Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

International SQUALL

Zapatista!

Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pg. 57.

Two and a half years after the Zapatista uprising in Mexico, resistance movements, both armed and unarmed, continue to challenge the establishment. Talks between Zapatista rebels in Chiapas and the Government continue, while security forces in Guerrero comb the mountains for a new guerrilla group, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), which has recently emerged.

The EPR made their first appearance at a memorial service for 17 peasant activists shot dead by security forces on July 28 last year. Around 80 masked fighters, equipped with Kalashnikov rifles, appeared at the service and fired a volley into the air. Rumours of insurgent activity have been rife in the state for several years. Some reports suggest that the EPR may be linked to the OCSS, a peasant land-rights organisation whose members were killed in the massacre.

A guerrilla group called ‘the party of the poor’ was active in Guerrero in the early 1970s. It was wiped out in a counter-insurgency campaign, but its leaders remain popular heroes.

The EPR has not claimed any links with the EZLN (Zapatistas), nor have the EZLN commented on the emergence of the new group, although their leaders have frequently stated that there were other armed insurgent groups in Mexico. The Guerrero guerrillas, in contrast to the EZLN, appeared well-equipped with matching uniforms and modern guns. A leak from military intelligence two years ago has suggested that a shipment of thousands of AK-47s was on its way to Guerrero from the US.

Meanwhile, Zapatista rebels hosted an international gathering of activists in the Lacandon forest in the first week of August. Around 3,000 people, including human- rights activists, assorted dissidents, and exguerrilla fighters braved the rainy season in the forest to discuss ways of establishing a global network of resistance. The Zapatistas say they aim to create a ‘new world’.

Two Mexican journalists, Jorge Elorriaga and Sebastian Entzin, have also been released after a court overturned their convictions for terrorism, rebellion, and conspiracy. The two journalists, who were making a film about the Zapatistas, were arrested last year and accused of being leaders of the 1994 EZLN uprising.

The 13 and six year sentences handed out to the pair led to EZLN negotiators threatening to pull out of talks. Although peace talks continue, the conditions which created the Zapatista uprising have not changed. In fact, economic reforms, including privatisations, introduced in the wake of last year’s economic crisis, have created a new strata of super-rich in Mexico, while conditions for both the poor and the middle-classes have become harsher.

Ursula Wills-Jones