Tuesday, March 12, 2013



Visionary, military strategist, and organizer of the people, these are just some of the characteristics of the new Subcomandante of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). During the first days of January 1994 he was known as Major Moisés, later in 2003 he would fill the position of Lieutenant Colonel. Today [Feb. 14] he is presented by the Zapatista military leader and spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos, as the new Subcomandante of the insurgent forces.__"We want to introduce to you one of our many selves, our compañero Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés. He watches over our door and with his voice is the voices of all of us.  We ask you to listen to him, that is, to look at him as we look at ourselves, " stated Subcomandante Marcos in an announcement on the new appointment.

Moisés is one of the best-known insurgent commanders in the public life of the EZLN. On February 16, 1994, during the handover of General Absalon Castellanos - an EZLN prisoner of war - he appeared for the first time directing what would be the beginning of Zapatista public events after the start of the war. It was an act full of symbolism that ended with the exchange of the former Governor of Chiapas, known for his ruthlessness, for hundreds of Zapatista prisoners that were captured during the first days of the war. It was an act used to present an ethical movement that had sentenced him [the former governor] to carry the weight of forgiveness of those he had humiliated, imprisoned and murdered.__"I come to hand over the prisoner of war, General Absalon Castellanos Dominguez. In short: The People's Army, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, has served as being the go between of warriors and rivals. The value of military honor is the only bridge. Only real men use it. Those who fight with honor, speak with honor." These were the first words heard from the then Major Moisés, during one of the most emotional events of the last 19 years of struggle: the first appearance of the Zapatista support bases in Guadalupe Tepeyac.

Subcomandante Moisés, a native Tzetal, came to the Zapatista organization, he says, in 1983.  He started out by being sent to "the city" as part of his preparation and there, in a clandestine house, he met Subcomandante Pedro, who would become his commander, and Moisés his right hand man. Later he would become very close to Subcomandante Marcos. Moisés was one of those who went to organize the people in the Tojolabal valley in Las Margaritas. He went from village to village, family to family, explaining the reasons of the struggle.__He is short in height but with an enormous heart and political vision, always wearing his black military hat, and wields a sense of humor that deeply honors the Tzeltal. Moisés was with Marcos when they had to withdraw after the government betrayed the EZLN on February 9, 1995. This is why much of the literature published during that period paints them as always being together, and [Moisés] as Marco's squire.__Yet, he was witness to one of the last meetings between Subcomandante Marcos and Pedro, being Pedro's second in command. Moisés recounted that the two commanders discussed the reasons for why they both wanted to go to war. Both said the other had to stay, if one fell, the other would need to take his place. Yet, they both left, the first went to seize San Cristobal de las Casas and the second Las Margaritas, where he was killed in combat that same morning. It was in that moment, with the insurgent troops without their commander, that the now new Subcomandante assumed command and control of the operation in the region.__Later, after the handover of Gen. Absalom, the Cathedral dialogues and the opening up of rebel territory to civil society and the media, the vast majority of the Zapatista's public activities moved to the Tojolabal valley, where Subcomandante Marcos appeared regularly alongside with then Major Moisés, Commander Tacho, and other military and civilian leaders of the region.__During those first months and years, Moisés, in addition to his work within the organization, presented himself as a representative for most of the national and international civil society. He offered media interviews to explain the beginnings of the Zapatista struggle, the content and reasons of their peaceful and political initiatives and, later, the function and purpose of the Juntas de Buen Gobierno, of which he was a promoter of its antecedent, the Association of Autonomous Municipalities.

In 2005, with the launch of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle, he was appointed by the General Command to be in charge of international affairs, in a commission known as "The Intergalactic". During that period, while Delegate Zero (Subcomandante Marcos) traveled the country in the Other Campaign, the then Lieutenant Colonel received visitors from other countries and sent greetings to international meetings.

At the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the EZLN, Moisés - open, and known for his patience and disposition, said: "Our way is that we practice first and then make theory. And that's how it was after the betrayal, when the political parties and government rejected the recognition of indigenous peoples; we begin to see how we were going to do it. "__Certainly Subcomandante Moisés can proudly subscribe to his own words when he said: "I think if you are going to be revolutionary, you have to be so until the end, because if one does not fulfill their full responsibility or they abandon the people, well then none of it is worth it. We who are engaged in struggle, our brothers and sisters from other states, of this same country Mexico, and the world, we need to assume that responsibilityŠ"

Which he does.

Source: Desinformémonos: 02/16


A group of indigenous Raramuri women in Sierra Tarahumara, north of Mexico, have launched a campaign to stop the increasing violence they face daily, which in many cases is culturally accepted in their communities and involves physical, verbal, psychological and sexual aggression. They are known as "las multiplicadoras" ("the multipliers") and their mission is to raise consciousness by educating men and women from the mountains of Chihuahua to reverse the pattern of abuse, program coordinator Vianney Salas said in an interview with Univision's "Primer Impacto." "They come out different," Salas said. "They come out of this program understanding the right to have a life free of violence."

According to various studies, it is estimated that 90 percent of women in these communities have suffered some form of violence. "I thought it was normal to be worth less than men," an indigenous woman said on the Univisión show. "I understand now that I have rights." General director of the Chihuahua Women's Institute, Emma Lobera Saldaña said Raramuri women are being trained in violence prevention in over 30 different communities in the Sierra Tarahumara, and have more than 15 Tarahumaran volunteers dedicated to help increase knowledge about these issues among other females.

Meanwhile, the International Indigenous Women's Forum has worked since 1999 with indigenous women leaders representing Asia, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Africa, North America, Europe and the Pacific regions to stop the growth of this phenomenon. The organization's international work is based on the deep conviction of the need to coordinate and integrate strategies for the advancement of human rights of indigenous women locally, nationally and worldwide.

In Mexico, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) warned the issue of violence begins in childhood and in adulthood may result in prostitution, drug trafficking, suicide, school dropout, teenage mothers and other problems. Mexican government figures revealed that in 2010 at least 329 girls under 18 were killed, one of the highest numbers in a decade. In 2011 approximately 693 girls went to prison for federal crimes, a figure that doubled since 2010. Some 34.6 percent of those criminal cases involved drug possession and consumption.

Source: The Huffington Post: 02/22


The pressure group Human Rights Watch says Mexico has failed to properly investigate human rights abuses committed by the security forces. The group has documented almost 250 disappearances during the term of former President Felipe Calderon. It says evidence suggests that in more than half of the cases the security forces participated either directly or indirectly in the disappearances. HRW has called on the new government to find the missing.

HRW says "state agents participated directly in the crime [of disappearances], or indirectly through support and acquiescence" in more than 140 of the cases they investigated. In the remaining cases, their researchers were not able to determine whether state actors may have participated. HRW says the majority of the cases of enforced disappearances it investigated followed a pattern, in which members of the security forces "arbitrarily detain individuals without arrest orders or probable cause". "In many cases, these detentions occur in victims' homes, in front of family members; in others, they take place at security checkpoints, at workplaces, or in public venues, such as bars," the report alleges. The report says that the administration of former President Calderon ignored the mounting problem and failed to take steps to address it, thereby contributing to it becoming "the most severe crisis of enforced disappearances in Latin America in decades".

An estimated 70,000 people are believed to have been killed in Mexico since December 2006, when
Mr Calderon came to power and declared war on the country's powerful drug cartels. Mr Calderon deployed the army in an attempt to curb the violence, but human rights groups say the levels of human rights abuses against civilians has risen as a result.

Human Rights Watch says it hopes the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto will develop a national strategy to tackle the growing number of disappearances. According to HRW, the creation of a national database documenting disappearances and unidentified remains would be an invaluable tool for investigators and relatives trying to trace the missing. Shortly after coming to office on 1 December 2012, Mr Pena Nieto announced the creation of a new national police force which he said would be better trained and better equipped to fight crime.

Source: BBC: 02/20


Mexico said Thursday that it will work with the International Red Cross on the search for thousands of people who have disappeared during the country's six-year-old war on drug cartels. Officials provided few details of the arrangement signed in a public ceremony by the head of the International Red Cross and Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.

The Red Cross said in a statement that it would provide "studies, protocols and technical assistance related to the search for the disappeared" but gave no specifics. Red Cross officials said they could not release a copy of the agreement, and the Interior Department did not immediately respond to requests for a copy. The agreement was signed a day after Human Rights Watch released a report that describes 249 cases of disappearances, most of which appeared to have been carried out by Mexico's military or law enforcement. Also on Wednesday, Mexican officials said they had a preliminary count of more than 27,000 people reported missing over the last six years, the majority of the cases blamed on drug cartels or smaller gangs.

Interior Sub secretary for Human Rights Lia Limon told MVS Radio on Thursday that the government would work to collect DNA from families of the disappeared, data that she called key to matching missing persons' reports with the thousands of unidentified corpses found around Mexico in recent years. She said the federal Attorney General's Office had assembled a list of 27,523 missing people and the government is working to add to the sometimes sketchy information. She said the database would be constantly updated.

A civic organization released a database late last year that it said contained official information on more than 20,000 people who had gone missing in Mexico since former President Felipe Calderon began his six-year term Dec. 1, 2006, and launched a campaign against cartels. In posting the database on its website, Propuesta Civica, or Civic Proposal, said the information was collected by the Attorney General's Office. The missing in Propuesta Civica's database include police officers, bricklayers, housewives, lawyers, students, businessmen and more than 1,200 children under age 11. They are listed one by one with such details as name, age, gender and the date and place where the person disappeared.

The Human Rights Watch report said security personnel sometimes work with criminals, detaining victims and handing them over to gangs. The report cites incidents in which investigators used information collected in a case to pose as kidnappers and demand ransom payments from the victims' families.

Authorities frequently fail to take even the most basic investigative steps, such as tracing victims' cellphone or bank records, and often rely on investigations carried out by the victims' relatives, the report says. Human Rights Watch recommended that the Mexican government of new President Enrique Pena Nieto take concrete steps to change security procedures, including issuing new rules requiring that detainees be taken immediately to prosecutors' offices and not be held at military bases or police stations.

Source: Associated Press: 02/21


After years of silence, secluded in their base communities in Mexico's impoverished south, indigenous Zapatista rebels have re-emerged with a series of public statements in recent weeks, attempting to reignite passions for their demands of "land, liberty, work and peace".

In December, 40,000 Zapatista supporters marched through villages in Chiapas, re-asserting their presence. In January and February, Subcomandante Marcos - the Zapatistas' pipe-smoking, non-indigenous spokesman and an international media darling - issued a series of communiques slamming the government of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which assumed power in December. "Our pains won't be lessened by opening ourselves up to those that hurt all over the world," Marcos wrote in late January, rallying supporters. "We will resist. We will struggle. Maybe we'll die. But one, ten, one hundred times, we'll always win."

The group 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. The Rand Corporation, a research group with links to the US military, said 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". For nearly two decades, the Zapatistas have attempted to build a system of autonomous governance, emphasizing indigenous dignity and collective agriculture. Indigenous members of the group could not be reached by Al Jazeera for comment, due in part to a lack of easy phone access.

The group had been quiet in recent years before the December rally and subsequent communiques. "They have been busy, building up their base as a social movement at the community level, even if they hadn't been in the media," Mark Berger, visiting professor of defense analysis at the US Naval Postgraduate School, told Al Jazeera. There are between 100,000 and 200,000 people living in communities which support the Zapatistas, he said.

In recent communiques, Marcos has described Mexico's government as a "zombie state" controlled by the elite, a statement which likely resonates among some sectors of the population in a country plagued by pervasive inequality and corruption. Previous attempts to unify Mexico's social movements, from independent trade unionists, to feminists, students, punks and other indigenous people, have been met with mixed results. 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."

Meanwhile, though, Mexico has been consumed with other problems, especially drug-related violence. For the last 12 years, Mexico had been governed by the conservative National Action Party (PAN), led by Vicente Fox and later Felipe Calderon. The PAN had little interest in dealing with the Zapatistas or the broader issues faced by indigenous Mexicans. Today, the PAN is out of office in a development that could change dynamics for the Zapatistas.

The PRI, which ruled Mexico for 71 uninterrupted years before 2000, was in power when the Zapatistas first rebelled. The return of what Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa called the "perfect dictatorship" in an election last year marred by allegations of fraud could benefit the Zapatistas as they seek to rebuild alliances with social movements outside of Chiapas and reinvigorate their national presence. "The same people who poured into the Zocalo [Mexico City's main square] to stop the government from imposing a strict military response to the rebellion [in 1994] are still there," Richard Stahler-Sholk, an author of the book Latin American Social Movements in the Twenty-First Century, told Al Jazeera. "The Mexican government has unleashed militarization on the country, with the encouragement of the US government, in response to drug violence." More than 70,000 people have died in drug-related mayhem since 2006 and the US has pledged more than $1.4bn in military aid to Mexico under the auspices of fighting criminal cartels.

With carnage raging in parts of Mexico, activists calling for a new approach to the "War on Drugs", and an increasingly powerful student movement confronting the PRI, the Zapatistas have plenty of possible allies. "I think there is a possibility that the Zapatistas and the student movement could well gain a lot more traction under a PRI-dominated political system," Berger said.

Pena Nieto could become a lightning rod for protests, reacquainting the Zapatistas with their historic foe, the PRI. During his tenure as governor of Mexico State, Nieto oversaw the violent police crackdown against demonstrators in the city of San Salvador Atenco in 2006. Two demonstrators were killed and a group of women say they were sexually terrorized by security forces as they protested the extension of an airport. The student movement #yosoy132 formed after a group of undergraduates questioned Nieto about the attacks during his presidential campaign in 2012. Angered by reports of electoral fraud and the PRI's history of corruption, many students have been challenging the government.

Mexico's youth are not alone in opposing the status quo. "What began as a violent insurgency in an isolated region mutated into a nonviolent though no less disruptive social netwar that engaged the attention of activists from far and wide," the Rand Corporation noted in an analysis of the Zapatistas and the internet.

In mid-January, Anonymous, the diffuse internet activist movement, apparently launched a cyber-attack crashing the website of Mexico's defense ministry, claiming to be in solidarity with the Zapatistas. According to some analysts, the Zapatistas - and their early use of the internet to draw support - were the precursor of a new type of diffuse social movement such as Occupy Wall Street, #yosoy132, and anti-globalization protests.

But the tangible benefits of internet activism and the outside support it garners can be fleeting. "The Zapatistas were trendy, and numerous international initiatives supported them," Marín, the professor in Mexico City, said. But with the onset of the US-led war in Iraq, most NGOs started to have different concerns, he said, describing non-government organizations as "very fussy". In recent communiques, Marcos said the Zapatistas would reappraise their relationships with various foreign and domestic partners. Aid groups, particularly some charities, have been criticized by the masked revolutionaries.

If the drug war and the thousands of corpses left in its wake helped push the Zapatistas off the international agenda, the return of the PRI might make it easier for them to reclaim a place in national debates. In the past, the PRI was widely believed to broker deals between the cartels to ensure stability. "The government will stop trying to go to war with organized crime so much," Berger predicted of the new PRI administration. "That will allow more attention to other forms of politics."

It remains unclear if the Zapatistas will be able to capitalize on these potential changes, but their re-emergence in the public eye is being met with interest across Mexico and beyond. "Recent communications are specifically directed at re-activating their national and international base," said one long-time supporter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity from Chiapas due to security concerns. "The Zapatistas are hoping, I think, that people will create the conditions of autonomy and self-sufficiency in their local areas; they want supporters to bring the ideas of the revolution home."

Source: Al Jazeera: 02/15

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