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Zapatistas: 'We will resist. We will struggle. Maybe we'll die'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 18th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Mexican rebel group the Zapatistas has been relatively silent until a new series of communiqués issued forth by Subcomandate Marcos attacking the new Mexican government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) who took power last year. The recent series of public statements over the past several weeks, Marcos says, is attempting to reignite passions for their demands of "land, liberty, work and peace."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Our pains won't be lessened by opening ourselves up to those that hurt all over the world," Marcos wrote in last month. Frequently depicted as a genial, pipe-smoking spokesman, Marcos has long been an international "media darling." "We will resist. We will struggle. Maybe we'll die. But one, ten, one hundred times, we'll always win."

The Zapatistas first made international headlines on January 1, 1994, when they captured six towns in Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost state and one of the country's poorest regions.

Chiapas is "characterized by tremendous age-old gaps between the wealthy and impoverished - kept wide by privileged landowners who ran feudal fiefdoms with private armies," according to the Rand Corporation.

The Zapatistas have strived to build a system of autonomous governance, emphasizing indigenous dignity and collective agriculture. The Zapatistas had been quiet in recent years before the December rally and subsequent communiqués. There are between 100,000 and 200,000 estimated people living in communities which support the Zapatistas, he said.

Marcos has recently described Mexico's government as a "zombie state" controlled by the elite. The statement has particular resonance among some sectors of the population in a country plagued by pervasive inequality and corruption.

The "Other Campaign", the last major outreach drive launched by the Zapatistas in 2006, was largely unsuccessful in building a national movement.

"The Other Campaign was very critical of electoral politics and it marked a fracture among the Mexican left," Alán Arias Marín, a political scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Al Jazeera. "Locally [in Chiapas] the movement still has support."

Mexico in the past several years has been busy with other issues. Drug-related violence among drug cartels and the civilian population has been especially bloody under the reign of former Mexican president Felipe Calderon, who used the nation's military to combat smugglers.

The conservative National Action Party, or PAN, led by Vicente Fox and later Calderon, had little interest in dealing with the Zapatistas or the broader issues faced by indigenous Mexicans. The PAN is now out of office in a development that could change dynamics for the Zapatistas.

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