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MEXICO: Marcos and the EZLN

Russ Barley is sympathetic toward Marcos and the EZLN:

"How extraordinary: we are presently observing an historic event on our southern frontier and the U.S. public doesn't have a clue. That, of course, is because the U.S. media have virtually ignored it (as has WAIS), limiting any reference to this unprecedented manifestation of popular sentiment to dismissive asides about Marcos and his ski-masked companions. But then Americans have always tended to confuse image and substance, to their very great detriment. I am surprised that those who consider themselves world affairs specialists in this country have not seen fit to examine — soberly and publicly the ongoing sea change in Mexican politics. What we are witnessing, quite simply, is a fundamental transformation of the terms of political discourse in Mexico; it "began" with the defeat of the PRI, which made it possible for the zapatistas to leave their Lacandón redoubt, and is now moving to a qualitatively new political stage. The old assumptions about power and governance in Mexico no longer obtain. To ignore this fact is to invite rude awakenings and other unpleasantness down the road. And not, perhaps, all that far down the road".

My comment: I agree that there is a general lack of awareness of what is going on in Mexico, which I view as the most serious problem facing the US. The March 01 issue of the excellent World Press Review has a story headlined "Top 10 stories of 2000". It analyses ten lists from different capitals, an excellent way of assessing differences of viewpoint and perception around the world. Only La Nación of Costa Rica mentions Mexico: the election of Fox, not the Zapatista advance. The two US lists, AP and Pew Research Center, have only one Latin American story: the Elián González custody dispute, which AP rates as the second most important story of the year!!!

However, I disagree strongly with the statement that WAIS has virtually ignored it. Indeed, we follow it with as much care as anyone. Put simply, what is happening in Mexico and Colombia is an extension of what happened in Cuba. Both the EZLN and the FARC are engaged in conversations with government representatives, but their aim is to pose as peaceful, which everyone wants to appear. Even Hitler did. The FARC has no leader as intelligent and savvy as Marcos. Instead of going to Mexico City directly, he is making a big circle around it, being last in Querétaro, not far from Fox`s base in Guanajuato. We have a WAISer in Querataro, an American married to a Mexican. I will ask her to report on Marcos and his Zapatistas, who seem to have been well received there. Querétaro TV plays an important role in Mexico, since its signal can be received throughout central Mexico. Marcos could be a public relations tycoon, and he knows his TV.

We shall be very lucky if there is not a violent clash between the forces of Fox, backed by the US, and those of Marcos. It is unlikely that the Bush administration would tolerate a Castro-style regime in Mexico. Brazil would be in an even more difficult position with regard to the FARC. I personally am acutely aware of the shortcomings of the capitalist system, but how to remedy them is an extraordinarily difficult task. Young semi-literate men who spend their lives as gun-toting guerrillas are not up to the task. Were Marcos to prevail, he would incorporate them into his army and chose his own technicians. How far are Mexicans aware of the possibilities? What do they think of the Castro regime? I have seen no reliable study. But we know what the Bush administration thinks.

Ronald Hilton - 3/2/01