Gloria Muñoz Ramírez, from Los de Abajo, first published in Spanish in La Jornada
On November 25 a German colleague wrote to me, full of alarm, ‘Is it true that the Zapatistas have surrendered?’ ” The false information which led him to reach this terrible conclusion came from articles which said that the JBGs, established by the EZLN in Chiapas, had sought legal recognition from the local Congress. This, in layman’s terms, would have meant, in effect, the abdication of the most important project so far of the Zapatista struggle: the autonomy of their people. And that, if it had been corroborated, would have been news worthy of eight columns in the media in Mexico and worldwide. But nobody bothered to ask if it was true.
The information was disseminated by the government of Juan Sabines, which has been characterized during its three years by repression, corruption and lies. Each of these assertions was corroborated with countless examples. It prompted an immediate denial from the Zapatista JBGs, and also caused indignation among sectors of national and international society due to the dissemination of false information (quoting a “source” does not validate information, especially if the news is of such importance that it merits further investigation).
The information concerned a point of agreement reached on 19 November by the plenary of the 63rd State Legislature, approving “the establishment of a Special Commission to deal with the Good Government Juntas”, a proposal made by the Political Coordination Board. Why was such important information only broadcast by the government six days later? And, secondly, why was the version of the other party involved, the Zapatistas, not asked for? If the government was announcing the surrender of the EZLN, it was at least worth asking for their version of events.
Things have not turned out well for the disinformation campaign of Sabines’ government. Their spreading of false information is comparable to the worst moments of governor Roberto Albores Guillen who in his time mounted ridiculous scenarios of the EZLN handing over arms. The theatre at that time was over in a flash and forgotten. And so will be this new media onslaught of Sabines.
After 16 years of public struggle, whether or not one agrees with the policy approaches of the EZLN, can anyone at this point imagine the Zapatistas sitting in their autonomous offices with a committee of local lawmakers? Does anyone imagine them filling in the application forms asking for legal recognition, blankets, chickens and sheets of cardboard? That is not knowing them. But in media terms it does not matter, because in this type of campaign what matters is not convincing, but confusing.