June 29, 2005

The future of the EZLN...what's next?

Mexico's Zapatista rebels to weigh future (link)
By Tim Gaynor

Mexico's Zapatista rebel group is ready to take "a new step in the struggle" as it consults with members on the future of its 11-year-old fight for Indian rights, leader Subcomandante Marcos said on Tuesday.

But Marcos did not say what the rebels' new direction might be, only that members would be free to decide whether or not to follow the path chosen by the majority.

The group "is proposing to its sympathizers, who make up the supreme command of our movement, a new step in the struggle," Marcos said in a statement.

Last weekend he criticized the leftist frontrunner for presidential elections next year, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, for betraying the left, in a possible sign the Zapatistas might aspire to mainstream politics.

The Zapatistas, also known by their Spanish-language acronym EZLN, announced on Monday they were grouping fighters in bases, suspending their radio station and pulling political officers out of villages in the state of Chiapas.

Marcos, who became an anti-globalization icon in the mid-1990s hidden behind a ski mask, said the alert was a defensive move to protect the group from the military while it held internal consultations.

"All Zapatistas are now morally free to follow or not the EZLN in the next stage being considered, if it is approved by the majority," he said.

At the time unknown, the Zapatistas shocked Mexico and the world when they emerged shooting from the jungle on New Year's Day 1994 to fight for Indian rights.

There have been no clashes for years and the pipe-smoking Marcos has even begun a new part-time career as a crime author, co-writing the novel "Uncomfortable Deaths."

He said the guerrillas' new strategy move would be "a step that implies, among other things, risking the loss of the lot or the little that has been gained."


President Vicente Fox vowed during campaigning for elections in 2000 to negotiate an end the Zapatista conflict "in 15 minutes" but the issue fell off the radar screen.

The rebels suffered a serious setback in 2001 when Congress watered down an Indian-rights law that the Zapatista leadership had set as a condition for returning to peace talk.

On Monday, Marcos, said political officers who worked in Zapatista-run local administrations, known as "good-government councils," were going into hiding.

Local officials in San Cristobal de las Casas said the Zapatista stronghold village of Oventic some 25 miles away was almost abandoned.

They showed a video of the village deserted on Monday night after the alert.

"Closed Due To Red Alert" read a sign above a rebel headquarters there. Only a handful of the village's several hundred people remained.

Posted by Kyer at June 29, 2005 11:31 AM