Chiapas Rebellion, 1994

The indigenous farmers of Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas have a long history of conflict with the Mexican government over land rights and economic exploitation. In the early 1990s, the Mexican government under President Salinas enacted constitutional reforms that were required as a pre-condition to Mexico entering the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). These reforms allowed for the privatization of land that had been traditionally communally held and farmed by indigenous communities, which essentially made many indigenous farmers illegal squatters on land that their communities had occupied for centuries. On the day that Mexico officially entered NAFTA, January 1 1994, an armed insurgence erupted in the Chiapas region led by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), taking its name from the famed agricultural and indigenous rights activist of the Mexican Revolution, Emiliano Zapata. The Mexican government quickly isolated the uprising, but has never managed to regain full control of the Chiapas region, which continues to assert its autonomy.

zapatistas_1A roadside sign in Chiapas alerts travelers that they are in Zapatista controlled territory.


Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle: Today We Say “Enough”, 1 January 1994

Communique from the CCRI-CG of the EZLN, 6 January 1994

Hope also lives in our hearts, 12 January 1994

President Salinas’ speech (summary), 12 January 1994

Our Flag Joins Other Forces Under the Mexican Flag, 20 January 1994

President Salinas’ address to the people of Chiapas, 25 January 1994

Salinas’ speech on the assassination of Colosio, 24 March 1994

Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle: Today We Say “Enough”, 1 January 1994 Top

Source: Frank Bardacke and Leslie Lopez, eds. 1995. Shadows of Tender Fury. New York: Monthly Review Press.

To the People of Mexico

Mexican brothers and sisters,

We are the product of five hundred years of struggle: first against slavery; then in the insurgent-led war of Independence against Spain; later in the fight to avoid being absorbed by North American expansion; next to proclaim our Constitution and expel the French from our soil; and finally, after the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz refused to fairly apply the reform laws, in the rebellion where the people created their own leaders. In that rebellion Villa and Zapata emerged – poor men, like us.

We are denied the most elementary education so that they can use us as cannon fodder and plunder our country’s riches, uncaring that we are dying of hunger and curable diseases. Nor do they care that we have nothing, absolutely nothing, no decent roof over our heads, no land, no work, no health, no food, no education. We do not have the right to freely and democratically elect our own authorities, nor are we independent of foreigners, nor do we have peace or justice for ourselves and our children.

But today we say enough! We are the heirs of the people who truly forged our nation, we are the millions of the dispossessed, and we call on all of our brothers and sisters to join us on the only path that will allow us to escape a starvation caused by the insatiable ambition of a seventy-year-old dictatorship, led by a small inner clique of traitors who represent ultra-conservative groups ready to sell out our country. They are the same people who opposed Hidalgo and Morelos,those who betrayed Vicente Guerrero, those who sold more than half off our country to the foreign invader, those who brought a European prince to govern us, those who formed a dictatorship of cientificos porfiristas, those who opposed to Petroleum Expropriation, and those who massacred the railroad workers in 1958 and the students in 1968 – they are all the very same ones who today take everything from us, absolutely everything.

After we tried to do everything legally possible, based on our Magna Carta, to stop all this, as a last hope we invoke that same document, our Constitution, Article 39, which says:

“National sovereignty resides, essentially and originally, in the people. All public power emanates from the people, and is constituted for the benefit of the same. The people have, at all times, the inalienable right to alter or modify the form of their government.”

Therefore, as per the terms of our Constitution, we send this declaration to the Mexican Federal Army, one of the basic pillars of the dictatorship under which we suffer. This army is controlled exclusively by the party in power, headed by the federal executive office, which is today unlawfully held by the illegitimate head of state, Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

Congruent with this Declaration of War, we ask other Powers of the Nation to take up the fight to depose the dictator and restore legitimacy and stability to this nation.

We also ask that international organizations and the international Red Cross observe and regulate any combat involving our forces so as to protect the civilian population; we declare that we are now, and always will be, subject to the Laws of War of the Geneva Convention, which defines the EZLN as a belligerent force in our struggle for liberation.

The Mexican people are on our side; we are patriots and our insurgent soldiers love and respect our tricolored flag; we use red and black on our uniforms, the same colors working people use when on strike; on our flag are the letters “EZLN,” Zapatista Army of National Liberation, and we always carry that flag into battle.

We reject, in advance, any and all efforts to discredit the just cause of our struggle by accusing us of being drug traffickers, or drug guerrillas, or bandits, or whatever other characterizations our enemies might use. Our struggle is in accordance with our constitutional rights and our goal is justice and equality.

Therefore, and in accordance with this Declaration of War, we give the military forces of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation the following orders:

First. Advance to the capital of the country, defeat the Mexican Federal Army, protecting and liberating the civilian population along your liberating march, and permit the liberated peoples to elect, freely and democratically, their own administrative authorities.

Second. Respect the life of all prisoners and turn over any wounded to the International Red Cross for medical attention.

Third. Initiate summary judgments against the soldiers of the Mexican Federal Army and the political police who have taken courses or have been advised, or trained, or paid by foreigners either inside or outside the country; those who are accused of treason; and those who repress or mistreat the civilian population or assault the public welfare.

Fourth. Form new ranks with all Mexicans who show an interest in joining our just struggle, including those enemy soldiers who give up without fighting our troops and who swear to follow the orders of the General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Fifth. Ask for the unconditional surrender of enemy barracks before making war against them.

Sixth. Suspend the plunder of our natural resources in all the areas controlled by the EZLN.

PEOPLE OF MEXICO. We, men and women, upright and free, are conscious that we now declare is a last resort, but it is also just. The dictatorship has been waging an undeclared genocidal war against our communities for many years. We now ask for your committed participation and support for this plan of the people of Mexico who struggle for work, land, housing, food, health, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice, and peace. We declare that we will not stop fighting until we win these basic demands of our people, forming a free and democratic government.

Join the insurgent forces of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

General Command of the EZLN

Communique from the CCRI-CG of the EZLN, 6 January 1994 Top

Source: Frank Bardacke and Leslie Lopez, eds. 1995. Shadows of Tender Fury. New York: Monthly Review Press.

“Here we are, the forever dead, dying once again, but now in order to live.”

To the people of Mexico
To the people and governments of the world

Brothers and sisters,

On January 1 of this year, our Zapatista troops began a series of political-military actions whose primary objective was to inform the Mexican people and the rest of the world about the miserable conditions in which millions of Mexicans, especially us, the indigenous people, live and die. With these actions we also let the world know of our decision to fight for our most elementary rights in the only way that the governmental authorities have left us: armed struggle.

The serious poverty that we share with our fellow citizens has a common cause: the lack of freedom and democracy. We think that authentic respect for the liberties and democratic will of the people are the indispensable prerequisites for the improvement of the economic and social conditions of the dispossessed of our country. For this reason, at the same time that we unfurl the banner of improving the material conditions of the people of Mexico, we demand freedom and democracy by calling for the resignation of the illegitimate government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari and the formation of a government of democratic transition, which would guarantee fair elections at all levels of government throughout the country.

We reiterate that both our political and economic demands are now in effect, and we will try to unite all the Mexican people and their independent organizations around them so that, through varied forms of struggle, a national revolutionary movement will be born with a place for all kinds of social organizations whose honest and patriotic goal is a better Mexico….

To the Federal Army:
The present conflict unmasks, once again, the face of the Federal Army and reveals its true character and purpose: indiscriminate repression, the violation of all human rights, and the total lack of military ethics and honor. The Federal Army’s murders of women and children in the combat zone show the world an army out of control. We call on the officers and troops of the army to refuse to carry out orders to exterminate civilians and to summarily execute the wounded and prisoners of the war, and instead to maintain your own military honor and ethics. We reiterate our invitation to you to abandon the ranks of the bad government and to join the just cause of the people, who, as you yourselves have seen, only want to live in peace with justice or to die with dignity. We have respected the lives of the soldiers and police who have surrendered to our forces, while you take pleasure in summarily executing the wounded Zapatistas, unable to fight, who fall into your hands or those who surrender. If you begin to attack our families and do not respect the wounded and prisoners, we will begin to do the same.

To the people of Mexico: Finally, we call all workers, poor peasants, teachers, students, progressive and honest intellectuals, housewives, professionals, and all independent political organizations to join our struggle in your own way using your own methods, so that we can win the justice and freedom that all Mexicans desire.

We will not turn in our arms!
We want justice, not pardon or charity!

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
CCRI-CG of the EZLN, Mexico
January 1994
(Signed) Subcomandante Marcos

Hope also lives in our hearts, 12 January 1994 Top

Source: Frank Bardacke and Leslie Lopez, eds. 1995. Shadows of Tender Fury. New York: Monthly Review Press.

CCRI-CG of the EZLN, January 12, 1994

“Hope also lives in our hearts.”

To the people of Mexico
To the peoples and governments of the world

Brothers and sisters,

Today, January 12, 1994, we learned that Sr. Carlos Salinas de Gortari, in his role as Supreme Commander of the Federal Army, ordered a cease-fire of federal troops. The secretary of national defense added that they would continue with air and land patrols, that they would not abandon the positions that they currently occupy, and that they would impede the movement of our combatants.

The CCRI-CG of the EZLN hails this decision of Sr. Salinas de Gortari and sees it as a first step toward initiating the dialogue between the warring parties.

The conditions proposed by the CCRI-CG of the EZLN in its January 6, 1994, communique as requirements for initiating the dialogue have not been totally fulfilled. HOwever, Carlos Salinas de Goratri’s declaration is a beginning.

In return, the CCRI-CG of the EZLN, the collective and supreme leader of rebel Zaptista troops, hereby orders:

First. All regular, irregular, and urban command units of the various branches and services of the EZLN are ordered to suspend all offensive operations against federal troops and the positions that said troops now occupy.

Second. All regular, irregular, and urban command units of the various branches and services of the EZLN are ordered to maintain the positions they now occupy and respond firmly and decisively if they are attacked by Federal Army troops by land or air.

Third. The EZLN’s offensive cease-fire order will be carried out the moment that this communique is received, and until then the CCRI-CG of the EZLN will maintain itself as it considers to be prudent and necessary.

Fourth. We will under no circumstances turn in our weapons or surrender our forces to the bad government. This cease-fire is intended to alleviate the situation of the civilian population in the combat zone, and to open channels of dialogue with all progressive and democratic sectors of Mexico.

Our struggle is righteous and true; it is not a response to personal interests, but to the will for freedom of all the Mexican people and of the indigenous people in particular. We want justice and we will carry on because hope also lives in our heart.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast

President Salinas’ speech (summary), 12 January 1994 Top

Source: Lawrence Kootnikoff. 1994. “Salinas Declares Cease-Fire,” 12 January 1994, The Associated Press. Retrieved from LexisNexis Academic 16 April 2012.

President Carlos Salinas de Gortari declared a unilateral cease-fire today in southern Mexico and said soldiers were ordered not to fire unless they come under attack.

In a nationally televised speech, he called on the rebels to turn in their arms and promised to pardon them. There was no immediate response from the insurgents.

“Taking into account that the army has attained its first objective in its constitutional duty … I have taken the decision to suspend all military intiatives in the state of Chiapas,” Salinas said.

The military said troops had taken control of all conflict zones in the state of Chiapas except for the small town of Guadalupe Tepeyac, just north of the border with Guatemala, where about 500 rebels were entrenched.

Troops were advancing toward Guadalupe Tepeyac and would be there as soon as they can repair roads destroyed by the rebels, the military said earlier in a statement.

The rebels of the Zapatista National Liberation Army said they would negotiate with the government if the military stopped bombing, withdrew its soldiers and recognized their movement.

Otherwise, they threatened to carry the war to Mexico City, where bombings linked to the uprising that began New Year’s Day have put the government on alert and residents on edge.
The uprising began in Chiapas, 390 miles southeast of the capital. Rebels occupied towns for days, saying they were fighting for better living conditions and an end to the exploitation of Mexico’s native Indians.

They pulled back into hideouts in remote areas when the army started to move in. Officials said 107 people have died in the fighting.

In the capital, newly appointed peace commissioner Manuel Camacho Solis met with Roman Catholic leaders from southern Mexico, including Bishop Samuel Ruiz of San Cristobal de las Casas, an outspoken defender of indigenous rights. It was the first attempt to negotiate an end to the rebel uprising.

“It’s necessary to rebuild the political process in the region,” said Camacho, who stepped down as foreign minister to take the job. “We’ll have to find a dignified political exit for all.”

The soft-spoken Camacho gained a reputation as a savvy negotiator while mayor of Mexico City. He is seen as a progressive within the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has ruled Mexico since 1929 through a blend of populism, repression and election fraud.

Camacho said his first goal was to establish “a truce and then seek a dialogue that will bring peace and reconciliation.” He told a news conference Tuesday that he would travel to Chiapas “soon.”

The rebellion is already adding to the pain of the people whose poverty and hardship it is intended to solve, although the rebels enjoy support.

Our Flag Joins Other Forces Under the Mexican Flag, 20 January 1994 Top

Source: Frank Bardacke and Leslie Lopez, eds. 1995. Shadows of Tender Fury. New York: Monthly Review Press

To all the people of Mexico
To all honest and independent people, civili organizations, and democratic politicians of Mexico
To the peoples and governments of the world

Brothers and sister,

The worthy struggle of the soldiers of the EZLN has received the sympathy of different people, organizations, and sectors of Mexican and international civil society. These progressive forces, through their honorable actions, have opened the possibility of a just political solution to the conflict that darkens our skies. Neither the political will of the federal executive nor the glorious military actions of our soldiers have been decisive in this turn of events. What have been crucial are the public demonstrations in the streets, mountains, and the media by many organizations, and yb the honest independent people who are part of what is called Mexican civil society.

We, Mexico’s last citizens and first patriots, have understood since the beginning that our problems, and those of the entire nation, can only be resolved through a national revolutionary movement with three principal demands: freedom, democracy, and justice.

Our form of struggle is not the only one; for many it may not even be an acceptable one. Other forms of struggle exist and have great value. Our organization is not the only one, for many it may not even be a desirable one. Other honest, progressive, and independent organizations exist and have great value. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation has never claimed that its form of struggle is the only legitimate one. It’s just the only one we were left. The EZLN salutes the honest and necessary development of all forms of struggle that will lead us to freedom, democracy, and justice. The EZLN has never claimed its organization to be the only truthful, honest, and revolutionary one in Mexico, or even Chiapas.

In fact, we organized ourselves this way because we were not left any other way. The EZLN salutes the honest and necessary development of all independent and progressive organizations that fight for freedom, democracy, and justice for the entire nation. There are, and will be, other revolutionary organizations. there are, and will be, other popular armies. We do not claim to be the one and only true historical vanguard. We do not claim that all honest Mexicans can fit under our Zapatista banner. We offer our flag. But here is a bigger and more powerful flag that can shelter us all. The flag of the national revolutionary movement can cover the most diverse tendencies, opinions, and different types of struggle, as long as they were united in a common desire and goal: freedom, democracy, and justice. The EZLN calls on all Mexicans to unfurl this flag: not the flag of the EZLN, not the flag of the armed struggle, but the flag of all thinking beings, the flag that represents the reason and understanding of our people the flag of freedom, democracy, and justice. Under this great flag our Zapatista flag will wave, under this great flag our rifles will be raised.

The struggle for freedom, democracy, and justice is not only the task of the EZLN, it is the task of all Mexicans and all honest, independent, and progressive organizations – each one with its own organization and ideas.

All who walk in truth should walk together on a single path: the one that leads to freedom, democracy, and justice.

Our struggle did not end, nor was our cry silenced after we said, “enough,” on January 1, 1995. There is still more to go, the paths are different by the desire is one: Freedom! Democracy! Justice!

We will continue to struggle until we win the freedom that is our right, the democracy that is our reason, and the justice that is our life.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
Mexico, January 1994

President Salinas’ address to the people of Chiapas, 25 January 1994 Top

Source: BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. “President Salinas addresses people of Chiapas on peace, justice and democracy,” 27 January 1994. Retrieved from LexisNexis Academic, 16 April 1994.

Compatriots in Chiapas: I have been following events closely since the conflict in Chiapas began, and it has been the main concern of the president of the republic. I have always tried to make decisions that would guarantee security for the population. With determination, I opened the path for a peaceful solution of the conflict.

The Mexican army’s role prevented the conflict from extending to other parts of Chiapas State. The army fulfilled its constitutional duty with loyalty and will continue to protect the towns.
Today’s main task is to seek peace by every means. You have witnessed all the efforts made to attain peace and the results obtained so far. Recent developments call for serious meditation from all of us to change old procedures and methods that did not work.

I have come to Chiapas to offer my steadfast support to the state in promoting peace, development and justice. The most important factor will be a change in state relations. Projects and assistance will be defined by the municipalities, social organizations and the state’s congress, with political guidance from Governor Lopez Moreno. Your plans and most urgent projects will be supported by federal government institutions. Along with meeting your most urgent needs, we will redouble efforts to find in-depth solutions for the state’s problems.
Our most urgent task is to work together towards reconciliation. We know that when there are major differences, this is not easy, and therefore, we must try and try again. The task we have ahead of us is everyone’s responsibility and everyone must share it, including government employees, from the most simple service to the highest responsibility. It is also a task for the people of Chiapas and all of the communities. All of us, with the people of Chiapas united for security, justice, peace and democracy, will have to establish better relations with Indian communities by modifying priorities and accepting their decisions. The task we have ahead will not be easy. In facing divisions and rancour, humanitarian feelings and new acts of justice must prevail.

To each family in Chiapas, I want to express my concern and also my sadness over the recent incidents. At the same time, I assure you we have been, and always will be, attentive to your needs. We will do whatever we can to guarantee your safety and promote justice, which are the bases for the tranquility of every family and community.

Here we are. I have just held another meeting with the social organizations. We will continue to focus our efforts on consolidating peace, justice and promoting a better climate of coexistence in Chiapas. Together, united, I am sure we can make it. Thank you very much.

Salinas’ speech on the assassination of Colosio, 24 March 1994 Top

Source: BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, “President Salinas condemns Colosio’s assassination, promises full investigation,” 25 March 1994. Retrieved from LexisNexis Academic, 16 April 1994.

Text of speech by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari from Los Pinos Presidential Palace; broadcast intercepted in progress

– Luis Donaldo Colosio has died today. This is a fact which causes deep indignanation. It is a fact that offends us. It is an offence against all Mexicans and the institutions that we have built throughout our history. It has hurt the deepest convictions of the Mexican people, who have always favoured the path of harmony, law and peace, who have always rejected violence as a method by which to solve our problems.

There is no political or moral reason that justifies violence in Mexico. It is an affront, because there prevailed a climate of dialogue, understanding and of consensus among the political forces, to direct the diverse proposals along the path of law and legal reform. It is an affront to the PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party] members, to the Sonora residents and also to all Mexicans.

We do not accept that enemies of Mexico seek to distort the path of law and harmony. The loss of Luis Donaldo Colosio is the most profound call for Mexicans to remain united, to revive the awareness that we are a peoples of great moral strength and that in the face of adversity we know how to make use of our values and energy to reinforce the firmness of our institutions.
As president of the republic, I am determined to act forcefully. I shall ensure that the law is applied rigorously, and that this crime will be fully investigated. No one is above the law. Mexicans must be sure that the constitution and the law will be complied with at all times.

I make a call for harmony. I have received from political and party leaders expressions of their conviction and commitment to act responsibly in keeping with the new circumstances. We shall maintain our regime of freedom and the constitutional order.

As a Mexican, and as a friend of Luis Donaldo Colosio, I have a lot of affection to offer to his family, his wife Diana Laura, his son Luis Donaldo and his daughter Mariana. Their pain is not beyond me, and I shall try to ease their loss with my closest friendship.

I urge all my compatriots to remain calm despite their indignation. I call on you to reaffirm our shared conviction that we shall be able to overcome this aggravation within the framework of the institutions and the law.

The greatest show of love for Mexico and faith in its future at this time will be accomplished by reinforcing our unity and ensuring that our voice of harmony, as one people, is heard in all parts of our homeland and the entire world.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s