Autonomy Doesn’t Take a Break
The Zapatista experience is real, and for this reason the powers use war to stop it. To thwart them, the Zapatista people show that the struggle continues, that their forms of government are developing and functioning with democratic solutions, thanks to a legitimacy and a commitment that the bad governments have completely lost.
Chiapas, Mexico. Soon it will be 17 years since the armed uprising of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the mountains of Chiapas. A period that includes four federal governments. It becomes easy to forget that in all that time, day after day, hundreds of indigenous communities have lived in a continuous war, carefully designed by the highest federal commanders with their own military elements and using the strategies of counterinsurgency. Even now that the entire country is militarized and though the posts and controls of the federal army are not just in indigenous territory (including Guerrero, Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Veracruz), the autonomous Zapatista territory continues to be the region most overwhelmed and permanently militarized in all Mexico.
The achievements of the Zapatista experience of autonomous governments do not only reside in their prolonged brilliant duration and permanent peaceful will towards their non-Zapatista brothers, but also in the construction, from the roots, of educational systems, of health, agricultural production, and trade, deliverance of justice, and communication; everything done independently of a deteriorating political system. They are open to permanently learning how to “lead by obeying”. They have offered a proposal of change in these times of conservativism, apathy, and bad faith in govermnent structures. A message that things can be done another way, and well.
But just like the creation and evolution of autonomy doesn’t rest, neither does the war waged against it by the federal and state governments that employ all of their
warlike, technological, policing, propagandic and economic resources, intended for the intensive manufacturing of what they call “intelligence” with the explicit
aims of “counterinsurgency”.
In the present stage of this continuous war against the Mayan Zapatista communities, dozens of families, which are the Zapatista base of support, have been expelled from their homes and lands. Such is the case of the Tzeltal communities El Pozo (San Juan Apóstol Cancuc) last June, and September 9th in San Marcos Avilés (official
municipality Chilón, near Sitalá). In this last zone were obligated to leave their houses and belongings of 170 people, Zapatista support bases organized with the caracol
of Oventik. The reason? According to those who kicked them out from the PRI, the PRD and the Green Ecologists it was because of their plans “build an autonomous school,” and they can only come back if they cease being Zapatistas.
Besides these “hot spots”, where the violence has overflowed of late, the presence of the tens of bases of operations of the federal army in the Lancandon forest,
in the highlands, in the Northern Zone and in the border jungle, remains invisible, persistent, and precise. This implies the military occupation of important parts of
the territory of the Tzotzil, the Tzeltal, the Chol, the Tojolabal, as well the the Zoque and Mame- their land, community, roads and waterways. The multiple operational
bases of the armed forces also offer tacit or shameless protection for the groups hostile to autonomy, paramilitaries or not.
It is not infrequent that there is a literal closeness between federal troops and sympathizers of groups like OPDDIC, Paz y Justicia (Peace and Justice) or Ejército de
Dios (Army of God), like what happened on the bases of Monte Líbano, Toniná, Jotolá and Rancho Nuevo, for example. In San Pedro Polhó, close to Acteal, the
military occupation is suffocating and affecting thousands of displaced Zapastistas after the slaughter in Chenalhó in 1997, 13 years later they still haven’t returned
to their land.
The Zapastista experience is real and for this reason the powers use plenty of war to stop it. Wars of bullets, of bills, of asphalt and cement, of false promises, paper and
televised anesthesia. To thwart them, the Zapatista communities have showed that the struggle continues, that their ways of government have developed and function
with democratic solutions (where “the people lead”), thanks to a legitimacy and commitment that the bad governments have completely lost.