Democracy Now! producer Elizabeth Press files a report from the southern Mexico state of Chiapas, where thousands of Zapatistas and their supporters gathered last weekend for what was described as a Meeting of the Zapatista Villages with the Peoples of the World. [includes rush transcript]
ELIZABETH PRESS: Thirteen years ago this week, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, or EZLN, staged an armed uprising in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas. The uprising began on January 1, 1994, the same day that the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The Zapatistas demanded democracy, liberty and justice for all Mexicans. They warned that NAFTA would mean the death to indigenous peoples.
On this 13th anniversary of the uprising, the Zapatista communities held an international gathering in Chiapas. It was called the First Encounter of the Zapatista Pueblos with the People of the World. Shortly after 1:00 in the morning on New Year’s Day, Subcomandante Marcos took to the stage to commemorate the anniversary of the uprising. His words were then delivered in Spanish by Comandante Yolanda.
COMANDANTE YOLANDA: [translated] Thirteen years ago, the bad governments threatened us with jail, disappearances and death. Today, they return to do it. And like Zapatistas that we are, we say, if 13 years ago, when we were alone, we did not stop, we did not fear, we did not surrender, now that we have company, we will not stop either.
ELIZABETH PRESS: The Zapatistas organized the First Encounter of the Zapatista Pueblos with the People of the World to share with the world their experiences with autonomous governments, education, health and communication. Over 7,000 people from 47 countries participated. Beatriz Gutierrez of the Coalition of Indigenous Teachers and Promoters of Oaxaca, Mexico, attended the conference.
BEATRIZ GUTIERREZ: [translation] The source of inspiration for our pedagogical movement was the uprising of the Zapatistas, and since then we have been participating in all of the events they have. But it is also a way of joining together our struggles, the struggle of Oaxaca with the Zapatistas, the struggle of APPO. The APPO has its roots in what is known as the Popular Assembly, which is the body that defines what needs to be done — the people define what needs to be done — and who says what we want. And right now, the principle demand is the resignation of Ulises.
And what we hope for from this meeting is that it can strengthen us, in all aspects of our struggle and all of the actions that we are planning to carry out the future. That is why we are calling on the solidarity of all the peoples of the world to distribute this information on what is happening in Oaxaca and also what is happening in Chiapas, because we are among the most forgotten peoples in this country.
ELIZABETH PRESS: From Chiapas, Mexico, this is Elizabeth Press, reporting for Democracy Now!