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‘Resurgent’ Zapatistas march in silence

December 31, 2012

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Having kept a low profile in recent years, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) reminded Mexico of its existence when some 40,000 supporters marched in silence across the southern state of Chiapas on Friday, December 21.

Descending from remote mountain communities, the Zapatistas marched in the rain through the cities of San Cristobal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Altamirano, Las Margaritas and Palenque, without uttering a word.

“Did you hear? That is the sound of your world falling apart. It is the sound of our resurgence,” read a brief communiqué issued by Zapatista spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos.

The Zapatistas are of Mayan descent and their re-emergence coincided with the beginning of a new cycle in the Mayan calendar: a rebirth rather than the apocalypse some panicked westerners had anticipated.

The rebels’ first public act since protesting the government’s militarized approach to the war on drugs in April 2011 was also timed to mark the 15th anniversary of the massacre of 45 Zapatista sympathizers in Acteal, Chiapas.

The Zapatistas believe the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was behind the massacre and their dignified march was an act of defiance toward their old adversary, which reclaimed power on December 1 after a 12-year absence.

On Sunday, December 30, Marcos issued two longer statements, the first of which was entitled “Don’t we know them?” in reference to the shady history of President Enrique Peña Nieto and prominent members of his cabinet.

“Aren’t you those guys who have always chosen violence over dialogue?” Marcos asked, citing the role that Peña Nieto played in the violent crackdown on peaceful protests in San Salvador Atenco in 2006; and the alleged role of new Education Secretary Emilio Chuayffet in the Acteal massacre in 1997.

“In the coming days the EZLN will announce a series of civil and peaceful initiatives to keep walking alongside the other native peoples of Mexico and the entire continent,” Marcos announced in the other communiqué, revealing only that the Zapatistas will “try to build the necessary bridges toward social movements that have arisen and will arise – not to direct or supersede them, but to learn from them, their history, their paths and destinies.”

The Zapatistas have kept a low profile since Marcos embarked upon “La Otra Campaña” (“The Other Campaign”) during Mexico’s 2006 presidential elections, but continue to live in autonomy in the highlands and forests of rural Chiapas. The recent mobilization was the largest since the initial EZLN uprising on January 1, 1994, when masked guerrillas briefly seized control of several towns and cities across Chiapas.

“19 years ago we surprised them, taking their cities with fire and blood. Now we’ve done it again, without arms, without death, without destruction,” Marcos said.

The scale of the marches showed that the counter-insurgency strategy followed by successive state and federal governments has failed to diminish the Zapatistas’ popularity in their corner of Mexico.

“All political parties, without exception, have attacked us militarily, politically, socially and ideologically … the corporate media tried to make us disappear,” wrote Marcos, “as was evident on December 21, 2012, all have failed.”

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