<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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Marcos in Querétaro: We Are Going to “Jump Over to the United States, to Talk to the Mexicans on the Other Side”

The Zapatista Heart No Longer Fits in the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast, So it Tours the Country and Could Even Cross Borders, Says “Delegate Zero”

By Bertha Rodríguez Santos
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Querétaro

March 8, 2006

VISTA ALEGRE MAXEI, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO: One by the testimonies of the indigenous, of peasant farmers, students, intellectuals and workers come bleeding out before Zapatista “Delegate Zero.” They are personal stories, about people’s families, their communities, their towns. It is the story of the Mexico that wants to save itself from ruin. And as this struggle belongs not only to the Zapatistas, each day a new movement continues to take shape, one that is so great that it crosses borders.

Photo: D.R. 2006 Bertha Rodríguez Santos
The concerns voiced to Subcomandante Marcos here came mainly from the people’s struggles to defend their land. This is the struggle that is most felt here, the one that has cost the local campesinos prison time, repression and death. To this is added the scorn toward the indigenous peoples (in this state live the decedents of the ancient Otomangue people: Chichimecs and Toltecs, Ñahñús and Mazahuas). And in addition to the unemployment problem among the youth, the immigration problem is another issue that inundates the towns and communities of these lands.

After listening to dozens of speakers, among them men of the fields who expressed themselves with a lump in their throats and barely restrained tears, Marcos shared his perspectives.

With respect to the situation in the countryside, he said that what is now happening is a new Conquista, a second conquest of Mexico, in which governments utilize the legal system to appropriate communal lands (known in Mexico as ejidos) that hold many natural resources of great interest to big buisness.

He explained: “This is because as capitalism advances, all things become commodities. No longer just what is produced in the fields, or what is produced in the factory or goods that can be traded; nature, too becomes a commodity. The water, the forests, the soil. The best-known example is oil, which has become a commodity and is supposedly the property of the nation, managed by the state through PEMEX. But as capitalism advanced along with its destruction of the world, water became a commodity, as did the air, nature, the animals, the insects, the plants — everything in the countryside. These treasures used to be nothing but pleasant scenery to them, and now they have become valuable. But it turns out that these lands or these treasures are on communal ejido lands. It’s not that governments are actually interested in using or recuperating those lands for any specific use of their own.”

Photo: D.R. 2006 Bertha Rodríguez Santos
Minutes earlier, a farmer had spoken about how in 1975 the government expropriated hundreds of acres to clear the way for construction of the Chichimequillas-Querétero highway. Later that same year, the government did the same thing, but this time to build a Social Re-Adaptation Center (CERESO in its Spanish initials), a town market and a “Youth Protection Council.” In 1984, the peasant farmers requested that their ejido be enlarged, but the answer they received was repression from then-governor Mariano Palacios Alcocer.

About this, Delegate Zero said: “It is really outrageous and it is the first time we have heard of land being taken from the campesinos in order to make a prison to lock them up in; to make a Youth Protection Council, which is really an elegant way of saying a prison for minors. And who is going to be sent there? Not the children of (First Lady) Marta Sahagún; it will be the children of the same campesinos who had their lands taken away. In that prison, and in those courts, the campesinos will be tried for rebelling against the theft of their lands. It’s not even that the government built some kind of productive factory, or divided the land among other peasant farmers, or built something to benefit the community; it made a prison for both the youth and the adults who live on these same lands.”

“There is a double prison” for the peasant farmer, he said, “which means that first they take away the peoples’ lands and leave them unable to work, and then there is the prison itself where they put them for having fought for their rights. We know that the prisons, as the leaders here from the FOIZ (Independent Front of Zapatista Organizations) have told us, are for the people who are rebelling, and not just here in Querétero but, as we have heard, in all the states that we have passed through. The governments’ answer for the people struggling for their rights is jail, or persecution, or, as you have told us here, the offer of moving them to another state, into exile.”

He added that “now, in this new stage, it is not like before when the government snatched up the land and expropriated it for its own interests. Now — as the compañeros from the Sierra Gorda, from La Veracruz, from Querétero and also from other parts of Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Puebla and Oaxaca have told us — the government is taking land from the campesinos for no other purpose than to sell it to investors. Not to the congressman or the senator who is making the law. The judge that is granting or denying these legal protections is really an employee of those big companies and receiving orders from them.”

“So,” he continued, “these changes that they made to the Constitution and all the laws that all the political parties — the PRI, the PAN and even the PRD — are passing are aimed at legalizing displacement, at the new Conquista that they are doing of the Mexican countryside. This is not very well known, but the new Biodiversity Law, the law on natural resources and genetically modified corn that passed through the majority of the political parties, is a law that benefits the big corporations and robs communities of the right to make decisions about their own land.”

Governments, he said, act consciously on behalf of the capitalists: “In Mexico there are two laws, the law from above and the law from below. The law from above for rural Mexico is dictated by a War of Conquest, destruction and clearing of land that is left devastated. It’s just that instead of bombs they are going to use these government programs like PROCEDE (the communal land privatization program) and PROCAMPO (federal agricultural subsidies), which consist of cornering the campesino, leaving him with nothing and forcing him to sell his land… This was not possible before because communal farmers could not sell their land, as it was the property of the community.

“The rich and the politicians that work for them have already done studies of the soil, of the wealth beneath it… it is all about reconquering the land… the government is not going to legalize those lands because its goal is to take over them. There is no hope for the Mexican countryside within the system; the only way to resolve the problem is with a great uprising, destroying the system that is being propped up there — capitalism. We have to get rid of all the big landowners, and now, with these new developments, not just the landowner but the businessman, and not just the industrialist but the businessman who builds hotels, who exploits water or strategic materials. That is who now wants this land. We now don’t only have to fight the big landowner who sets us to work like peons. This is not the time of Porfirio Díaz anymore. Now the one who is going to take possession of the land will be a landowner who no longer needs peons; we’re useless to him now, we get in his way, and he has to eliminate us. They want to push the peasant farmer into the most extreme misery, counting on him not having the strength, the guts, or the courage to rise up like in 1910.”

In terms of the immigration problem, he said, “the gringos are now saying that they’re going to close the border; they don’t like so many frijoleros coming in; so many Mexicans crossing. Because what if the Mexicans don’t love the gringos, and what if they get the idea up there of rebelling? If they’re already inside how will the gringos get them out? They’re going to close the border and that’s going to make Mexico into a pressure cooker that could explode at any moment.”

Some speakers commented that this struggle is a long-term one, and doubted that they would live to see any real change. To this, the subcomandante responded: “We are going to see it ourselves or no one is going to see it, because if we don’t rise up right now on a national level, not just the countryside but the entire republic is going to be destroyed. Neoliberalism is going to make Mexico into a nation where only he who produces and he who has purchasing power is worth anything.”

A solution that gets to the heart of the matter “is to change everything; is for the land to belong to he who works it, and to disregard all the government’s trade agreements. Fuck the Agrarian Reform, the agrarian tribunals, the judges, the special legal protections, all of it. The only thing we need is the organizing strength that comes from the knowledge that this land is ours because we work it; that it belonged to our parents and to our grandparents. And if (Senator Diego) Fernández de Cevallos or anyone else shows up to tell us, look, here is this piece of paper (saying you don’t own the land), well, that paper’s no good… Their judicial system and their laws are there to serve the rich… We have to rebuild the communal fabric, build relationships with other organizations. The result of all these struggles must be a new country, born of the Other Campaign.”

Photo: D.R. 2006 Bertha Rodríguez Santos
Marcos said that a struggle is taking shape in which the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) is joining the local/regional struggles of “so many organizations that this paper is not big enough to list their names, that this country is not big enough to contain their heart. That is going to begin to happen… and we may be many or we may be few, but our heart does not fit in the Mexican southeast; that is why we are doing this work. Our heart may not even fit within the border of the Rio Grande, and so we are going to hop over to the United States, to talk with the Mexicans that are on the other side.”

During the meeting, the indigenous contingent expressed its pain. A Ñahñú woman said, between tears: “When we held a sit-in we slept on the floor. We went to gather some cardboard to sleep on. Then some people started to say, ‘ay, now those dogs are going to sleep, they are making their nest.’ That night they woke us up because they said they had to wash the floor. They got us up around one or two in the morning and were throwing water on us. While we were there we went into the bathroom, and there were some secretaries or something in there who turned up their noses at us, so disgusted were they. ‘Those Indians are here,’ they said. And so I said to a light-skinned woman, ‘thank God you have something to eat because of the Indians.’ ‘Where did this bitch come from that is pointing her snout at me?’ she answered. So I said to her: ‘thank God that the mestizo was baptized in the same place as the Indian.’ So, we have suffered much in that regard.”

José Ricardo Balderas Hernández, an indigenous man from San Miguelito, told the story of repression and mistreatment they have received for defending their lands. For many years they have been perused by the police. At times they have been “tied up like animals” to be taken to jail for the mere crime of defending their lands.

Both despite of and because of this situation, the approximately 600 participants expressed their will to join the Other Campaign.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America