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Rainbow at Midnight: Zapatistas, Women, Indigeneous Peoples and the Struggle for Autonomy fron Neoliberal Globalisation

Patrick Cuninghame and Carolina Ballesteros Corona

100 Word Abstract: This article seeks to explain the present intensification of the conflict in Chiapas by examining the clash between global neoliberalism's project for Chiapas and Mexico And the desire of the indigenous peoples and other social movements, particularly of women and the Zapatistas, for autonomy (but not separation) and radical social, economic and political change within the confines of the Mexican state and against the designs of the NAFTA free trade agreement. It analyses the origins of the Zapatistas' struggle, their social and political composition, their demands, the importance of the San Andres Accords and the stance of the Mexican and international Left.

50 word abstract: This article seeks to explain the present intensification of the conflict in Chiapas by examining the clash between global neoliberalism's project for Mexico and the desire of the indigenous peoples and other social movements for autonomy and radical political change against the designs of the NAFTA free trade agreement.

The brutal massacre of 45 indigenous sympathisers, mostly women and children, of the EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army) in a refugee camp near Acteal in the south-eastern state of Chiapas, Mexico, last December 22, at the hands of paramilitary death squads linked to the PRI (Party of the Institutionalised Revolution) government served to remind world opinion that the "Rebellion of the Forgotten" of January 1994 has moved from a low to a high intensity conflict. The success of the Zapatistas in mobilising Mexican and international "civil society", particularly through the Internet, in a common struggle against the disastrous human and environmental consequences of neoliberalism, globalisation and "free trade" and for increased autonomy for indigenous peoples has forced the PRI regime, under the instigation of its US government and World Bank masters, to adopt a much more violent and politically far riskier strategy of repression through state terror. This has effectively ended the phase of negotiations which led to the signing of the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture in February 1996, which the PRI regime has since refused to implement, so provoking the present intensification of the conflict. As in Bosnia and Rwanda, the war is not being fought so much against the armed guerrillas of the EZLN, but rather the civilian population of the Zapatista "base support communities". The PRI regime's aim is to exterminate and expel the Zapatista communities, so depopulating huge areas of the oil, water and mineral-rich Lacandona Jungle, an area even more biodiverse than the Brazilian rain forests. In this way not only will "the fish have no water to swim in", but the path towards the greater exploitation of the area's human and natural resources by mainly US-based transnational corporations (TNCs) will have been greatly smoothed, as was always the intention of the NAFTA free trade agreement.

The Acteal Massacre has been cynically used by the PRI regime to step up the repression and harassment of the indigenous Zapatista communities by both the army and PRI paramilitary groups who, despite some token arrests following the massacre, now enjoy ever greater impunity and support from the Mexican Federal Army and the Chiapas state police force. The Zapatista communities have fought back by accelerating their own implementation of the San Andrés Accords, setting up some 32 "autonomous municipalities" under the terms of the agreement. The PRI regime is now attempting to bulldoze its revised and heavily diluted version of the accords through the Mexican Congress. Meanwhile, it has launched a campaign of violent repression against the main autonomous municipalities such as Taniperlas and San Juan de la Libertad, where on June 10, eight Zapatistas and two policemen were killed during an attack involving a 1,000-strong column of soldiers, police and paramilitary forces, supported by tanks, helicopters and artillery. Hundreds have been imprisoned or forced to flee into the mountains, leaving women, children and old people at the mercy of the Mexican army and the MIRA (Revolutionary Anti-Zapatista Indigenous Movement), a PRI-linked paramilitary organisation Which now rules Taniperlas and other repressed communities by terror with the open co-operation of the security forces.

In order to intensify its repression of the insurgent Zapatista communities, the PRI regime has had to forcibly remove one of the main obstacles to this course of action, namely the presence of large numbers of foreign human rights observers many of whom stay in "peace camps" inside Zapatista communities in order to provide some sort of protection from state terror. Over 200 such observers have been deported in the last year as the PRI regime has whipped up a crude xenophobic campaign in the press, blaming the Chiapas conflict on meddling by foreign political activists and local Catholic Church priests of foreign origin. Some 40 Italian human rights observers were permanently expelled from Mexico in May, the most extreme deportation order, which before this year had only been used once in the last 15 years.

There can be little doubt that the PRI regime's use of state terror in Chiapas enjoys the tacit support of the US and EU governments, the latter of whom signed a free trade agreement with Mexico last December, despite its first clause making its implementation dependent on respect for human and democratic rights. Despite its "ethical" foreign policy the New Labour presidency Of the EU has failed to criticise President Zedillo's policy of state terror in Chiapas and the British press have ignored the issue. A possible explanation could be that Britain is the EU's second largest investor in Mexico and the fourth in the world. It has also emerged that the Labour government continues to grant export licences for the sale of weapons to the Mexican Army. (1)

The Zapatista struggle since 1994

The EZLN implemented the decision of the Zapatista Mayan indigenous communities of Chiapas to militarily oppose the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on January 1 1994. San Cristobal de Las Casas and four other major towns were briefly captured, townhalls ransacked and land ownership documents burnt during a 10-day revolt which the Mexican army attempted to crush through the mass murder of prisoners and the aerial bombing of villages, leaving over 150 dead. However, the rapid national and international mobilisation carried out partially through the Internet, the first of many such "cyber mobilisations", quickly isolated the corrupt and discredited regime of former President Salinas, forcing it into direct negotiations with the EZLN. Those liberated areas under the control of the EZLN instituted their own "revolutionary laws" on a range of issues from women's rights to collective land use, in direct opposition to the PRI regime's neoliberal policies. Although they have been broken off on various occasions, particularly during President Zedillo's treacherous attempt to arrest the EZLN leadership during a negotiation meeting in February 1995, these negotiations eventually led to the signing of the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture between the government and the representatives of not just the EZLN but all the 32 indigenous peoples of Mexico, including those close to the PRI regime itself. This was not a final peace agreement but the first of what would have been a series of five accords on different Issues which would eventually have led to the disbanding of the EZLN and its integration as a purely Political organisation as part of the FZLN (Zapatista Front for National Liberation), set up partially for this purpose in January 1996. Under the auspices of the peace process a remarkable and historically unique event also took place in early August 1996, the "First Intercontinental Gathering for Humanity and against Neoliberalism", which saw some 4,000 grassroots political activists and supporters of the EZLN from the five continents gather in five Zapatista Communities in Chiapas to share the experiences of their different struggles against global neoliberalism. The resulting "Second Declaration of La Realidad" helped to promote the organisation of a second gathering in Spain last year and the emergence of People's Global Action, an international network of local movements which is now campaigning against the plans of global neoliberal institutions such as the World Trade Organisation.

The EZLN suspended its participation in the peace talks, again on the orders of the indigenous Communities, in August 1996 when it became clear that the PRI regime was not taking a serious attitude towards negotiation but was simply buying time while paramilitary organisations were recruited, armed and trained under "Plan 1994", a Mexican army document published in the political weekly Processo in January this year. The document specifically saw the role of peace talks as a masquerade behind which the state's repressive cutting edge, the "plausibly deniable" paramilitary groups, would be organised and deployed. The EZLN then set five conditions for the peace talks to be restarted, the first being the immediate implementation Of the San Andres Accords, as revised by the COCOPA (the all-party Congressional Committee For Concord and Pacification) in December 1996, which the PRI regime has refused to do as it would "undermine national sovereignty" and lead to the "balkanisation" of Mexico. The peace process has not been officially ended by the government but its actions have effectively killed it off. This situation was acknowledged by Bishop Samuel Ruiz, the former chair of the independent CONAI (National Intermediary Commission), the main link in The previous dialogue between the EZLN and the government, when he resigned in June following a PRI smear campaign, so causing the CONAI to dissolve itself.

The social and political composition of the Zapatistas

January 1 1994 was chosen by the EZLN's base support communities as the starting date for armed rebellion as NAFTA, due to be implemented on that day, represented a lethal threat to their collective way of life, land use and indeed existence. Ex-President Salinas' reform of the Constitution's Article 27, protecting the ejidos (community-owned collective lands) from privatization, had already opened the floodgates to US agribusiness and Chiapas' Large landowners who increased their use of guardias blancas (hired guns) to force indigenous Communities off their lands. The removal of all trade barriers and forms of protection for these Communities from TNC predators in the name of "joining the first world" was effectively a death sentence. The situation of Mexico's "forgotten" peoples had been worsening at an even greater rate than the rest of the population since the debt crisis of 1982, with levels of poverty, disease, infant mortality, and life expectancy worse in Chiapas than anywhere else in Mexico. Resistance and organisation by various autonomous campesino (farmer) and indigenous organisations had also been increasing throughout the 1980s. The EZLN slowly emerged over 13 years from the remnants of those organisations who refused to be bought off or intimidated, a hybrid mixture including ex-Maoist guerrillas with roots in the 1968 students movement, such as the mestizo intellectual Subcomandante Marcos. But its founding principle has been the indigenous traditional practice of the direct participatory democracy and autonomy of the community assembly, as well as the use of the language of storytelling and poetry rather than political dogma, as epitomised in Marcos' stories of Don Durito, Old Antonio and the rebellious child Heriberto. Some commentators have tried to present Marcos as the "leader" of the EZLN rather than the CCRI (the Rebellious Indigenous Clandestine Committee), while others see him more as a spokesperson, chosen by the communities to act as a cultural bridge between the indigenous world and that of the Mexican and international antagonist movements who have become its allies. While the EZLN is mainly composed of the indigenous Mayan peoples of the state of Chiapas, it is neither a separatist Chiapanecan movement nor exclusively indigenous in its composition or demands. It claims to exist throughout Mexico and to be made up of people from all the main ethnic groups in Mexico, both from urban and rural areas.

Following the 1994 rebellion it was described by the Mexican intellectual Carlos Fuentes as a "post-modern guerrilla movement... the first rebellion of the 21st century", because, in stark contrast with the rest of Latin America's focoist tradition of armed struggle, it was not interested in the seizure of state power. Instead, the EZLN's strategy has been to build a series of alliances with what they term as "organised national and international civil society" made up in Mexico of social movements, such as the inner city Assemblea de Barrios (Neighbourhood Assemblies), and El Barzon (The Yoke), a movement of small and medium scale farmers, business people and general debtors such as mortgageholders, whose struggle to reschedule or cancel their debts has helped to deepen the crisis of the Mexican banking sector. This sector is itself part of an overall tendency towards fragility among the Latin American banking sector which some economists see as the Achilles Tendon of the globalisation process. The EZLN's aim is to help to construct a network of such movements, both nationally and internationally, against the designs of NAFTA in Mexico and of globalised neoliberalism in general, so transforming society "from the bottom upwards" and autonomously from the political and economic institutions of both the state and the market.

Such an approach necessarily eschews electoral politics, leading to a sometimes conflictual relationship with the main centre-left opposition party, the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution), as well as the Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyist organisations and some of the independent trade unions. Disagreeing with the Zapatistas rejection of the state as the site for the construction of a socialist society, and uneasy with the replacement of the mestizo industrial worker by the indigenous campesino at the centre of the class struggle, some of these more "historical" Left groups have formed a rival front, the FAC-MLN (Broad Front for the Construction of a National Liberation Movement). This is linked to the EPR (Popular Revolutionary Army) guerrilla movement operating in the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca since 1996, with which the EZLN has declined to develop relations due to the EPR's dubious origins (2) and stated designs on state power. Overall, the Mexican Left, after initial enthusiasm for a revival in armed struggle following the 1994 rebellion, leading to widespread participation in The CND (National Democratic Convention) and later the MLN (National Liberation Movement), has been deeply divided more recently in its attitude towards the Zapatistas. This was reflected in the split in the MLN in 1995 which led to the separate formation of the FZLN And the FACMLN in 1996.

The EZLN takes its name and to some extent its ideology from the libertarian, anti-statist element of the 1910-1917 Mexican Revolution gathered around the peasant army led by Emiliano Zapata and the slogan "Land and Freedom!". It calls itself an army of "national liberation" as it sees Mexico (and not just Chiapas) as an occupied territory, conquered and pillaged first by European colonialism, then post-colonial "latifundism" where economic policy was dominated first by the interests of land-owning and later industrial elites, and now by the interests of the TNCs, with their neoliberal project of free trade and free markets. The EZLN's use of the Mexican flag, its patriotism and its break from the traditions of the revolutionary Left have led to accusations of petit-bourgeois nationalism and social democratic reformism by the more dogmatic sections of the international radical Left, who have, however, failed to understand its concept of nationhood based on a network of autonomous communities rather than the historically centralised, hierarchical nation-state. Nor do they appreciate the originality of its strategy for revolutionary transformation to a post-capitalist society which is based not on a vanguardist seizure of the state and the commanding heights of the economy, let alone parliamentary reformism, but on an alliance with other grassroots social movements, including the Colonos, rural migrant squatters on the periphery of the main urban centres, the students, gay and women's movements, the independent unions of teachers and electrical and transport workers. The EZLN has refused to lead or hegemonize this gathering network of Movements, but instead has sought to struggle side-by-side with them, consulting civil society at every stage in its negotiations with the government, also through self-organised referenda on a national scale to hear their opinions and suggestions for changes in its strategy. This strategy of grassroots autonomous networking is an extension and development of the indigenous practice of directly democratic decision-making through the search for consensus rather than the imposition of the "majority" on the "minority" through voting.

As part of this process the FZLN was formally constituted in September 1997, at the same time as the historical Caravan to Mexico City of 1,111 Zapatista delegates, one from each of the Zapatista communities in Chiapas. Popular support was remobilised and new alliances built with previously sceptical movements such as the Colonos, the largest urban social movement. The Zapatistas also demonstrated their growing autonomy from their allies among some sections of the Catholic Church and the NGOs in Chiapas. At its founding congress the FZLN confirmed that it would not participate in elections nor could its members belong to political parties, leading to further problems with the PRD. Interestingly, the EZLN declined to join the FZLN at this stage, preferring to keep its autonomy also from its civilian comrades.

A further criticism that has been made is that the direct participatory democracy of the Indigenous communities' assemblies is a myth, with real decision-making power remaining in The hands of traditional elites of village elders, leaving youth and particularly women excluded. On the other hand, both youth and women, who make up a majority of the officers, are well represented within the ranks of the EZLN, which remains at the service of the communities as part of its adherence to the principle of mandar obediciendo (leading by following). The indigenous Zapatista communities have made huge strides towards a real form of participatory democracy since 1994, but as with women's rights, this remains an ongoing process of consolidation within those Communities.

The demands of the Zapatistas

During the self-organised referendum campaign of August 1995 the EZLN put forward 13 demands as the basis for its struggle: land, work, food, health, housing, education, independence, democracy, justice, freedom, culture, access to information and peace. Four more Demands were added during the course of the campaign: equal rights for women, security, an end to corruption and protection of the environment. However, the three main demands which it continually makes in every public statement as a precondition to the others are: democracy, freedom and justice.

By democracy, the Zapatistas also mean support for the immediate transition to parliamentary Democracy, with local and national elections free from fraud and intimidation, signifying the End of the PRI's 70-year one-party-state, even if they do not intend at the moment to participate in electoral politics. But above all they mean the application at all levels of society of the direct participatory Democracy of the local assembly, involving collective and inclusive decision-making based on consensus rather than voting. For the Zapatistas, freedom means autonomy and self-determination and in the context of Chiapas, indigenous autonomy and self-determination within the confines of the Mexican national territory. This desire and need for autonomy implies The right to self-organise society according to the needs, customs and practices of the immediate local community, rather than submit to a form of government formerly imposed by the centralised nation-state and now by the global interests of neoliberal capital. Justice is synonymous with dignity and respect for indigenous cultures and ways of life, indeed for all "differences" within Mexico, linking up with the demands of the women's and gay movements. It also means an end to the impunity of the PRI regime and the punishment of its appalling human rights abuses and the endemic corruption of its "narco-political" alliance with business, military and organised crime elites. Ultimately, justice for the EZLN means social and economic justice in a post-capitalist society.

Economic background to the conflict in Chiapas

In Chiapas an increasingly bitter conflict is being fought between the EZLN and its "support bases" among the indigenous and mestizo campesinos and the PRI regime and its land owners and local caciques (tribal leaders), whose power has now mutated into the form of paramilitary death squad activity. Beneath this conflict lies the clash between two directly counterposed projects: that of Mexican and international neoliberal capital and that of indigenous autonomy. Neoliberalism is keen to intensify its exploitation of Chiapas' immense reserves of natural, mineral and human resources. Chiapas contains one of the world's largest untapped oil fields. With the prospect of the privatization of PEMEX, the nationalised oil industry, the oil TNCs are already jockeying for position. Chiapas also provides 55% of Mexico's electricity from hydroelectric schemes, but 30% of homes and 90% of Indigenous households in the state are without electricity. Chiapas has 30% of Mexico's total water resources but only 10% of indigenous households have running water. The Lacandona Jungle, the Zapatista heartland, is the world's most biodiverse area and pharmaceutical companies such as the UK's Glaxo Wellcome group are keen to exploit it as the competition between pharmaceutical companies accelerates over the production of biogenetic drugs. Chiapas is also a major agricultural producer of coffee, corn and cattle. Despite this wealth in natural resources, 87% of indigenous schoolchildren in 1997 suffered from second degree malnutrition, with symptoms including stunted growth, as well as 100% of indigenous women over the age of 10 (Rovira, 1997: 220).

The local population has considerable land use, animal husbandry and other environmental skills which "ecological" capitalism is interested in exploiting. Although neoliberalism's plans necessarily involve the wholesale depopulation and enclosing of the area, a small minority of those with such skills will still be needed to help exploit its natural resources. International Paper, the world's largest paper producer, has plans to buy up huge swathes of the Mexican south-east and develop eucalyptus plantations, which will devastate the soil and environment within a few years, leaving it completely exhausted, as well As necessitating the large scale removal of the local population and their dumping in urban shanty towns. According to the daily newspaper, La Jornada, International Paper's lobbyist within the Mexican government is a close advisor of President Zedillo, playing a key role in his decision to renege on the San Andrés Accords. Chiapas is also close to the highly strategic Isthmus of Tehuantepec, due to become the new "Panama Canal" after the 1999 handback, with Japanese and Saudi Arabian money already invested in developing high speed rail and motorway links between two major port developments. Together with oil-rich Tabasco and Oaxaca, Chiapas will form one of the four main "corridors of development" planned by Clinton and Zedillo's technocrats to slash across Mexico on a north-east/south-west axis, so forming areas of intensely populated and deregulated urban sprawl where the maquiladora factory and the second cheapest labour supply in the world will form the productive base, as a more efficient outlet to the Pacific Rim markets for the north-east seaboard industries of the USA than the West Coast.

Against this macro-project of neoliberal expansion and human and environmental devastation, is the project of autonomy of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas and the rest of Mexico. The need for autonomy from NAFTA was the driving force behind the January 1994 rebellion which in turn eventually lead to the signing of the San Andrés Accords in February 1996.

The San Andrés Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture

The importance of the Accords lies almost as much in the consultative and participatory process in their negotiation and formulation as in their contents. Some 500 representatives of Mexico's 32 indigenous peoples and from 178 indigenous organisations were invited by the EZLN and PRI government negotiators to a National Indigenous Forum in San Cristobal de Las Casas in January 1996. Regional indigenous forums took place throughout the country simultaneously. the EZLN adopted the demands of these forums as their own, leading to the signing of the accords with the government a month later. The Accords demand "a new relationship between The State and the indigenous peoples", including the recognition of indigenous rights and autonomy as defined in Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation. The Accords necessitate the remunicipalisation of indigenous regions, the free determination of the indigenous peoples, the promotion and protection of indigenous cultures and customs, the promotion of bilingual and culturally aware education, the creation of autonomous indigenous mass media, including radio and TV stations, and the rights of indigenous women to hold positions of authority and to have equality with men at all levels of government. Most crucially, they demand the direct control and use of the natural resources on and under indigenous lands. This demand represents a direct threat to neoliberal designs to expropriate and exploit all the natural and human resources of these areas for the interests of the TNCs and international investors, a far more radical form of autonomy than that which already exists in some states such as Oaxaca, which would break up and possibly render impossible the realisation of the planned "corridors of development". As such the Accords represent a revolutionary precedent which other non-indigenous groups and movements might well be inspired to take up in the struggle for their own kinds of autonomy.

Women's struggles against NAFTA

Ironically, while the feminist movement is relatively weak in contemporary Mexico, women's participation in both urban and rural social movements against neoliberalism has never been higher, as they struggle to end their invisible, isolated status within Mexican society, a situation even more exacerbated for indigenous women, who have become the very symbols of popular resistance to NAFTA and the PRI regime. Following the implementation of NAFTA in January 1994, many small and medium scale businesses closed, unable to compete with US and Canadian TNCs, resulting in a massive growth in unemployment. Many women were forced into the sex industries and other branches of the "informal" economy in order for them and their children to survive, where there are no workers rights or social welfare such as maternity leave and where insecurity is total. Furthermore, the level of illiteracy among indigenous women is 86% and malnutrition and homelessness are rife (Rovira 1997, p.220). The response of poor, working class and indigenous women to this direct attack on their living conditions has been to join or form their own movements and co-operatives of ex-maquiladora workers where often women are in the majority. Two of the main examples where women are fighting back against neoliberalism can be found in the Assemblea de Barrios and the Colonos, the two main urban social movements. The former emerged as a result of government inaction and corruption following the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City which left at least 10,000 dead and millions homeless, a date which in many ways marked the resurgence of the popular movements after the repression of the 1970s. The CUT (United Community of Tepotzlan), a popular movement which took control in 1995 of a small town near Mexico City to stop developers building a golf course on sacred ground and depriving the community of its water resources, has seen women participate in an experience of the self-management of a community which has resisted armed police incursions for three years.

However, the most important examples of women's participation in an antagonist movement are the Zapatistas of the EZLN and FZLN, who represent the constitution of a new way of doing politics, starting from the feelings and practices of women: "The awakening to fight against the present and the past which threatens them (women) as a probable future" (Comandante Ramona). An International Women's Day march in San Cristobal in 1996 was the first ever by indigenous women. The Women's Revolutionary Laws, drawn by the women of all the Zapatista communities in Chiapas, guarantee women the right to marry whoever they wanted to or not at all (a major break with both indigenous and rural traditions), to speak publicly in assemblies, to study and to own land. Despite patriarchal resistance within their communities, indigenous women have become the protagonists of the Zapatista movement, involved in squatting land, occupying PRI-controlled town halls, motorway blockades and marches for peace. They have been particularly active this year in leading the resistance to the attacks on Zapatista communities by the Mexican Army since the Acteal massacre, driving out soldiers with their bare hands. Some have been killed or wounded in confrontations with the security forces who regularly use gunfire against demonstrations. While men are forced to flee into the mountains when their communities are attacked, women have insisted on staying to maintain their co-operatives and keep their communities alive, resisting the army and paramilitary groups' rule of terror, as is happening in Taniperlas and other autonomous municipalities which the PRI regime is attempting to dismantle. Ultimately, indigenous women's protagonism in the Zapatista rebellion has led them to examine their lives and decide which customs are worth keeping and which rights need to be recuperated. They have demanded that public meetings and assembles be no longer held in Spanish which effectively excluded them from participating in community decision-making as only men tend to speak it. For the same reasons they have also demanded that the Women's Revolutionary Laws be translated into indigenous languages.


Notwithstanding its arrogant impunity and cynical provocations, the PRI regime remains divided and in crisis, a liability and embarrasment to its "ethical" neoliberal masters, its increasing violence a sign that it has lost control of the political mechanisms of consent which it once so skillfully manipulated. Its strategy of state terror has also begun to backfire. Some of the "dismantled" autonomous municipalities have refounded themselves, despite the thousands killed, wounded, imprisoned or driven into starvation in the mountains or a reign of terror in the refugee camps. President Zedillo is again coming under increasing internal and external pressure, with a huge demonstration in Mexico City on June 18 demanding demilitarisation, the release of the Zapatista prisoners and the implementation of the San Andres Accords. An international campaign has been started to ensure that for every foreign observer deported 10 will take their place (with a free trip home guaranteed). Even the US Secretary of State, Madelaine Albright, has had to publicly lie that US arms will not be used for internal repression in Mexico. The Mexican economy remains in crisis following the Peso Crash of 1994, unemployment and poverty continue to grow and the Zedillo presidency is rapidly becoming the most hated in recent history, with the presidential elections in 2000 looming and victory for Cuahtemoc Cardenas, the likely PRD candidate, increasingly possible. But what will probably determine whether or not the Zapatistas outlive the PRI regime is their relation of interdependence with a significant section of international civil society, those who needed the inspiration of the Zapatistas' struggle and ideas to emerge from 20 years of defeat and begin to construct new forms of globalised political collective action. Now they must once again remobilise globally to put maximum pressure on the PRI regime and its US and EU backers, not out of "solidarity" with the EZLN but as an integral part of their own struggle for autonomy from neoliberalism.


1 "Ethical foreign policy in tatters", The Guardian, 24 June 1998, p.1.

2 One of the 14 armed groups that collectively form the EPR is the PROCUP-Partido de los Pobres, founded by the legendary guerrilla Lucio Cabañas in Guerrero in the 1970s, but frequently accused, following his death, of being infiltrated and used by the PRI to assassinate Leftists.


We would like to acknowledge that much of the information and opinions in this article, particularly concerning the neoliberal plans for "corridors of development" and on the political impact of the September 1997 Caravan of 1,111 Zapatistas, derive from an unpublished interview carried out by one of the authors in December 1997 with Dr. Andres Bareda, an Economics lecturer and researcher at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) in Mexico City, a former advisor to the EZLN in their negotiations with the Mexican government and a regular contributor to the political journal, Chiapas.


Bareda A. 1997a: "Corredores estrategicos norteamericanos a través de México" in La Jornada, 17 November 1997.

Bareda A. 1997b: "La sublevacion de Chiapas en la lucha mundial por valores de uso anticapitalistas". Unpublished article. Mexico City.

Barkin D., Ortiz I. & Rosen F. 1997: "Globalisation and Resistance: The Remaking of Mexico" in NACLA: Report on the Americas, Vol 30, No 4, pp 14-27.

Bonfil Batalla G. 1989: Mexico Profundo: Una Civilizacion Negada. Mexico City: Grijalbo.

Cleaver H. 1994: "The Chiapas Uprising and the Future of Class Struggle" in Common Sense, 15, pp.5-17.

Esteva G. 1997: "The Zapatistas and Current Political Struggle". Unpublished translation of paper given at the Second Intercontinental Gathering for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism, Spain, July 1997.

Esther Cecena, A. 1997: "Cómo ve Europa a los Zapatistas" in Chiapas, 4, pp.111-134.

EZLN 1997: Cronicas intergalacticas: Primer Encuentro Intercontinental por la Humanidad y contra el Neoliberalism - Chiapas, Mexico, 1996. Mexico City. ISBN: 9709179500.

Garcia de Leon A., Poniatowska E. & Monsivais C. (eds) 1994: EZLN: Documentos y Comunicados, 1 de enero / 8 de agosto de 1994. Mexico City: Ediciones Era.

Garcia de Leon A. & Monsivais C. (eds) 1995: EZLN: Documentos y Comunicados 2, 15 de agosto de 1994 / 29 de septiembre de 1995. Mexico City: Ediciones Era.

Holloway, J. 1997: "Dignity and the Zapatistas" in Common Sense, 22, pp. 38-42.

Katerina 1997: "Mexico is Not Only Chiapas, Nor is the Rebellion in Chiapas Merely a Mexican Affair" in Common Sense, 22, pp.5-37.

La Jornada 1994: Chiapas - El alzamiento. Mexico City: La Jornada Ediciones.

Rovira G. 1997: Mujeres de Maiz. Mexico City: Ediciones Era.

Various authors 1996: Crisis económica, política y militar actual 1996. Taller de análisis sobre Chiapas. Mexico City.

Newspapers, Magazines & Journals


El Viento del Sur

La Guillotina

La Jornada

Las Brujas



EZLN website: http://www.ezln.org

Enlace Civil website: http://www.laneta.apc.org/enlacecivil

UK Zapatista Challenge website: http://www.acephale.org/encuentro

Authors Details

Patrick Cuninghame is a postgraduate student at the School of Social Sciences, Middlesex University. Carolina Ballesteros Corona is a psychologist and lecturer in pedagogy at the Universidad Pedagogica Nacional in the state of Mexico.

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