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What remains of the Mexican State
to allow it to claim that it is sovereign?


Mexico, 1998

Above and below: masks and silence

Part II. - Masks and the silence from above

Communique from Subcommander Marcos
Chiapas, Mexico

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

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.

Forward to Part III - The Mexican Federal Army: Between Angeles and Huertas

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