Saturday, December 22, 2007

Naomi Klein

Zapatista Code Red
by Naomi Klein
December 20, 2007

Nativity scenes are plentiful in San Cristóbal de las Casas, a colonial city in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. But the one that greets visitors at the entrance to the TierrAdentro cultural center has a local twist: figurines on donkeys wear miniature ski masks and carry wooden guns.

It is high season for "Zapatourism," the industry of international travelers that has sprung up around the indigenous uprising here, and TierrAdentro is ground zero. Zapatista-made weavings, posters and jewelry are selling briskly. In the courtyard restaurant, where the mood at 10 pm is festive verging on fuzzy, college students drink Sol beer. A young man holds up a photograph of Subcomandante Marcos, as always in mask with pipe, and kisses it. His friends snap yet another picture of this most documented of movements.

I am taken through the revelers to a room in the back of the center, closed to the public. The somber mood here seems a world away. Ernesto Ledesma Arronte, a 40-year-old ponytailed researcher, is hunched over military maps and human rights incident reports. "Did you understand what Marcos said?" he asks me. "It was very strong. He hasn't said anything like that in many years."

Arronte is referring to a speech Marcos made the night before at a conference outside San Cristóbal. The speech was titled "Feeling Red: The Calendar and the Geography of War." Because it was Marcos, it was poetic and slightly elliptical. But to Arronte's ears, it was a code-red alert. "Those of us who have made war know how to recognize the paths by which it is prepared and brought near," Marcos said. "The signs of war on the horizon are clear. War, like fear, also has a smell. And now we are starting to breathe its fetid odor in our lands."

Marcos's assessment supports what Arronte and his fellow researchers at the Center of Political Analysis and Social and Economic Investigations have been tracking with their maps and charts. On the fifty-six permanent military bases that the Mexican state runs on indigenous land in Chiapas, there has been a marked increase in activity. Weapons and equipment are being dramatically upgraded, new battalions are moving in, including special forces--all signs of escalation.

As the Zapatistas became a global symbol for a new model of resistance, it was possible to forget that the war in Chiapas never actually ended. For his part, Marcos--despite his clandestine identity--has been playing a defiantly open role in Mexican politics, most notably during the fiercely contested 2006 presidential elections. Rather than endorsing the center-left candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, he spearheaded a parallel "Other Campaign," holding rallies that called attention to issues ignored by the major candidates.

In this period, Marcos's role as military leader of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) seemed to fade into the background. He was Delegate Zero--the anti-candidate. Last night, Marcos had announced that the conference would be his last such appearance for some time. "Look, the EZLN is an army," he reminded his audience, and he is its "military chief."

That army faces a grave new threat--one that cuts to the heart of the Zapatistas' struggle. During the 1994 uprising, the EZLN claimed large stretches of land and collectivized them, its most tangible victory. In the San Andrés Accords, the right to territory was recognized, but the Mexican government has refused to fully ratify the accords. After failing to enshrine these rights, the Zapatistas decided to turn them into facts on the ground. They formed their own government structures--called good-government councils--and stepped up the building of autonomous schools and clinics. As the Zapatistas expand their role as the de facto government in large areas of Chiapas, the federal and state governments' determination to undermine them is intensifying.

"Now," says Arronte, "they have their method." The method is to use the deep desire for land among all peasants in Chiapas against the Zapatistas. Arronte's organization has documented that, in just one region, the government has spent approximately $16 million expropriating land and giving it to many families linked to the notoriously corrupt Institutional Revolutionary Party. Often, the land is already occupied by Zapatista families. Most ominously, many of the new "owners" are linked to thuggish paramilitary groups, which are trying to force the Zapatistas from the newly titled land. Since September there has been a marked escalation of violence: shots fired into the air, brutal beatings, Zapatista families reporting being threatened with death, rape and dismemberment. Soon the soldiers in their barracks may well have the excuse they need to descend: restoring "peace" among feuding indigenous groups. For months the Zapatistas have been resisting violence and trying to expose these provocations. But by choosing not to line up behind Obrador in the 2006 election, the movement made powerful enemies. And now, says Marcos, their calls for help are being met with a deafening silence.

Exactly ten years ago, on December 22, 1997, the Acteal massacre took place. As part of the anti-Zapatista campaign, a paramilitary gang opened fire in a small church in the village of Acteal, killing forty-five indigenous people, sixteen of them children and adolescents. Some bodies were hacked with machetes. The state police heard the gunfire and did nothing. For weeks now, Mexico's newspapers have been filled with articles marking the tragic ten-year anniversary of the massacre.

In Chiapas, however, many people point out that conditions today feel eerily familiar: the paramilitaries, the rising tensions, the mysterious activities of the soldiers, the renewed isolation from the rest of the country. And they have a plea to those who supported them in the past: don't just look back. Look forward, and prevent another Acteal massacre before it happens.

It seems there is no shortage of humans wanting to kill other humans for whatever reason they can come up with.

In this supposed season of peace the carnage continues among the members of the human race just as if the holiday season does not exist at all. These killing ways must cease and negotiation for peace must begin.

I guess I could pound the keyboard till my fingers bled to no avail. Humanity it appears is doomed to extinction unless there are changes made in the way we deal with those that disagree with us and those that seek to bring an end to our existence on Earth by producing massive amounts of suffocating toxins.

This holiday season brings us even closer to our own demise with a typical capitalistic, consumptive twist along with terror and death in our own neighborhoods.

So it is, we continue the denial of reality for a few short days and wish for a better world, if only it could be.




DEN said...

Coffee in the corner and plenty of Christmas cookies on the side, Mrs. Den spent all night baking them, (may contain nuts)

Dig in!

Gerald said...

Groups and countries look to the United States of Evil as a role model for killing, maiming, and torturing human beings. Plus, our killing and torture school at Fort Benning, Georgia graduates many leaders and militia to carry on our legacy of mass murders and crimes against humanity. Nazi America is the perfect example of how to treat people.

From the previous blog I am out of the loop when it comes to childbirth. I have to leave it to the women and their expertise for comments.

Carey said...

Good morning fellows. Den, where did you find this incredible post? It took some digging and reading I 'spect.

Yeah, I have thought long and hard, when are the zapatistas gonna blow. They've got a horrible president! A horrible life!

Great find Densters. But now back to frivolity. No, actually, work in the kitchen.

Carey said...

Mrs. Den was up most of the night too? I'm telling you, preparing for all the festivities takes a little time! I was up doing Christmasy stuff too. Didn't wake up till nine!

DEN said...

Picture in your minds eye, slowly falling flakes of snow, a sleigh gliding by with bells on a bobtail horse jingling, lighted windows with festive wreaths and decoration, candles flicker through a window we can see a tall tree, carolers in the distance in verses of Silent Night, children building snowmen and giggling with laughter, the place is home, the time is Christmas from long ago, when the world was a nicer place.

Carey said...

Hear those sleigh bells ringing, a ding ding deedle doo doo.

Den, you caught me up in the moment.

David B. Benson said...

A ballardian is one who writes ballards?

Anonymous said...

Good day everyone. And happy holidays.

I've been so out of touch it hurts. The latest with the CIA...yikes. I can't wait until the selfish evil group (I mean everybody) is out of Washington so we can get back to old fashioned corruption. You know, the kind I can ignore.


David B. Benson said...

I wish I could say "Happy Shortest Day of the Year". However, this link ought to warm you up:

Deconstructing Inhofe and his '400'

Cannot ignore the climate-change denialists.

Anonymous said...

Bootboy here: Enjoyed readin this here blog now and again. You duds do some deep thinkin fer sure. I don't get to thinkin two much with all the cow pokin and heifer herdin one has ta get done on the ranch here. But thanks again and the heifers are actin up in the corral so I gotta get back to it.

Carey said...

My boy has discovered walnuts. He's destroying a dining room chair to crack 'em open. Great.

"I have a nutcracker," I tell him to no avail.

Anyone remember the classic episode of Dick Van Dyke in which Rob dreams Laura's a space alien invading the planet with ill intentions? She has a third eye in the back of her head and she can see you! The famous scene, Rob opens the closet door and Laura slips out sexily, wallowing in walnuts.



Carey said...


I've been telling Winke, my sister, and everyone I chat at, enjoy the essense of Christmas.

At least as we ponder all of the feelings of love at this time of year, we can remember.

That's the intent of Den's post, the one in which he has us all take a deep breath and sit back. As we travel the incredibly bumpy road ahead, we can look back to the memories and spirituality to give us the energy we'll need.

your weather prognostigator said...

Having prognosticated all this cold and snow successfully, I now retire.

Because its raining in Atlanta. (Not what was prognosticated.)

Carey said...

Still good news. They must be jumping up and down in that great city.

David B. Benson said...

Carey --- That is indeed great news from the southeast.

But it does show that I, at least, cannot successfully make weather predictions six weeks in advance.

DEN said...

Carey, we must be friendly to those who visit ya know.

Redneck or not.(unless they are trolls, then rip them up!)

Tis the season to be friendly, falalala, lalalala!

Jeanne, thanks for stopping by!
Happy Minneesotan Holidays!

DEN said...

OK all off busy doing holiday stuff i spose, fixin to call the internets quits.

No takers on the X-mas story idea eh?

Well that just means i have to work!