After a few years of relative quiet, relegated to their misty mountain strongholds in southern Mexico, Zapatista rebels have recently re-asserted their presence on the international stage. Their new initiative – called ‘the Other Campaign’ - continues a unique military strategy based more on words than weapons.
What began as a “scandalously Indian” uprising in 2001 in Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state, is metamorphosing into a “national campaign for building another way of doing politics, for a program of national struggle of the left, and for a new Constitution,” according to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacondon, issued by the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee (CCRIG), the military commanders of the Zapatistas’ armed wing.
After a series of September meetings in the Zapatista strong hold of la Garrucha with 91 social organizations from throughout Mexico, 36 political organizations, 129 groups, collectives and NGO’s, and 26 indigenous organizations, it was decided that a national tour should begin in January to hear from different sectors of Mexican society.
Subcommandante Marcos, the rebels’ iconic mestizo pipe-smoking former spokesman (he’s stepping down as spokesperson for the EZLN to work on the campaign) will be traveling across Mexico, consulting and listening, to help build a non-parliamentary leftist movement.
It won’t be the first time the Zapatistas have taken their show on the road. In 2001 the commandantes toured through Mexico, rallying for constitutional changes to guarantee indigenous rights to land and self-determination. The march was hugely popular, cumulating with a rally of 400 000 in Mexico City, but failed to gain the constitutional changes the rebels demanded. This time around the tour will have a broader audience: the politics from the Other Campaign belong “to everyone who embraces them”, according to Marcos.
Politically, the timing for a national grassroots movement couldn’t be better. When the Zapatistas first called NAFTA a “death sentence” in 1994, they were at odds with the majority of the Mexican population; 68 percent of Mexicans supported the agreement. Ten years later, less than 45 percent support NAFTA, according to polls published in Business Week. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace notes that by 2004, 1.3 million farm jobs had disappeared in Mexico, as heavily subsidized corn, pork, poultry, and other foodstuffs from the U.S. competed with products from rural communities. ...