The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (hereafter the “Zapatistas” or the “EZLN”) is a leftist revolutionary group based in Chiapas, Southern Mexico. Whilst the Zapatistas have existed since 1983 they have only entered the public eye since 1994 when they declared war on the Mexican Government, claiming that their activities were not aligned to the will of the people and were, thus, illegitimate.

The majority of the Zapatista populous comprises of indigenous Maya people although, notably, the spokesperson, Subcommander Marcos, is not.

The Zapatistas originally staged several protests and sit-ins before opting for a military revolution, believing that their previous efforts were ineffective. On the 1st of January, 1994, the Zapatistas issued their First Declaration and Revolutionary Laws and declared war on the government. The Zapatistas then seized control of several towns and cities in Chiapas. An estimated 3000 soldiers held these positions for between 12 days and a 13 months before being beaten back by Mexican soldiers, including a breach of ceasefire in February 1995. Many Zapatistas now reside in the Lacandon Jungle.

The Zapatistas National Liberation Front (“FZLN”) is a non-military organisation, comprising of people from all over Mexico, that was set up to hold debates and on the Zapatista beliefs, politics and ideologies.

Beliefs and Ideology[edit | edit source]

Upon breaking away from the Mexican Government, the Zapatistas issued the following demands:

  • Greater democratisation of the Mexican Government
  • Land reforms and access to land, a demand originally mandated by the constitution but ignored by the ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (known as the “PRI”)
  • Autonomy from Mexico, via land and resource access, for Chiapas’ indigenous communities

North American Free Trade Agreement[edit | edit source]

The North American Free Trade Agreement, often shortened to “NAFTA”, is an agreement creating a trilateral trading bloc between Canada, Mexico and the USA. NAFTA was signed on the 1st of January, 1994 and was heavily protested by the Zapatistas as it was correctly predicted to increase the wealth gap between the rich and poor.

Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism[edit | edit source]

The Zapatistas (both EZLN and FZLN) hosted an international conference in which 3000 delegates, from over 44 nations, met to discuss the threat of Neoliberalism[1]. The conference was held on the 27th of July, 1996, one and half years after the last settlement held by the Zapatistas was abandoned, lasted until the 3rd of August.

“We realised that for everyone of us who was there 10 stood behind them who almost went, 100 who would have gone if they had the money and 1000 who would have been there if they had heard the message.”

The conference was situated in the remote Chiapas mountains and was host to speeches, music, dancing and theatrical performance. The site was purpose-built for the event and the stage, latrines and all requisite infrastructure were built by Mexican volunteers.

The conference comprised of multiple tables, each focused around the discussion of a particular question or topic. An example questions that were discussed include: the importance of the drug trade in cementing capitalism, the impact of neoliberalism on women, and “The global power that we all live under. How does it exercise and reproduce its domination?”.

Such proposals as the following were made:

  • Rejection of corporate-rule and the authoritarian state.
  • The construction of a decentralised, bottom-up democracy, decided upon by each community.
  • Decriminalisation of ‘soft drugs’ to stem the $350bn/year drug trade, fuelling capitalism. Profits or taxation to be used for welfare.
  • Demilitarization of Mexican regions controlled by the army.
  • Creation of a global, interconnected networks of organisations involved in a similar struggle.

The conference ended with the intention to establish the Second Intercontinental Gathering for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism.

Declarations from the Lacandon Jungle[edit | edit source]

The Declarations are manifestos issued by the Zapatistas. The first declaration was a declaration of war[2] issued against the Mexican government and which began the Zapatista struggle.

First Declaration[edit | edit source]

The first declaration began by reminding Mexican citizens that they were “the product of 500 years of struggle” and that the population had been repeatedly taken advantage of by colonialism and capitalism. The declaration then urges the population to take action to change their government and to take back their country. The document quotes Article 39 of the Constitution, saying:

“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.”

The manifesto goes on to declare war on the Mexican federal army and the “dictatorship” (using the term “Declaration of War” verbatim), describing how EZLN forces will march on the capital city and liberate the country with the requested help of the people.

Notable Figures[edit | edit source]

Subcommander Galeano, formerly Subcommander Marcos or Delegate Zero, is the spokesperson for the EZLN. The Subcomandante has achieved pop-star like popularity in Mexico and, during a 3000km trek to the capital, drew large, cheering crowds.

Resources[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. A report on the first Intercontinental Gathering for Humanity and Against neo-liberalism. Andrew Flood.
  2. First Declaration from the Lacandon Jungle.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.