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Zapatista National Liberation Army

The Zapatista movement celebrated the 23rd anniversary of its uprising in San Cristóbal on Jan. 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. In the 23 years that followed the Zapatistas organized by small communities known as caracoles and built autonomous hospitals, schools, health clinics, security, transport, and communications operations.

The Zapatista “command” began shortly after the uprising to consider “another way of fighting” the system of neoliberal economics and bad government that had humanity in its grip, with Indigenous peoples of the world being squeezed the hardest. That is, they began to explore a resistance to this death grip that did not rely on weapons and violence and in which only guerrillas played a role. The leaders of the movement began to speak with the "companeros*" of the Indigenous communities that comprise it about alternatives to fighting the war against them.

The alternative, they discovered, was to include all the rebel Indigenous who struggle — the women, the children, the older people — all together building the just and rational world being fought for “from below” while continuing to face the threat of extermination by the state and capital. As such, the Zapatistas decided they would stop using their weapons against their aggressors and develop a system of self-government, completely autonomous from the state and capital.

As Subcomandante Moisés reports, in the 23 years since the uprising, in the following years of building autonomy under “an offensive cease-fire” instead of “exchanging gunshots,” children are going to school and asking questions. All decisions are made collectively under the sign of “everything for everyone and nothing for ourselves,” and the will of the collectives is carried out by the Zapatista government, where “the people give the orders and the government obeys,” not the other way around. Hospital care is provided to communities throughout the Lacandon jungle, to Zapatista and non-Zapatista alike. “And,” Subcomandante Moisés observes, since then “we do not have so many shot dead, wounded, tortured, or disappeared.” Now, the Zapatistas want “science for life” — a science that flourishes against the sword, the bullet, and the "good vibes" of the bourgeoisie.

Several southern states, most notably Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, continued to suffer politically motivated violence. The Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens, although serious problems remained in some areas, and some states present special concerns. Major abuses include extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, illegal arrests, arbitrary detentions, poor prison conditions, lengthy pretrial detention, lack of due process, corruption and inefficiency in the judiciary, illegal searches, violence against women, discrimination against women and indigenous persons, some limits on worker rights, and extensive child labor in agriculture and in the informal economy. Vigilante killings, attacks against journalists, and attacks and threats to human rights monitors are also problems.

The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) launched no violent attacks in 1996. On 16 February EZLN representatives signed an agreement in southeastern Chiapas with the Mexican Government on the rights of indigenous people and made a commitment to negotiate a political settlement. Peace talks between the Government and the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) stalled in September 1996 following disagreement regarding the implementation of agreements signed in February 1996 on indigenous rights. However, intense informal contacts continued through January 1997.

The army and the EZLN have not clashed since the Government unilaterally declared a cease-fire on January 12, 1994. As part of continuing unrest in Chiapas, on December 22 an armed group allegedly organized by the PRI mayor massacred 45 indigenous persons in the village of Acteal, which increased already high tensions in the state. President Zedillo immediately ordered his Attorney General to conduct a thorough investigation. This investigation resulted in the arrest of persons allegedly connected to the massacre and continued at year's end.

On 01 Jnauary 2006 Mexico's Zapatista rebels emerged from their jungle hideout to begin a six-month nationwide tour in a bid to influence this year's presidential elections. Rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos led the Zapatistas into the city of San Cristobal de las Casas on Sunday riding a motorcycle to the cheers of thousands of supporters. The rebels planned to visit every Mexican state to build support for the country's indigenous people and the poor ahead of the July 2006 vote. The ski mask-wearing rebel leader - who now wants to be called "Delegate Zero" - says the rebels will avoid big rallies and concentrate on building ties with ordinary workers. The tour began on the 12th anniversary of the Zapatista's bloody uprising demanding greater rights for Indians, and autonomy for the Chiapas region.

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