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Zapatistas retake San Cristobal

The new year brought a new hope into the Zapatista struggle in Chiapas, Mexico. For complete audio, video and photo coverage visit San Diego Indymedia
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Marking the twelfth anniversary of its uprising, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) launched the next phase in its struggle Jan. 1 to a thunderously warm send-off from thousands of supporters in the overfilled Plaza de Resistencia in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.

The six-member Zapatista command, four men and two women, assumed the stage with a backdrop bearing a mural of Emiliano Zapata as a sea of black balaclavas, red bandanas, banners, Mexican citizens, internationals-in-solidarity and tourists cheered on. Banners lifted high in the air announced, “Long Live the EZLN!"

Thousands of Zapatistas joined the command in the plaza, marching into town after arriving on the outskirts of San Cristobal from their jungle or highland communities. The crowd poured into surrounding streets as the plaza filled until the early evening hours. Estimates of 15,000 participants were reported in La Jornada, Mexico’s leftist daily newspaper.

Five commandantes spoke, taking the time to remember all of the fallen Zapatistas from twelve years of struggle. An astounding silence took over the boisterous crowd.

Addressing the crowd from the stage, EZLN Subcomandante Marcos showed an injury on his hand he sustained earlier that day from falling off his motorcycle, called “Sombraluz.? Marcos plans to spend the coming months traveling to all 32 Mexican states on his motorcycle under the name of “Delegate Zero,? consulting various grassroots organizations and individuals. His journey is the first part of the Zapatista “La Otra Campaña,? which proposes the building of a broad non-electorate, anti-capitalist left in Mexico, which is traditionally marred by corrupt party politics.

“We are going to begin the walk to accomplish our promise from the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle. But first it’s my turn to leave to see what this path will be like and to learn to recognize the face and the word of the companero y companera. To unite our Zapatista struggle with the struggle of the workers in the fields and the city in our country that is called Mexico,? Marcos said.

“If anything bad happens to me, you will know that I have been proud to struggle on your side. You all have been the greatest teachers and members and I’m sure that you will continue carrying on the good path of our struggle, teaching all of us to be better with the word dignity.

“We are the wind. We’re not afraid to die in the struggle. The good word has already been planted in good land. This good land is the heart of you all and it flourishes with Zapatista dignity.?

La Otra Campaña springs from the Sixth Declaration of the Lacondan Jungle, better known as the Sexta. The long declaration resulted from the nearly month-long red alert that occurred in June 2005, where the EZLN closed its bases in retreat for internal consultation.

The text of the Sexta calls for a different approach in Mexican politics where different sectors of society will be united in movement for social change. Previously an indigenous peasant movement, the Zapatistas propose to bring together workers, rural and urban poor, people of oppressed sexual identities, teachers, students, other indigenous groups, small businesses, NGOs, cooperatives and collectives and independent individuals. The purpose of the national tour is to visit and listen.

The Zapatista philosophy has been to always walk while questioning. So after twelve years of organizing autonomous communities while experiencing government intimidation, harassment and assassination and forced displacement, the Zapatistas see it necessary to broaden their struggle to a national level. In a sense, the red alert called in June not only served as a call of distress just for the Zapatistas but for the country as a whole.

The people of Mexico live a myriad of problems and crises. Violence ensconces this country with government-supported drug trafficking in the North and the femnicide of 400 women in Ciudad Juarez. To the South, indigenous people desperately hold on to their lands as massive displacement caused by neoliberal programs eye abundant natural resources. Every year, tens of thousands of Mexicans leave the miserable economic conditions of their homeland in a dangerous journey to the U.S., risking to cross the militarized border in search of some better future as exploited workers.

Marcos arrived Sunday at San Cristobal from La Garrucha, a Zapatista village integrated in the string of caracol headquarters in the Chiapan jungle. The day before at La Garrucha hundreds of indigenous people celebrated the twelfth anniversary of the 1994 Zapatista uprising, a battle cry heard round the world as an army of indigenous resisters took several townships, beginning their public struggle for autonomy, recognition and survival.

The Junta del Buen Gobierno from the Caracol Resistencia, La Garrucha’s Caracol, released the following statement:

“Compañeros and compañeras, EZLN support bases, for 12 years we have been resisting attacks of all kinds. They have attacked us with bullets, with torture and jail, with lies, contempt and forgetting, but here we are, and we, the most small of this land, shall continue. And here we will continue being Zapatistas, even though the bad government wants to do away with our Autonomous Municipalities, which they attentively listen to and watch. They do not want what they see. This struggle has begun, and no one can stop it.?