Over 20,000 Zapatistas take San Cristobal

by Hermann Bellinghasen • Friday January 03, 2003 at 11:19 AM

On january 1 20,000 to 25,000 Zapatistas broke nearly two years of silence with an enormous march throgh San Cristobal, Chiapas. The Comandancia of the EZLN addressed an overflowing crowd, pledging their continued resistance and fight for autonomy.

Ninth Anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising

**More than 20 thousand indigenous ask president Vincente Fox where the peace is

**The Comandancia of the EZLN break the silence and take San Cristobal

**They notify the Commissioner of Peace that he will not be allowed to enter controlled territories

By: Hermann Bellinghausen
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas
January 1, 2003

In the biggest concentration yet of the EZLN bases of support more than 20,000 indigenous and peasant farmers literally took the city of San Cristobal tonight. Coming from every region of the state, some 20,000 machetes in the hands of Tzotziles, Tzeltales, Choles, Tojobales, and Zoques struck eachtoher like bell stokes on Avenida Insurgentes during the more than three hours it took them to fill the center of the city in a line that seemed unending.

The manifestation concluded with a concentration presided over by the Comandancia of the Zapatista movement. The Comandantes Ester, David, Tacho, Fidelia, Omar, Mister, and Bruce Lee addressed the mass of people with seven speeches that without a doubt broke the almost two years of silence of the EZLN.

In the middle of this, the Comité Clandestino Revolucionario Indigena del EZLN (the Revolutionary Underground Indigenous Commitee of the EZLN) reiterated their backing of Subcomandante Marcos. "We tell them that when Subcomandante Marcos says that he supports a political struggle of a nation or people, the same is being said by all of the Zapatista men, women and children" expressed Comandante Mister.

Comandanta Ester addressed "a few words" to Mr. Vincente Fox: "I am only telling you that the nation is disenchanted with the tricks that you pull".

After mentioning the threats of displacement in Montes Azules, returning in the same white flowered shawl that turned that world during her appearance in the drawing room of the Congress almost two years ago, the Comandanta asked: "¿Where is the peace? You don't care that you spoil the strength of those that made you President."

A few days before the indigenous said: "They are going to have to widen the city of San Cristobal so that we will fit". Tonight you can see that it wasn't a boast: the Zapatistas overflowed the streets and didn't fit into the plaza of the cathedral. The experts say that some 18 thousand can fit there. Today that wasn't sufficient. Thousands of natives had to stay in the surrounding streets during the whole gathering.

The manifestation ended close to midnight with thousands of lit ocotes (wood sticks used to light fires) illuminating the air with their flames. And they again sounded their machetes, axes, hoes, and other farm tools.

Thousands of indigenous coming from the Highlands began to gather in the morning outside of the city but the march did not begin until six in the evening when the last those contingents arrived from La Realidad whom had spent almost 15 hours coming.

The placards, that were adding up all day on sheets and cardboard, were an unending chorus from the Zapatista support bases. "The three government powers are racist. Fox equals Zedillo. PAN equals PRI." Here and there they read "No to the terrorism of Bush and Bin Laden" and they proclaimed their support for the "political struggle" of the Basque Country.

They highlighted expressions of salutation and admiration to "the rebels of Argentina" and proclaimed the "globalization of rebellion and dignity". They also supported the "fight of Salvador Atenco" (without the San) asking: Don't leave the struggle, because we the Zapatistas want liberty" like the desobedientes Italians. In Italy, thousands of them united tonight in order to directly follow the concentration of Zapatistas in San Cristobal.

Screaming "vivas" to Subcomandante Marcos, to the CCRI, to the autonomous communities and to the insurgents of the EZLN, the demonstrators left clear the message that the Comandantes David and Omar had explained close to midnight: "We came to tell you that we are here and we continue vividly. We haven't tired. We are neither disunited nor fighting between ourselves. Why would there be fighting between ourselves if we still have those that fight us."

Calling various times the government of Vincente Fox the "bad government", the Zapatistas from close to 40 autonomous municipalities expressed strong criticism to the political parties, which for their respective interests that refused to pass the Cocopa law, "because it is not convenient for them to have peace in Chiapas".

In what was the toughest speech, Comandante Tacho called Diego Fernandez, a senator of the PAN, "a lawyer for the criminals" and accused him of opposing peace in Chiapas "because he wants to be president, even before 2006" in the place of Vincente Fox "and turn the entire country into a big ranch". About the PRI senator Manuel Bartlett, Tacho said that he opposes the Cocopa law and peace to appease the authorities of the United States who investigated him for narco-trafficking.

Relating to the PRD, he said that this party unanimously passed the Barlett-Fernanadez de Cevallos-Ortega Law "to change the government of Michoacan"and pointed out that "if only one senator had said no to the judgment", the law would have had to be discussed again.

Ester, addressing the Commissioner for Peace, Luis H. Alvarez, said: "You were put to choose between being like Camacho or like Rabasa and you chose to be like Rabasa", and she announced to him that the communities of the EZLN would no longer permit him to pass through their controlled territories for "delivering money to the communities" in order to divide them and for saying that the Zapatistas are "divided" and "other lies".

In their unyielding balance of "how things are in the country and in the world", the General Comandancia of the EZLN did not leave out a denouncement of the operation of Television Azteca against CNI, channel 40. Although recognizing that the commentators on 40 were not always objective in relation to the Zapatistas, Comandante Tacho expressed the support of the Zapatistas for the workers of the attacked television station. "We can't see how they impede", the work of informing "and stay quiet".

The Comandante Fidelia directed a moving message to the women "exploited, scorned, and violated" and Comandante Mister vindicated the right of the indigenous to know the situation of the world, "to have an opinion and decide". He accused the government of being "racist" for blaming the indigenous for no knowing the world and no having the right to talk about, for example, the struggle of the Basque Country.

Before the "globalization of death" that the powerful impose, Mister declared the right of everyone to "globalize liberty".

To the Zapatistas he said, it doesn't frighten us to talk about the political struggle of the Basque Country, and he expressed a special backing of support to the self-determination of Venezuela and to the "people in struggle in Argentina".

The city of San Cristobal received the Zapatista takeover in silence, with doors and windows shut, and its population, hardly showing itself, hearing the ring of the machetes and the thousands of voices saying that they are not defeated. Like Comandante Bruce Lee said, "We don't have to ask permission from the government to be free" and defending the universal human right to rebellion, he finished "We don't have to ask permission for anything".

The Zapatista manifestation of tonight is also an affirmation of belonging to the world and of the deeper strength the indigenous communities give to modern Mexicans. They know that they are capable of teaching Mexico and the world, not only learning.

To fill the plaza of San Cristobal on this night, one voice solicited over the microphone; "Comrades, see if you can advance those who are in front". It seems like a good metaphorical expression for what has just occurred tonight, that ended in flames and smoke in the plaza, and an echo of voices and farm tools. The indigenous zapatismo is a ripe fruit. The racism of the powerful can no longer stop them. "This struggle has hardly begun" David said in Tzotzil and Spanish in the last speech of the Zapatista Comandantes.

And the night was flooded with torches. "We will make a big light so that the nations and people can see that we have maintained the rebellion ", David said to end the night.

mexico | bellinghausen | www.agp.org