages? In prices? In employment? In social security? Look for them, look and you will find that, behind the macroeconomic mask, is hidden an economic model which has been imposed on this country since the beginning of the 80's, 16 years of economic policy, enough to evaluate it.

Results? In addition to the loss of National Sovereignty, we have an historical reversal of...30 years! Yes, Mexico '98 and Mexico '68 have in common not only an assassin heading the government with the presidential sash across his chest, but also the growth of poverty and growth in the number of the poor, the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, and the deterioration of social services, which, at one time, eased the lives of Mexicans.

From 1968 to 1977 the percentage of the population living in poverty declined rapidly, between 1977 and 1981 this decline was accelerated. "In this way poverty was able to be reduced in 18 years, from more than three-quarters of the population to less than half. However, after 1981, there was an abrupt change in direction, in which poverty not only stopped declining, it started to grow at an accelerated rate." (Boltvinik, Julio. "Economy and Welfare. Mexico at the End of the Millenium," in Vientos del Sur, 12-13, 1998. Mexico; and Hernandez Laos, Enrique. "Economic Growth and Poverty in Mexico," cited in Boltvinik, J. Ibid).

Now, at the beginning of 1998, we are at the same poverty levels as in 1968, 30 lost years. In addition, today we have fewer possibilities for improving our economic situation, "(...) the opportunities for the Mexicans' well-being in 1996, after almost three 5-year periods of the neoliberal model, have not only not grown, but they are 30% lower than in 1981. This results in a two-fold incapacity in the model. One part is the incapacity to make investment increase as rapidly as is necessary.(...) The other part is the growing incapacity to equitably distribute the investment throughout the population (...) That is, the model was incapable of growth, but it also concentrated more and more investment in fewer hands, thus decreasing the possibilities for the wellbeing of the population." (Boltvinik, J. Ibid).

Certainly these macroeconomic facts will not be to the liking of Senores Gurria and Ortiz (and I doubt that they can refute them), but the real fact is that there is another "macroeconomy," that of those from below, lower salaries, less and worse education, less and worse housing, less and worse health, less and poor food. Yes, behind the mask there is a catastrophe.

On top of this, add a few abbreviations, Fobaproa, and you will have completed a nightmare cocktail, in addition to their poverty, millions of Mexicans will now have to take responsibility for the rescue of those other criminals, the bankers, who use the "State of Law" as an alibi, and who have an ever willing accomplice and procurer in the Government.

Outrageous, certainly. But.

Silence! Nothing can be done, it is the fatalism of globalization, imposing on us an indisputable silence and a conformist religiosity. It should not concern us that this resignation has reached all the way to Havana, since the destruction of Nations (which the globalization, irretrievably, entails) is presented to us as something self-evident, that is, natural, unquestionable and without contradiction.

Certainly neoliberalism has constructed, with its great financial capital, a formidable enemy, capable of dictating wars, bankruptcies, "democracies," lives and, above all, deaths in every corner of the world. However, this process of total globalization (economic, political and cultural) does not involve inclusion of different societies, incorporating their own characteristics. On the contary, it involves the true imposition of one, and only one, thought: that of financial capital. In this war of total conquest everything and everyone must be subordinated to the judgment of the marketplace, whatever opposes or impedes it will be eliminated. But, in addition, it implies the destruction of humanity as a sociocultural collective and its reconstruction as a market element. To oppose neoliberalism, to fight against it, is not just a political or ideological option, it is a question of the survival of humanity. Someone warned that to go against globalization would be like going against gravity. Then, in any way: Down with the law of gravity!

The destruction of Mexico as a Nation must be hidden. And so another mask is necessary, that of Chauvinism. Motivated by an eagerness for peace, and trying to stop the extermination of the indigenous which the Mexican government carries out on chiapaneco lands, hundreds of men and women from Mexico and from other parts of the world come to southeastern Mexico. There is nothing more uncomfortable for the criminals than to have witnesses of their exterminatin laboratory which they have set up on Indian grounds; and so the ineffable Department of Government brings the double recipe: for the nationals, jail, and for those from other countries, expulsion (with a prior xenophobic campaign in the press, radio and television). Suddenly, with equally stupid explanations, the primary peddler of the National Sovereignty has a fit of patriotism and, to the cry of "a good foreigner is a dumb and blind foreigner!," he sets to persecuting, harassing and expelling all those born in other lands who join their hearts to the struggle for peace with justice and dignity. The hundreds of foreign observers are left with beatings, rapes, threats, insults. For the foreign "investors" servile bowing, flattery and adulation abound.

And, as a grotesque adornment on this mask, comes the silence of Treason. Yes, treason to the word given in San Andres. Treason to those who believe in the path of dialogue. Treason to those who fight for peace. Treason to those who thought that it was possible that the government would recognize the rights of the indigenous peoples. Treason to those who hoped that the war in southeastern Mexico would end. And the treason, the destruction, the forgetting, necessary to support an ideology, a "theory" that gives those crimes the reason that history so stubbornly denies them.

And so here comes the Mask of "Intellectual Objectivity." It is carried by a few characters in Mexico's cultural life who have free passage in the salons of the political, economic and religious power. Their first step was to begin criticizing the critics of the political system.

With the supposed "moral authotity" which remorse confers, these intellectuals attack their colleagues who do not follow their frenetic path towards capitulation. "The operation to discredit critical reason was led by an intellectual 'beautiful people,' composed primarily of former young philosophers, former young sociologists and former young opinion leaders who knew the paths which would take them to the ancient teachings of the seated scribe." (Vazquez Montalban, Manuel. "Panfleto from the Planet of the Apes," Ed. Drakontos, Barcelona, P. 144). To that step is added others, and soon they are sharing the table with the high political, financial, religious, cultural hierarchies, that is, with the wills that drive the bloodthirsty vehicle of neoliberalism in Mexico. "The pragmatic power has relied not only on elegant teachers in order to move about with the old and new financial oligarchy, but it has also had at its disposal a chorus of organic intellectuals who have helped them to never write one line, nor have one idea of their own, at the same time providing them with the ideology indispensable for shooting and a complete collection of dithyrambs." Ibid.

At some moment these professionals of apostasy cease being court jesters with professional studies and/or published works, and become "advisors." Instead of sharing the crumbs from the table of Power (and making recommendations which will bring them significant economic advantages), these ideologues guide and advise our leaders. Certainly things don't always turn out the way the advisors and the advised might expect. And not just because of the continuous swings in their political positions and "serious" analysis (example: Jorge Alcocer, from the Salinas gang of intellectuals, who one day announced that he was forming a leftist party, and the next morning took a position as Under Secretary of Government), but also (and above all), because reality is not understaood as it is, instead they counsel decisions based on the premise that reality should be what the Power wants it to be.

There is a long list of disasters, but by only mentioning "Chiapas," we have the one which represents all the others. The former independent intellectuals, and today devoted advisors, counselled "a strong hand," and "firmness" in the government treatment of the indigenous rebels of southeastern Mexico. "All the costs have already been paid, we have nothing to lose," they said to support their recommendation of using a military road to definitively solve the conflict. They also advised a "new media campaign" (the name by which the government, and their advisors, know the speeches during public activities, press conferences and interviews at receptions) that would be consistent with "the policy of action" (c'est a dire de war) that they were carrying forward in the indigenous communities in the country. Result: barking, slogans, scoldings, boasts, threats, words and contradictions ("Intergovernment conflicts," the PGR would say, referring, not to Celosio's assassination, but to the statements by Zedillo, Labastida and Rabasa).

The consequences of these actions and words are not suffered only by the indigenous victims of the extermination campaign against them, not only by Zedillo who stains his hand more and more with dark blood, not just by Labastida who sees his political aspirations for the Presidency of the Republic going up in ruins, not just by Rabasa, who sees the necessity for demonstrating that there is no idiocy spoken which cannot be surpassed (by him, himself) with flying colors the next day, not just by "Marshall" Albores who now occupies a privileged position among the assassins and thieves of this century.

Not only by them, the consequences are also paid by the intellectuals who are not "on one side or the other." With its military and media campaign, the government has managed only to reduce even more the narrow space for intermediate opinions. And so the "neutrals" are caught in a false dilemma: support the government or support the rebels.

The courtesy of minds contributes to the spread of desperation and clamors for an end to the "chiapanization" of national life.

Chiapas is a problem of public opinion: the words of war and the violent actions are only on the government's side, and on the side of the rebels is a silence which, to them, appears enormous, the "neutral" intellectuals are uncomfortable, because if they applaud government speeches and practices, they put themselves on the side of irrationality and crime, and if they criticize them, they put themselves on the side of a few hooded persons who, in addition to being rebels, are indigenous.

Their desperation is comprehensible, the war which the government is carrying out in Chiapas and Guerrero is splattering all sides now, and it threatens to stain both pens and immaculate analysis.

But there are those who are not perturbed by the dilemma, and embrace with fervent and religious devotion the task of "giving reason" to the State crime which is taking place in indigenous Mexico.

However, nothing is ever perfect, and the mistakes follow each other at a dizzying pace, provoking unease in the officious advisors. The discomfort of these intellectuals in the face of governmental stupidity hides the dissatisfaction of unappreciated advisors. The intellectuals of the indigenous annihilation, "for reasons of State," are made uncomfortable by the governmental tardiness in putting "an end" to that stone in the shoe.

Fortunately, the intellectuals of criminal objectivity (as well as their advised) are fewer and fewer, and they are more alone. There are, on the other hand, news media who have the honor of relying, for their pages and microphones, on political analysts, journalists and artists, who refuse the juggling that the governemnt wishes to impose on them, and who continue dissecting national problems (and taking positions on them), looking for solutions that are inclusive, peaceful and rational.

With reason, history, legitimacy and the Nation lost, there is little left to the Mexican political system. It thinks that there is only one mask now that could save it and take it alive (although not now healthy and whole) to the other side of this century: The Mask of War.

III. The Mexican Federal Army: Between Angeles and Huertas

(Audio can be used by any news media in the service of the Supreme. Images will be those of the attacks on the communities of Chavajeval and Union Progreso, in the autonomous municipality of San Juan de la Libertad, Rebel Chiapas, on June 10, 1998).

Look at the federal soldiers: so young, so strong, so well fed, so well equipped, so well trained, so so. Look at them fight so heroically from behind their tanks, their light artillery, their helicopters, their bomber planes. Look with what decisiveness and courage they shoot and confront the enemy. What dedication! What great heroism! What bravery! What contempt for danger! What commitment to the defense of national sovereignty! Aren't they admirable? Don't you feel like singing the National Hymn where it says: "Mexicans to the cry of war...?

This is patriotism. It doesn't matter that the other side, the "enemy's" side, only has machetes, stones, sticks, hands, fingernails, teeth. It doesn't matter that on the other side, the "enemy's" side, are Mexican indigenous, those who first populated these lands, those who resisted the war of conquest, those who gave birth to the Nation fighting with Miguel Hidalgo, Jose Maria Morelos, Vicente Guerrero, those who fought against the gringos in 1847, those who fought by Juarez' side against the French invasion, those who gave flesh, blood and cries for justice in the revolution of Villa and Zapata, those who refused to be liquidated by a model, the neoliberal model, which makes a war of extermination against them through all means and in all forms.

It is not important, look at the brave federal soldiers fighting.

Don't look at the rapes, the beatings, the executions, the extermination of men, women, children and old ones. Don't look at the exodus of tens of thousands of displaced.

Don't look. Don't listen.

Only listen to Comandante Zedillo, the chief of those soldiers whom he has ordered to save Mexico....from those who are more Mexican than anyone.

Look and listen to what we tell you to see and hear.

This is nationalism! This is being a patriot! This is the "State of Law!"

This is the Federal Army! The armed guarantor of the defense of National Sovereignty!

So strong and not caring that those they are facing are so weak! So brave despite the fact that those they are fighting are unarmed! So bold even though those they are fighting are defenseless!

Do not look at or listen to your commander-in-chief lowering his head, embarrassed, in front of his North American equivalent. Do not see or hear the clumsy and grotesque "translation service" with which the Chancellor tries to hide the cowardice of Zedillo's government in front of the open faucets of the empire of the stripes and murky stars. Don't look at his army, the federal army, giving military honors to the Supreme Commander of the chief of the......North American Army. Don't look at the Mexican officials accounting to and following orders from their United States "advisors."

Do not see or hear the silence of those Mexican indigenous who are fighting for democracy, liberty and justice.

Do not see or hear that anachronistic "For everyone, everything, nothing for us." To whom would that occur during these times of "save yourself if you can'?

Do not see or hear reality.

These indigenous ("zapatistas" I believe they call themselves) are the primary enemy, they sell the homeland; those who want to deliver national sovereignty to dark foreign interests; those who want to rebel against economic injustice; those who demand that he who governs, governs obeying; those who demand democracy for all; those who want a place in the Nation; those who struggle for justice; those who want a roof, land, work, bread, health, education; those who defend the independence of Mexico; those who want a new world, better...

What am I saying? Don't listen! Don't look! Applaud!

There are our brave soldiers killing the dark enemy (the color of their skin gives them away)!

Shout! Viva Mexico! Again! Viva Mexico!

Look at and listen to the part of the war which our selfless soldiers delivered to their chief, Comandante Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, and which we offer you exclusively on this channel:

Part of the War #1998/6.

TO: Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, Supreme Commander

FROM: Operational Command Group of the Federal Army

THEATRE OF OPERATIONS: Southeastern Mexico

MILITARY CAMPAIGN: "The State of Law via actions"

DATE: December 22, 1997 to June 10, 1998

NUMBER OF TROOPS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: 60,000 (Note: not including the number of special forces, those which the opposition calls "paramilitaries")

MILITARY EQUIPMENT OF THE FORCES OF THE SUPREME GOVERNMENT: War tanks, armed personnel carriers, Hummer vehicles, reconaissance aircraft, combat and bomber airplanes, helicopters, howitzers, mortars, light artillery, machine guns, automatic rifles, grenades, electronic surveillance equipment

NUMBER OF TROOPS OF THE TRANSGRESSORS OF THE LAW: 300 (including the masked joker who commands them)

MILITARY EQUIPMENT OF THE REBEL FORCES: shotguns, the kind they call "chimbas," 22 caliber rifles, sticks, machetes, stones, hands, fingernails, words and (as discovered by our intelligent intelligence services)....silence


  • Acteal, Chenalho, Chiapas: 45 enemy casualties (men, women and children included), carried out by our special troops, in a tactical action they call "undercover"
  • Various indigenous communities, Chiapas: An undetermined number of decommissioned weapons (previously planted by us), subversive books such as "the gospel according to the masked joker."
  • Navil, Tenejapa, Chiapas: Two sacks of beans (which shows that the transgressors were preparing for bacteriological warfare) and some weapons which we planted
  • Chavajeval, El Bosque ("San Juan de la Libertad" for the transgressors of the law), Chiapas: 3 enemy casualties owing to our brave and bold light artillery fire, mortars and land and air machine guns.
  • Union Progreso, El Bosque, Chiapas: 5 enemies executed for the crime of having rebelled against sacrosanct institutions
  • Amparo Agua Tinta and Taniperla, in the self-styled autonomous municipalities of "Tierra y Libertad" and "Ricardo Flores Magon," Chiapas: 2 wooden shacks burned, one mural destroyed, dozens arrested (alive, unfortunately)
  • State of Chiapas in general: an undetermined number of dead, wounded and imprisoned, product of actions which are called "undercover," and the strict application of the law

Result: resounding triumph of the state of law which you honorably represent.

My dear sir: the national armed forces have covered themselves in glory.


PS: If they could!

PS: To note the selfless labours and ample intelligence of Field Marshall Roberto Albores Guillen, under whose orders we had the honor of serving the Republic.

PS: From Marshall Albores: grrrr, bow-wow, woof, grr.


TO: Operational Command Group of the Federal Army

FROM: Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon

Congratulations. The federal Army will not be leaving Chiapas. Continue on with your enforcement of legality and the establishment of the state of law.

The only thing that is left for me to say: Guys, get tough on them!

"Everything with violence, nothing with politics."

EZPL Flourishes

PS: A big hug (and a few croquettes) for my faithful friend and servant, Camp Marshall Albores.

PS: Never before have so few (me and those who support me) owed so much to so many (federales).

PS to the PS: Didn't it go like that?

Look and listen to these courageous soldiers, applaud your eminent chiefs.

Don't see or hear the other soldiers, those who fight the fires and help the population with the natural disasters. Don't see or hear the soldiers who fight the national and international drug traffic. Don't see or hear the soldiers dead in the fight against organized crime, which means destruction, hunger and misery for hundreds of people.

Don't see or hear the soldiers who fall, those, yes, in the carrying out of their duties.

For these soldiers there is no applause, not even one word, nor one salute.

For these soldiers there is silence, the forgetting.

Don't see or hear the soldiers who fight fires in various states in the country.

Look at and listen to (and applaud!) the soldiers who set fires and worship the fire in the Mexican south and southeast.

Look at and applaud the Huertas soldiers. Do not see or hear the Angeles soldiers.

Don't look, don't listen. Take your mask and your silence. Don't look and don't listen. Don't choose...

General Felipe Angeles. Official of the Federal Army in times of the Mexican Revolution, he crossed over to rebel lines and put his ingenuity and his knowledge at the service of the cause of the oppressed. He fought under the orders of Francisco Villa in the Division of the North. His brothers in arms in the government army of that time branded him a traitor to his country.

History remembers him as a military patriot.

General Victoriano Huerta. Official of the federal army during the times of the Mexican Revolution, he put himself under orders of the ambassador from the United States of North America to the then President Francisco I. Madero. He headed the counterrevolution and organized massacres of indigenous and the destruction of villages in his military campaign against a transgressor of the law, the self-named "Emiliano Zapata." His brothers in arms of the then government army extolled him and praised him as a patriot.

History remembers him as a traitor to his Homeland.

1998, the Mexican Federal Army: so close to the Huertas and so far from the Angeles.

The mask of war, the silence of death always comes with it. And with death comes....

IV. The masks and the silences of those from below

"The night will pass,
The waters can spit,
They can shoot the sparrows,
They can burn the verses.
They can cut down the sweet iris,
They can break the song and throw it into a swamp.
But this night will pass."
- Manuel Scorza

The neoliberal model requires, for its maintenance and growth, the perpetration of a crime that is realized through millions of small and large crimes, and the State is in charge of collecting, in cash and efficiently, from the victims of those from below.

For this complicated (and useless) scheme, which serves as the stage for the death of the political system, to function, it is necessary to distribute large numbers of masks and silences for those from below. Anonymity, desperation, bitterness, apathy, impotence, resignation, skepticism, isolation and cynicism, are offered with full hands to be consumed by millions of Mexican men and women who barely survive in this country. Appearing to be free of charge, the silences and the masks which arrive from above to those from below tend to end up being very costly. The losses are exorbitant, but they are not measured in monetary terms, rather in human ones.

The masks of anonymity and isolation, which the frantic globalization tries to impose on men and women in all of Mexico, do not hide the singularity of every being, but rather the very real nightmare of the struggle of those from below. The daily injustice which the system inflicts on the Mexicans dilutes its impact precisely by the great multiplication of its crimes: a dismissal over here, a rape over there, an unjust imprisonment there, a robbery further over there, a political disappearance on that side, a fraud on this side, hunger and misery shut away between four walls of any over there. Victims anonymous and isolated by the system, millions of Mexicans lose (in the neoliberal alchemy that converts its exploitation by an exponential secret) the opportunity to rebel against the nightmare that isolates them in terror, because it is anonymous in the aggression which it perpetrates.

And the masks are accompanied by other masks, apathy and cynicism wants to multiply among those from below. It tries to unite "nothing matters to me" with "only I am important to me, and so what," and in this way the power will accomplish one of its primary objectives: impose immobility and hamper brotherhood.

Then the silences come. That of the bitterness against everyone or no one, which is unleashed against anything within its reach. That of the impotence of feeling oneself to be too small in front of an overwhelming, inaccessable and, nonetheless, omnipresent machine. That of the desperation of seeing oneself and knowing oneself to be alone, without the slightest suspicion that things could be better tomorrow. That of the resignation that assumes the inevitability of injustice and the role of victim while the murderer covers his face, becoming real in the boss, the police, the man, the mestizo, the thief, the neighbor, the other-always-the-other.

And the silence of fury explodes at any moment, a silence which accumulates and grows in situations that are absurd, unexpected, incomprehensible: the man with the woman, the gang with any passerby, the worker with the worker, the indigenous with the indigenous, the one with the other, the fury with the fury.

New forms of struggle are creating their own masks and are forging their silences. Little by little the honorable mask of resistance grows and multiplies, the "I will not leave," the "I will not surrender," the "I continue fighting," the "I will not give in," the "come on!" Behind the same mask of anonymity, the indigenous, workers, campesinos, housewives, neighbors, unionists, students, teachers, Christians, retired persons, disabled persons, drivers, shopkeepers, activists from political and social organizations, women, youth, children and old persons, all those who discover each other day by day, who resist by staying-like-this-as-if-nothing-hand-spring-and now-for- not-have-to-leave-have-to-fight-and-organize-and-turn-everything-up side-down-and-remake -it-new-and-it-is-not-true-that-we-are-few-and-it-is-not-true-that-we-are-weak-and-it-is -not-true-that-we-always-lose-and-it-is-no t-true-that-this-and-it-is-not-true-that-the other-and -get-lost-man-and-now-you're-going-to-see-and-it-is-not-true-that-it-is-not-true-and-no-and-why -not-and-no-and-why-yes-and-n-and-now-no-NO-NO W NO...

And a terrible silence walks with and arises from the resistance: the silence which accuses and points.

V. The seven victims of the new government strategy in Chiapas

Comandante Zedillo's military campaign has been brilliant. Accompanying him in this bellicose enterprise have been Senor Labastida as chief of his Great State, Senor Rabasa is it that Senor Rabasa does?, good, Senora Rosario Green in the service of not very simultaneous (nor very reliable) translation, and the senor? Albores Guillen as Field Marshall.

Besides filling the Chiapas jails (having been previously emptied of the paramilitaries) with zapatista indigenous and members of civil society, besides promoting the use of the indigenous' huts as target practice for the federal Army, besides practicing summary executions which do not require envy from those practiced by military dictatorships around the world (an advantage of globalization?), besides having tied the name of "Mexico" to the blood-stained "Acteal":, "Chavajeval,' and "Union Progreso," besides having brought terror, misery and the lie to the Indian lands of Mexico, Comandante Zedillo and his team are wearing seven medals for the other victims they claimed.

Yes, there are seven victims of their war: peace, dialogue as the means for solution of the conflicts, the indigenous, national and international civil society, the movement towards democracy, the Commission of Concordance and Peace and the National Commission of Intermediation.

Continuing his personal fight against the zapatista rebels, Zedillo doesn't just take peace prisoner of war, which was there for the taking, he also attacked the hope for any future peace.

The dialogue as the means for a solution to the conflicts is one of the most important losses of the war in southeastern Mexico. By failing to carry out the Accords which he signed, Zedillo shattered confidence in his government. Without confidence, it is impossible to reach accords. And if it is not possible to reach accords, why have dialogue?

For their part, the indigenous have been converted into the primary share of "triumphs" of Zedillo in Chiapas: no other regime has been responsible, directly and indirectly, for so many deaths, prisoners, tortures, expulsions, displacements and disappearances of chiapeneco indigenous as the current one.

Government warfare claimed another victim in national and international civil soviety, by ignoring its calls for dialogue and peace.

One more victim is the transition to democracy, which finds itself halted by a political system disposed for a bloodbath, so that it will not lose its privileges.

Only a nostalgic memory remains of national sovereignty. In its place are foreign military advisors, foreign arms, foreign combat tactics, foreign MRE's, foreign combat equipment. In the war in Chiapas the only thing that is national is the blood that is spilled.

Two other victims merit special mention: one was dragged away dying, the other lies irredeemably dead.

The first is the Commission of Concordance and Peace, formed by federal legislators of all the political parties with representation in the Congress of the Union. The Cocopa has beem avoided, mocked, used, despised, humiliated and forgotten by the government. In his perverse and lethal game, Ernesto Zedillo feigned to the Cocopa his willingness to accept the legislators' offices to achieve, efficiently and rapidly, peace in southeastern Mexico. By withdrawing his acceptance of the initiative for the indigenous law, prepared by the Cocopa, the government made a fool of the legislators and robbed them of all moral authority to appear in front of the zapatista leadership. Afterwards, Zedillo set about battering the "cocopos" who did not align themselves with his war plans (that is, almost all of them), only to then ignore the commission for the long period during which he planned and executed the massive assassination of indigenous perpetrated in Acteal in December of 1997. In short, the government has treated the Cocopa with ridicule, traps, blows and sabotage.

The EZLN will not do the same.

Simultaneous with the sabotages against the Cocopa, Government busied itself with assassinating and incarcerating more indigenous, and in fighting a total war against the National Commission of Intermediation (Conai) and, especially, against its President, the Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia. Ultimately, words and contradictions. Labastida says what Rabasa retracts, Zedillo corrects both of them. Rabasa clarifies Zedillo, Labastida scolds Rabasa, in short, a confusion of masks and roles which would make one laugh if it weren't that it hides a brutal and uneven war.

After suffering a long and intense campaign of attacks and lies, the National Commission of Intermediation (recognized by the parties, EZLN and the federal government, as the mechanism for mediation in the peace dialogue) was dissolved.

Take note of these names: Don Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Dona Concepcion Calvillo Viuda de Nava, Doctor Pablo Gonzalez Casanova, Doctor Raymundo Sanchez Barraza, poet Juan Banuelos, poet Oscar Oliva (these six as members), and Pedro Nava, Salvador Reyes, Gonzalo Ituarte and Miguel Alvarez as secretaries. The 10 formed the National Commission of Intermediation, one of the primary objectives for destruction by the government's war strategy.

Their crimes? All of them unpardonable: fight for peace with justice and dignity, represent national civil society as mediator in the conflict, believe firmly in dialogue as the solution to disputes, not submit to the government's orders, maintain autonomy and independence with respect to the parties, think that peace in Mexico must necessarily pass through the transition to democracy, commit oneself to the side of the Indians in their peaceful struggles and (the worst of all their crimes) make themselves into an obstacle to war.

For months these persons were the victims of attacks of all kinds, including attempts on their lives, property and liberty. For months they suffered the pressures of all the apparatus of the Mexican state; federal, state and municipal governments; the Army, police and paramilitaries; the two television monopolies and the local press; businesses; federal and local deputies; the high hierarchies of the Catholic and evangelical churches. Millions and millions of pesos wasted in smear campaigns against them.

All the political, economic, ecclesiastical and military power against these 10 persons and, particularly, against Don Samuel Ruiz Garcia, the bishop of the diocese of San Cristobal.

On June 7, 1998, the seventh victim fell in front of the advance of the Zedillo war machine. Don Samuel Ruiz Garcia resigned from the CONA,I and it was dissolved. With the disappearance of the Conai, a fierce resistance against authoritarianism, crime and intolerance was ended, but the search for peace has not ended for them.

But the machine did not stop with the resignation of the president of the Conai. Senor Ernesto Zedillo was not satisfied with seeing Bishop Ruiz Garcia out of mediation in the conflict. No, he wanted to see him disappeared, erased, dead. With malice he nurtured the opportunity to get him completely out of his sight, if the attempt had failed once, there would still be other opportunities. After all, if a cardinal could be assassinated (Posadas Ocampo) with no punishment for the crime, it would be easy to take care of an inconvenient bishop and one could continue without problems. And this is not one of those bad jokes that Zedillo likes to torture his cabinet with, no, the bitterness had beeen converted in this man into a truly personal style of government. And as for personal revenge, "he knows how to do it."

Time and again, in each of his conjugal visits made to the next former interim Governor Albores Guillen, Senor Zedillo attacked, viciously and cowardly, the man who took peace and justice as flags, and who spared neither effort nor pain to complete his work with honesty, and which is, at the end of the day, the work of all human beings who respect themselves: to struggle for justice, respect and dignity.

This country owes these persons not a little. Although a chapter has ended in southeastern Mexico, national history reserves them a place alongside the best. Long afterwards, when Zedillo is forgotten or in jail for his innumerable crimes, the names of these persons will still hold a very special place in the hearts of all those Mexicans who are now from below, especially the indigenous.

Although outside this stage of the struggle, the "conaitas" have left it clear that they will continue struggling in different forms and in different places for the same thing: for justice for the Mexican indigenous, for the transition to democracy and for peace.

However, the seven victims of the government's war are multiplied in other combatants who are resisting. They remember yesterdays histories in the today, like that which speaks of ...

Stories of the Little Horse of the Sea

IMPORTANT NOTICE, THAT IS, URGENT WARNING, OR HOWEVER YOU SAY IT: The section, Stories of the Little Horse of the Sea arbitrarily interrupts this veeery serious political analysis and, just like that, leaves us sea-sick like the tide which makes the sea dizzy ['mareados como la marea que marea a la mar']. In the way of medicine, the seahorse tells us a story (what else could it do!).

Old Antonio tells that when he was young his father Don Antonio taught him how to kill the lion without a firearm. Old Antonio tells that when he was young Antonio and his father was the old Antonio he told him the story that he now tells me out loud so that the sea will learn my lips. Old Antonio tells it to me just like this, but I call it

The history of the lion and the mirror

"The lion first skins its victim, afterwards he drinks the blood, eating the heart, and leaves the rest for the vultures. There is nothing that can go against the strength of the lion. There is not an animal which can confront him, nor a man who does not run away from him. Only a force which is equally brutal, bloodthirsty and powerful can defeat the lion."

The then old Antonio of the then young Antonio rolled his cigarette and, pretending to pay attention to the logs which were converging in the bright star of the flames from the bonfire, looked out of the corner of his eye at the young Antonio. He didn't wait long, because the young Antonio asked him:

- And what is this force great enough to defeat the lion?

The old Antonio of then handed the young Antonio of then, a mirror.

- Me? asked the then young Antonio, looking at himself in the round mirror.

The old Antonio of then smiled with good humor (that is what the young Antonio of then says) and took the mirror from him.

- "By showing you the mirror I meant that the strength which could defeat the lion was the same as the lion. Only the lion himself can defeat the lion."

- Ah! - said the then young Antonio, who said that in order to say something.

The then old Antonio understood that the then young Antonio had not understood anything and he continued telling the history.

"When we understand that only the lion can defeat the lion we begin to think how to make the lion confront himself. The oldest of the old of the community said that you have to know the lion and name a boy in order to know him."

- You? interrupted the then young Antonio.

The then old Antonio agreed through his silence and, after rearranging the logs on the fire, he continued:

"They took the boy up to the top of a ceiba tree and at the foot of it they left a tied-up calf. They went away. The boy was supposed to watch what the lion did with the calf, to wait for him to go away and then to return to his community and tell them what he had seen. And so he did, the lion arrived and killed and skinned the calf, and afterwards he drank his blood, eating his heart and he left when the buzzards were circling waiting for their turn.

"The boy went to his community and told what he had seen, the oldest of the old thought for a while and said: 'Let the death which the matador gives be his death,' and they gave the boy a mirror, some nails to shoe with and a calf.

"Tomorrow is the night of justice, said the old ones and they returned to their thoughts.

"The boy did not understand. He went to his hut and he stayed there for a good while watching the game. There he was and his father arrived and he asked him what was happening; the boy told him everything. The boy's father stayed silently next to him and, after a while, he spoke. The boy smiled while he listened to his father.

"The next day, when the afternoon had already made the gold, and the grey of the night had let itself fall over the treetops, the boy left the community and walked on foot to the ceiba tree carrying the calf. When he arrived at the foot of the mother tree, he killed the calf and took out its heart. Then he broke the mirror into many litle pieces and stuck them into the heart with the same blood, then he opened the heart and put the nails inside. He put the heart back in the calf's chest and with stakes made a frame to keep it standing on its feet. As if it were alive. The boy went up to the top of the tree and waited there. Above, while the night let itself fall from the trees to the ground, he remembered his father's words:

"The same death with which the matador will die."

"Now the night was below all the time when the lion arrived. The animal came close and, with one leap, attacked the calf and skinned it. When he licked the heart, the lion became suspicious because the blood was dry, but the broken mirror hurt his tongue and made it bleed. And so the lion thought that the blood from his mouth was from the calf's heart and, excited, he chewed up the entire heart. The nails made it bleed more, but the lion continued to think that the blood he had in his mouth was the calf's. Chewing and chewing, the lion wounded himself more and more and bled more and chewed more and more.

"The lion was like that until it bled to death.

"The boy returned with the lion's claws as a collar and he showed it to the oldest of the old of the community.

"They smiled and told him: 'It is not the claws that you should keep as a trophy of the victory, but the mirror.'

That is how old Antonio tells that the lion was killed.

But, besides the mirror, old Antonio always carries his old shotgun of chispa.

"It's in case the lion doesn't know history," he tells me smiling and winking an eye. From the side and here, the sea added: "In case the lion or the Orive."

And speaking of former Maoists and former radicals and former left, today brand-new advisors to the criminals of the right (who start out talking like cockatoos and now, in order to hide themselves, imitate the ostrich), old Antonio has his own version of that one about the revolutionary and the masses and the comparison with the fish in the water, and also the counterinsurgency strategy of "taking the water away from the fish" that the embarrassed government advisors are recommending today:

The fish in the water

Old Antonio tells a history that the oldest of the old of his community told him. He tells the history that there was once a very beautiful fish that lived in the river. He tells that the lion saw the fish and he had a craving to eat it. The lion went to the river but he saw that he could not swim in the river and attack the fish. The lion asked for advice from the opossum and he told him: "It is very simple, the fish cannot live without water. The only thing you have to do is to drink the water from the river and that way the fish will stay without moving and then you can attack it and eat it." The lion was pleased with the opossum's advice and he paid him with a position in his kingdom.

The lion went to the edge of the river and began to drink the liquid.

He died bursting from the water.

The opossum remained unemployed.

Tan tan.

NEW IMPORTANT NOTICE, BUT NOW NOT SO URGENT WARNING: the interruption by the little horse of the sea has ended, but not so the queasy nausea ['mareado mareo']. Perhaps its persistence is due to that which is shown and spoken of in...

VII. The seventh mask and the seventh silence

"It is clear that in the arena of political action,(...) only he who puts the candle where the wind is blowing will triumph; never the one who pretends the wind is blowing where he puts the candle." - Juan de Mairena, Antonio Machado

1998. Mexico. While the supreme government stays on track towards war and tries desperately to join the winds from above, the growls of the beast and the spells in order to push the heavy sails of the ship of death, these Mexican indigenous, who add the name of Emiliano Zapata to their history, prepare in silence the justice and the dignity that will have to arrive in spite of their death (or perhaps because of it).

In silence, these indigenous watch the skies and the ground to predict the winds from below which run through the fields of Mexico and of the world, through the dusty streets of tiny villages and ranches, through the messy disorder of the popular neighborhoods, through the places of the honest unions, through the offices of the committed political parties, through the theatres-movies-auditoriums-salons-of shows-art galleries, through laboratories and centers of scientific investigation, through the university cubicles, classrooms and halls, through meetings and assemblies of political and social organizations, through the churches of the poor, through the international solidarity committees, through the national and foreign non-governmental organizations, through the highways, through the roads, through the neighborhood streets, through the breaches, navigating the rivers, in the lakes and in the seas of this country, today awash in wet, and of this world awakening, late certainly, but awakening.

In silence these indigenous see and are seen.

In silence they feel where the wind from below is blowing.

In silence these indigenous know.

In silence they finish this new and absurd Noah's Ark and, knowing that the wind is blowing for democracy, liberty and justice, they set high the double sail of hope, motor and light for this ship, the boat of those of always, the ship of life.

With art and science they build the ark and choose from thousands of their own for the crew.

The rest will wait in the port for it to arrive.

If war and destruction arrive, they will resist as they have learned to do so in the hard school of the centuries, that is, with dignity.

If democracy, liberty and justice arrive, they will know to share it, as they have known how to do through their history.

Mexico, the middle of 1998.

After a long silence these indigenous speak a boat and call on all to board it.

After such a silence, these indigenous speak a ship, a Noah's ark, a navigable Tower of Babel, an absurd and irreverent challenge.

In case there is any doubt as to who crews and directs it, the figurehead on the prow lights a ski mask! Yes, a ski mask, the mask which reveals, the silence that speaks. A "For everyone, everything, nothing for us" dresses the flag of the red star with five points over a black background which shines over the mainmast. In golden letters, to port, starboard and the stern, the "Votan Zapata" names the origin and the destination of this ship, so powerfully fragile, so resoundingly quiet, so visibly concealed.

"All on board!" the captain's voice is heard to shout-order-invite. The only ticket necessary is honesty. Several thousand oarsmen wait, are you ready to leave? No, we are missing...

With that strange and repeated tendency to complicate the life they have, these men and women of masks and silences built their the middle of the mountain!

"And now?" I ask them.

As if waiting, silence is the response. But behind their masks there is a smile when they bring me a message and a bottle.

I do what I always do in these cases: I put the message in the bottle, put the top on tightly with some chewing gum of chamoy which the sea gives me, I plant myself firmly by the side of the ceiba, with all my strength, I throw the bottle with the message very far. A trail of cloud gets it and, navigating, takes it to-to-wherever-it-knows-to-take-it. There goes the bottle. Whoever finds it can, by breaking it, break the silence and find some answers and many questions. Perhaps he will also be able to read...

V. Declaration from the Selva Lacandona?

Right, that's all.

Vale. Salud and be ready. Prepare umbrellas, raincoats and life jackets. Who can deny now that the word can call up the damp?

From the mountains of the Mexican southeast

-- Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
In the name of the 300
Mexico, July 1998

Published in In Motion Magazine August 1, 1998.