Mexico: Subcomandante Marcos on President Calderon's “War from above”

During the final week of an eventful February in the Middle East and North Africa, many on Twitter have taken to tweeting and re-tweeting an epigrammatic quotation attributed to the iconic spokesperson for the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), Subcomandante Marcos.

Its English translation, circulated by @EagleIreports, @culturatist, @paperstargirl and many others, reads: “We are sorry for the inconvenience, but this is a revolution.” The applicability to circumstances in Tunisia, Egypt, Lybia and around the region is all but self-evident. In Mexico, the Subcomandante has come to the forefront of netizen's discussions with the recent publication of a letter about the country's current problem with organized, drug related crime.

Subcomandante Marcos

Those seeking a refresher course on Marcos and his role in the Zapatista insurgency and ongoing campaign for human rights for the indigenous peoples of southeastern Mexico need only watch a recent interview with Marcos on the history of Zapatismo's long struggle for dignity in the name of this forgotten segment of Mexican society.

Just as readers around the globe grasp the humor and urgency in “We are sorry for the inconvenience, but this is a revolution,” they now respond with fresh eyes and ears to Marcos’ declaration in the interview that “History is a battleground in this war.”

Subcomandate Marcos in Zapatista Caravan. January 29, 2006. Image by Flickr user orianomada, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license

The Latest Letter: “About the Wars”

Meanwhile, on February 14, the website Enlace Zapatista [es], the online arm of the EZLN, opened another front with the publication of “Sobre las Guerras.” This was translated overnight by blogger Kristin Bricker as: “About the Wars: A Fragment of the First Letter from Subcomandante Marcos to Don Luis Villoro, beginning the correspondence about Ethics and Politics.” The text, dated January-February 2011, is part 2 of 4 which will appear in the next issue of Rebeldia magazine” (forthcoming at the time of this posting).

The recipient of the letter, Don Luis Villoro, is a long-time professor of philosophy at UNAM and the author of The Challenges of the Society to Come. The correspondence has as reference point, an earlier exchange of letters between Marcos and author John Berger.

Readers familiar with Marcos and the EZLN (which has not engaged in military operations since its initial insurgency in Chiapas in January 1994) may anticipate some of his argument: that the U.S will be the only winner in the Mexican government's war on drugs; that President Calderon's battle with organized crime was doomed from the start because it was conceived, “not as a solution to a problem of security, but to a problem of legitimacy”. The specifics of Marcos’ language in this fragment of a letter to Villoro defy easy summarization.

What follows are several citations from Bricker's translation of the fragment of the first letter [find the text in Spanish at Enlace Zapatista]. Global Voices will track the correspondence as it unfolds.

As Mexican native peoples and as the EZLN, we have something to say about war.  Above all if it is carried out in our geography and in this calendar: Mexico, in the beginning of the 21st century….

And in all of Mexico, thanks to Felipe Calderon Hinojosa's sponsorship, we don't have to look towards the Middle East to critically reflect on war.  It is no longer necessary to turn the calendar back to Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, always Palestine.

I don't mention Chiapas and the war against Zapatista indigenous communities, because it is known that they aren't fashionable (that's why the Chiapas state government has spent so much money so that the media no longer puts it on war's horizon; instead, it publishes the ‘advances’ in biodiesel production, its ‘good’ treatment of migrants, the agricultural ‘successes’ and other deceiving stories that are sold to editorial boards who put their own names on poorly edited and argued governmental press releases).

The war's interruption of daily life in current-day Mexico doesn't stem from an insurrection, nor from independent or revolutionary movements that compete for their reprint in the calendar 100 or 200 years later.  It comes, as all wars of conquest, from above, from the Power.

And this war has in Felipe Calderon Hinojosa its initiator and its institutional (and now embarrassing) promoter.

The man who took possession of the title of President by de facto wasn't satisfied with the media backing he received, and he had to turn to something else to distract people's attention and avoid the massive controversy regarding his legitimacy: war.

When Felipe Calderon Hinojosa made Theodore Roosevelt's proclamation that ‘this country needs a war’ his own (although some credit the sentence to Henry Cabot Lodge), he was met with fearful distrust from Mexican businessmen, enthusiastic approval from high-ranking military officials, and hearty applause from that which really rules: foreign capital….

It is not insignificant what is at stake…

In the first four years of the ‘war against organized crime’ (2007-2010), the main governmental entities in charge (the National Defence Ministry – that is, army and air force – the Navy, the Federal Attorney General's Office, and the Ministry of Public Security) received over $366 billion pesos (about $30 billion dollars at the current exchange rate) from the Federal Budget.  The four federal government ministries received:  in 2007 over $71 billion pesos; in 2008 over $80 billion pesos; in 2009 over $113 billion pesos; and in 2010 over $102 billion pesos.  Add to that the over $121 billion pesos (some $10 billion dollars) that they will receive in 2011.

The war (which was lost from the moment it was conceived, not as a solution to an insecurity problem, but rather a problem of questionable legitimacy) is destroying the last redoubt that the Nation had: the social fabric.

What better war for the United States than one that grants it profits, territory, and political and military control without the uncomfortable body bags and cripples that arrived, before, from Vietnam and now from Iraq and Afghanistan?

Wikileaks’ revelations about high-ranking US officials’ opinions about the ‘deficiencies’ in the Mexican repressive apparatus (its ineffectiveness and its complicity with organized crime) are not new.  Not only amongst the people, but also in the highest circles of government and Power in Mexico, this is a certainty.  The joke that it is an unequal war because organized crime is organized and the Mexican government is disorganized is a gloomy truth.

What exists is an imposition, by the force of weapons, of fear as a collective image, of uncertainty and vulnerability as mirrors in which those collectives are reflected.

What social relationships can be maintained or woven if fear is the dominant image with which a social group can identify itself, if the sense of community is broken by the cry ‘Save yourself if you can'?

The results of this war won't only be thousands of dead…and juicy economic gains.

Also, and above all, it will result in a nation destroyed, depopulated, and irreversibly broken.


Alright, Don Luis.  Cheers, and let critical reflection inspire new steps.

To date, the letter has been circulated on Twitter via links provided by @burgerchrist and a host of others. It has been reproduced in full on blogs including My Word is my Weapon –which is maintained by Bricker– Censored News, The Speed of Dreams and el Kilombo.

The blog post that has generated the most commentary – some of it heated, even hateful – can be found on blog del Narco [es], which excerpts a few passages from the letter and provides links for key terms. The 946 comments (as of 26/02/2011) make for difficult, sometimes chilling reading (one instance among others is a response posted by nuek [es]). Others, like that of Rvillareal [es], are more simply pragmatic:

El hecho es que Calderon ha actuado de una forma pertinente.  La guerra es dura y el pais no lo es.  No estamos listos para una guerra como esta, simplemente ataco desprevenidamente.

The fact is that Calderon has acted in an appropriate form. War is tough and the country is not. We are not ready for a war like this, simply attacked unawares.


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