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Zapatista attack? Probably, not proven

31 December 2006

Bill Weinberg, at World War 4 Report, claims the GOVERNMENT was behind the almost unreported attack on Lacondon Mayans, supposedly by Zapatistas.  (Jennifer had trouble linking, but the same article is on  Indian Country News (December 18, 2006): 

... on Nov. 13, with Marcos far away on the other side of the country in Zacatecas, a new and horrific outbreak of violence was reported from the Chiapas lowland rainforest known as the Lacandon Selva which is the rebels’ primary stronghold.

At first it seemed to be the latest in a long series of paramilitary attacks against the Zapatistas. …[T] the Zapatistas’ refusal to return to armed struggle despite both intransigence and provocation has allowed the rebels to maintain the moral high ground in the eyes of Mexican and international civil society. Therefore, hardliners in the government, who would like to crush the movement with armed force, have been effectively restrained. …

But this claim to the moral high ground, which has proved the Zapatistas’ most potent weapon, now faces a potential threat. …reports have mounted that up to 300 members of the Hach Winik people—popularly known as the Lacandon Maya—have fled their jungle settlements, saying they fear Zapatista reprisals.

Until now, the approximately 20,000 displaced persons in Chiapas have all been Zapatista supporters forced from their homes by government-backed paramilitaries. For the first time, allegations are being raised of indigenous Maya people fleeing feared Zapatista attack. The Zapatistas have been implicated in no attacks on the Lacandons or any other civilians, and these fears appear to be manipulated, the result of a propaganda campaign. But 300 indigenous persons displaced from their homes is not a matter to be dismissed. Failure to confront this situation could impact the direction of all Mexico, as the country confronts multiple converging crises, and the EZLN (as their name implies) still make a claim to the national stage….

Weinberg has no trouble with accepting that the attack occurred, but he is at pains to pain this as an isolated incident, or one provoked by “outside agitators”. Very possibly true, but I have no reason to doubt that ELZN members (with or without official approval) could attack neighboring – non-ELZN communities like the forest-dwelling Lacandon. Whether they are “late arrivals” in the area (as some Zapatista apologists claim) or even not really a “tribe” (as if there were such a thing in Mexican law, or as if that really matters, the fact is, the ELZN settlements are squtters on on the the forest dweller Lacandon’s land (part of the Monte Azul U.N. Biosphere preserve, which has always bothered me about the ELZN as much as anything).

And, to complicate things, Chiapas land disputes could have other dimensions – religious or linguistic differences that can be used by those “outside agitators” to stir up trouble and divide poor people in Chiapas, but that ELZN sympathiers tend to dismiss as somehow separate from the on-going problems in that State.

Weinberg suggests that if “Marcos” was around, none of this would have happened. My gut feeling is that “Marcos” would have spun the story differently, not that he would have stopped it.

What Weinberg suggests is that the ELZN is hierarchal, and that Marcos has some say over village decisions. That’s not what the ELZN claims… being anti-hierarchal is the raison d’etre for their political structure, and for the San Andreas Accords.

I see those accords, which were added to the Mexican Constitution, as reactionary. The Constitution grants more rights to human beings than the U.S. one does (equality between the genders and regardless of sexual orientation, for starters), but then gives “indigenous groups” the rights to their own “uses and customs” — even when those uses and customs include denying rights to individuals within the group. Call me old fashioned, but that’s a step back to the 18th century (or at least to the Emperor Maximiliano who wanted to bring back the Ley de las indias – and was supported by the ideological forebearers of the Zapatistas, including Emiliano Zapata’s father). I’m convinced the ELZN’s “other campaign” was welcomed by PAN, to keep the left fragmented. From Vincente Fox’s Presidential campaign up to now, the supposedly leftist ELZN has benefitted mostly the right. Calderón wouldn’t have been able to pull off that squeaker win without Marcos’ “other campaign” convincing people to not vote, even though the tri-party Lopez Obrador coalition and the Social Democratic Alternativa both supported the ELZN’s economic, anti-globalist agendas. It’s not PRI that the Zapatistas seek to destroy… it’s the Mexican left and 150 years of modernism.

A tight-knit community clinging to “traditional values” (and able to enforce those values on their own members) are normally the “usual suspects” when small communities of “those people” are attacked. I wouldn’t blame this one on the PRI just yet.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 3 January 2007 1:01 am

    Very interesting. I did not know about this. Do you have another link to an article about it? I couldn’t seem to find the one at WW4. The indigenous people of Chiapas live in communities with a variety of political views, religions, and backgrounds. Except for the caracols, the zapatistas live along with non-zapatistas. And predominant zapatista communities live next to non-zapatista communities, so there can definitely be tension and/or violence…but this sounds quite extreme. I, too, am wondering about what really happened.

  2. Edith permalink
    2 August 2007 5:16 am

    Indigenous groups also enjoy special rights in the U.S. and Canada. They struggled long and hard for this; minority rights and local autonomy aren’t necessarily a ‘reactionary’ issue.

  3. Edith permalink
    10 August 2007 7:33 am

    An interview with Mexican anthropologist Rodolfo Stavenhagen on indigenous issues:

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