Sub Comandante Marcos, the most well-known leader of Mexico’s Zapatista movement, reappeared in the media on Monday, with a statement that blasts the Mexican government’s recent oil reforms and criticizes leftist leaders whose politics have become “decrepit.”
The statement comes just a week before the Zapatistas celebrate the 20th anniversary of their famous uprising against the Mexican government.
It was initially published on Sunday night in a local Zapatista site and was retaken by newspapers across Mexico on Monday.
In the letter, which is headlined, “Of Death and Other Excuses,” Marcos talks to his followers about how they should lead their struggle.
He then delves into current happenings in Mexican politics, including the government’s recent decision to allow foreign companies to develop the country’s oil fields.
“These acts of dispossession…did not begin with this government,” Marcos wrote, before explaining how Mexico has been privatizing several industries since the 90s and opening the rural economy to “devastating” competition from abroad.
“Dispossession has been occurring every day, and everywhere. But now we can truly say that our country has been betrayed,” the Zapatista commander writes.
In other passages of the letter Marcos seems to criticize leftist politicians who have tried to cut deals in Congress with the Mexican government, under an agreement called the “Pact for Mexico.”
“Your thinking is decrepit,” Marcos said, without explicitly mentioning who he is referring to.
“And it began to become expired once you decided to hug those who are above, forgetting that they don’t accept hugs, but only want you to bow down.”
In 1994, the Zapatistas vowed to overthrow the Mexican government and install a “pluralistic democracy,” that would tackle historical injustices committed against indigenous people. During the first week of 1994, the movement's guerrilla army briefly took over 8 towns in the southeastern state of Chiapas, before the Mexican army pushed them back into the jungle.
Skirmishes continued to take place in the following years, until 2005 when the Zapatista movement announced that it would lay down its weapons. Since then the Zapatistas have acted as tough critics of economic injustices in Mexico, but have not run for office, or sought any formal government posts.
Marcos, who became famous during the uprising for his pronouncements on Mexican politics and global injustices, occasionally makes statements that are published on local media.
But he hasn’t played a major role in national politics, since he went on a motorcycle tour of the country in 2006.
However, there are still some Mexicans who identify with the ideals of the Zapatista movement.
In a national poll conducted in January by public opinion experts Parametria, 44 percent of respondents said that the Zapatista movement was still “relevant,” in Mexico, while 37 percent said it was a movement that was “stuck in the past.”
While the Zapatista movement has gained global fame as a group that resists injustice and fights for indigenous rights, they don’t wield much political power in Mexico.
In a few remote villages in Chiapas state however, Zapatista groups administer schools and health clinics, and have set up semi-autonomous forms of local government.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.