Onward to Mexico City

http://www.zcommunications.org/onward-to-mexico-city-by-justin-podur

To call it waffling would be an understatement. But whatever you call it, Mexico’s President Vicente Fox has been changing his position on the Zapatistas at least every fifteen minutes. Maybe even every five minutes.


http://www.zcommunications.org/onward-to-mexico-city-by-justin-podur

To call it waffling would be an understatement. But whatever you call it, Mexico’s President Vicente Fox has been changing his position on the Zapatistas at least every fifteen minutes. Maybe even every five minutes.

He campaigned on a platform of bringing peace to Chiapas. One of his first acts as president was to table a law on indigenous rights in the Congress. He proceeded to endorse the freeing of 18 of the over-a-hundred Zapatista political prisoners and close 3 of the 7 military bases the Zapatistas had asked be closed. All of this looked like he was serious about dialogue and peace.

But the 3 signals the Zapatistas wanted were minimal signals for dialogue: these were 7 bases (of over 200 in the state, the closure of the rest of which the Zapatistas are willing to negotiate over) freedom for all the Zapatista political prisoners, and the enactment of the Cocopa law on indigenous rights and culture. Other things are negotiable. These things aren’t.

So why does Fox close 3 bases and say he’s waiting for the Zapatistas to give him something, then close another one a day after, and then nothing? Why does he allow some prisoners freedom and then announce firmly that there will be no more? Why does he allow people in his administration to threaten that the Zapatistas can be arrested if they go to Mexico City or leave Chiapas [which they are doing tomorrow, February 25, to arrive in Mexico City to dialogue with the Congress on March 11]? To say they won’t talk to the Zapatistas if they wear masks? To say that the Cocopa law is too radical a change– because it allows for communally held lands, something won in the Mexican Revolution almost a century ago and only struck down after NAFTA?

His latest swing in the anti-Zapatista direction was forbidding the International Committee of the Red Cross to accompany the Zapatista delegation to Mexico City. Since the Red Cross was there to ensure the safety of the delegation, Fox’s refusal could be seen as granting license to paramilitaries and others who have threatened the comandantes in the past. It could, in other words, be interpreted as a threat.

That isn’t the only swing that’s occurred either. A number of Zapatista communities, including Polho and Ricardo Flores Magon, have been reporting steady military and paramilitary activities– troop movements, patrols, threats.

I shouldn’t blame the President of Mexico, though. It’s got to be hard to be the President of a country which, to quote a Mexican saying, is so far from heaven and so close to the United States. If he’s anything like other world leaders, he has to be wondering how to please the US. Publicly beating up on indigenous people doesn’t attract investors (who prefer that beatings be done out of sight whenever possible). But neither would rolling back all those hard-won investor rights to Chiapas’– and Mexico’s– wealth. And somehow, the Zapatistas have managed to make it impossible for the Mexican government and its US patrons to beat up on them quietly. Which leaves President Fox in a bind.

How much peace can he deliver without annoying the right wingers and hardliners in his own party or the Congress? How much can he antagonize the Zapatistas, fail to meet their demands, deny justice to indigenous people, without alienating a Mexican public to whom he promised peace and democratic politics? How many of the Zapatista demands will he have to meet, and at what cost to his elite friends in the US who make fortunes from Mexico and don’t want to see those fortunes lost just so indigenous people can live with dignity?

The answer to these questions is: it depends. Fox is no flake. If he’s waffling, changing sides and positions constantly, it’s because he’s probing to see what he can get away with. He’s made a lot of promises to a lot of people and he can’t deliver to everyone. Who he does deliver to depends on who pushes the hardest. Dissidents know that the right and the US corporations and government can push pretty hard. The Zapatistas have shown that dissidents can push pretty hard too. If you’d like to join the push, there’s a standing invitation.

The Zapatista caravan of the comandancia leaves San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, tomorrow (February 25). It will meet with indigenous organizations all over Mexico, and go to Mexico City on March 11 where it will stay until the Zapatistas have had a dialogue with the Congress about the law on indigenous rights and culture.

Author: Justin Podur

Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.