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MEXICO: Marcos as a demagog



I am puzzled by the woman who stands besides Marcos, and translates his speech into sign language- I wondered if she was translating them into Nahuatl. Tim Brown says: "Why would Marcos be translated into Nahuatl? His followers are suppose to be mostly Lacandon Maya to whom Nahuatl is as foreign as Swedish is to a Greek." True, but of the 1,00 Indians only a small number came from Chiapas. Most of them joined the caravan along the way. However, I do not believe many of them would know sign language. My guess is that he was trying to attract the deaf as one more group which has a grievance against the Mexican government. Can any WAISer clarify this point?

Marcos is a demagog. Believe it or not, Tiro Fijo of the Colombian FARC is more reasonable. Marcos uses boastful insults, as for example against PAN leader Senator Diego Fernández de Cevallos, who is also a journalist. He opposed Marcos' demand to be allowed to address a joint session of the Mexican Congress unless he took off his ski-mask. Marcos retorted that he had sold out to foreigners (ie. the US). The Senator replied with contained fury. The governor of Mexico City Manuel López Obrador applauded Marcos.

Many Mexicans agreed with Marcos that the Indians had real grievances. Yet they were even more concerned about the corruption and crime which made life in Mexico unpleasant asd dangerous. Televisa ran a series of TV programs called "The real Mexico" confirming this, One showed how workmen in cemeteries emptying coffins, selling them as new and also selling the skeletons to medical students. One journalist got a skull for 50 pesos, five dollars. Marcos arrived in Mexico City when people were aching for change.

It was unwise of Marcos supporters to take on not just one but a lot of Mexican journalists, who were prevented from interviewing him (why was not clear). The Fox government said that this was against the guarantee of free speech, and spoke of taking legal action against him. The government threatened to take legal action against the "white monkeys" because, as foreigners, they had broken Mexican law. The situation was confused; it sounded as though the "white monkeys" had fought with Mexican journalists. Marcos said that if the Mexican Congress would not let him address it, he would address the European Parliament. He was assuming that the European Parliament would allow him to do so; perhaps he had an assurance that it would. The government replied that for this he would have to ask for a passport, which it could refuse. Marcos called on Europe to blockade Mexico (!).

While European leftists applauded Marcos, a big question would be the attitude of the ever more numerous Mexican-Americans, many of whom had gone to Mexico to meet the Zapatistas. The use of the expression "the Race" (la Raza) by Mexican-Americans to describe themselves has dangerous implications. They might use the example of Marcos to demand their rights.

In the Southwest there is more of a racial problem than people realize, going back to its annexation by the United States. The main clash was in New Mexico. In 1884 a gang of Texan cowboys arrived in Reserve and began to spread terror among the local Mexicans. In Socorro Elfego Baca fought back successfully and became a local hero. There is now a movement to erect a monument to him. In early 2001 a bank robber named Shane Chubbock was applauded by the female cashiers for promising to send the money he had just stolen to help the Zapatista rebels in Mexico.

It is possible to like Mexican Americans and yet to wonder what role they will play if the Mexican crisis becomes bloody.

Ronald Hilton - 3/19/01


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