Rebel group incites war in Mexico

Citing the theme of liberty, victory, democracy and justice, the Zapatistas paint the side of a dwelling place in the rebellious territory of Oventic.

Netza Smith

Citing the theme of liberty, victory, democracy and justice, the Zapatistas paint the side of a dwelling place in the rebellious territory of Oventic.

On Jan. 1, 1994, a rebel group based in the southeastern state of Chiapas, Mexico declared war on the Mexican government. The war was specifically declared on the government of President Salinas and on the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

The group that set off the war calls itself Zapatistas, in memory of the revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.

Emiliano Zapata was a rebel who lived during the Porfirio Diaz dictatorship of 1911-1912. During this time, Mexicans were denied the right to own land that was previously owned by the government, but given to them though reform laws.

Zapata was an instrumental figure in the disposition of Diaz, and his cause for war embalmed in his saying Tierra y Libertad, Land and Liberty, is why the Zapatistas use his name.

The Zapatistas emerge from a tradition of great inequality in both wealth and rights. A convention that people, like Emiliano Zapata and groups, formed by the people who suffer from the inequality the most have made an effort to change.

At the heart of the Zapatista movement are those who find themselves in ignorance, oppression and poverty, the indigenous people of Mexico.

The Zapatistas are mainly formed by descendents of the pre-Hispanic culture of the Mayas and speak languages that have their root in the ancient Mayan language.

These descendents of the once great Mayan culture are fighting for things as simple as roofs over their heads, work and food, mixed with more abstract issues, which are often tough to substantiate, such as dignity and respect.

The point of disagreement between the government and the Zapatistas is not whether the indigenous people suffer worse living conditions than the average Mexican, but what to do about it.

The government has long held more aid and investment in regions heavily populated by indigenous people, coupled with time, will raise their quality of life.

The Zapatistas argue such actions aren’t enough. They argue the progress of the indigenous people hinges on constitutional reforms allowing them to organize and live based on their cultural customs and practices.

The Zapatistas go as far as accusing the government of undeclared genocidal war against Mexico’s indigenous people.

They defend their claim saying the indigenous people have been denied basic liberties and rights that have forced them into disadvantaged positions.

In essence, the indigenous people the Zapatistas represent aren’t fighting only for material progress, but progress derived from being able to practice their customs of social and political organization, to speak their languages, among other cultural points.

Sub-comandante Marcos highlights this point when he said the any aid program in Chiapas looks to create a businessperson while destroying an indigenous one.

Although some people claim the Zapatistas reflect only a segment of the deprived in Mexico, those who are extremist when they think war is necessary.

Others disagree and argue that the Zapatistas emerged as a natural consequence from the prolonged and permanent struggles of the Mexican people against the country’s great inequality.

It is true the Zapatistas at times appear radical, especially when they make comments about how the government is a traitor who sold half the country to foreign invaders.

But their action for war isn’t necessarily radical.

The Zapatistas support their military action by saying it is their right and duty as citizens according the Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution that reads:

“National Sovereignty essentially and originally resides in the people. All political power emanates from the people and its purpose is to help the people. The people have, at all times, the inalienable right to alter or modify their form of government.”