Governments give everything to the transnationals again.
The federal government and the EZLN signed the agreement on indigenous rights and culture on February 16th, 1996. This was the first subject on the agenda agreed between the Zapatista delegation and its government counterpart. Numerous collective and individual efforts led to this moment. Many provocations had to be avoided, to reach the first agreement which allowed the birth of hope for changes in our country.
After a few weeks, expectations changed radically: the attitude of ex-president Zedillo changed, his behaviour expressed irritation, and what had been agreed on by his government’s delegation was not publicly known, while what had been agreed to in San Andrés was discredited through an unprecedented media offensive. Through a campaign of lies and fraudulent interpretations of the San Andrés Accords, the EZLN and the Cocopa were accused of wanting to create a “State within the State.”
In the 2000 [presidential] Campaign, Vicente Fox promised to resolve the conflict with the Zapatistas in 15 minutes, and to send to the Congress of the Union the law on indigenous rights and culture, which the Cocopa had formulated, and was expressed in the San Andrés Accords. Nevertheless, the same arguments managed by Zedillo were imposed and ended up destroying what had been agreed between the federal government and the EZLN. The Fox government’s action, of sending the initiative to the Senate of the Republic, merely fulfilled his campaign propaganda.
One of the matters agreed at San Andrés, included in the law, states that the “indigenous peoples of Mexico will have the right to the use and enjoyment of the natural resources of their lands and territories, except for those that are the domain of the nation.” This paragraph, which does not contain any risk to the country and yet vindicates the just longings of indigenous Mexicans, was used by the official propaganda of the Fox and Zedillo governments to accuse the Zapatistas of attempting to Balkanize the country.
What happened in Mexico in the 15 years before the San Andrés Accords allows us to see what the causes of irritation were for the governments of Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo. On sending the Indigenous Law initiative to the Congress of the Union, merely seeking the media response, the Fox government secretly granted permits to the US oil company Halliburton –property of the then Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney– to dig oil wells in the Mexican Southeast, especially in Chiapas and Tabasco.
While the governmental propaganda of Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox never tired of accusing the EZLN of wanting to appropriate the resources that belong to the nation, they delivered mining concessions to both Mexican and foreign corporations, whose business model favours their owners, not the country; the only tax that mining companies pay to Mexico is the ridiculous amount of five pesos per hectare (about a penny per acre). No form of tax burdens the profits of those corporations. Mexico is a paradise for these companies, whose mines are located on the lands of indigenous and ejidal (collectively owned) communities. As an example we can mention the gold, copper and silver mine of the National Agrarian Flatland Ejido of Mexicali, with proven reserves of almost 300 tons of metals. The owner of that concession pays the ejido owners 11, 000 pesos (about £500) a year in rent. Even so, the lawyer has the nerve to say that the ejidatarios “are not the owners of anything,” that the nation is the owner, but omits to mention that the benefits and profits of that natural resource are not for the nation, but for the corporation that he represents.
Since the signing of the San Andrés Accords, officials from the areas of finance, energy and communications from the three previous governments have constituted the principal line of attack against them [the Accords].
Curiously, these same officials appear today as members of the administrative councils of the energy and mining transnationals. Luis Téllez Kuenzler, former Energy Secretary and former Secretary of Communications and Transportation (SCT); Carlos Ruiz Sacristán, another former SCT Secretary; Gilberto Hershberger Reyes, former assistant secretary for Ordering of Rural Property in the Agrarian Reform Ministry, and Antonio Lozano Gracia, the former Attorney General of the Republic who requested the expedition of arrest warrants against the Zapatista leadership, are, among others, some of the former officials who are now members of the executive boards or the legal bodies of the transnationals, and are also those who have benefited many of them [the transnationals] during their time in the public administration positions that they have occupied.
In this context Vicente Fox’s statement equating the struggle of the EZLN with drug trafficking sounds ridiculous and stinks of provocation. This single comparison offends centuries of struggle by indigenous peoples, and demonstrates that at no time did he [Fox] have the slightest interest in resolving the ancestral problems of deepest Mexico. Identifying subcomandante Marcos as “a criminal” is an absurdity from an ex- president who, at the start of his term of office, in his clumsy and awkward way, declared that El Sup was his “friend.” With friends like this, why would you need enemies? Perhaps that is why the Zapatistas have been wary of relationships with personnel from the government, you never know when they will bite you.
One of the few opportunities for the Republic to walk less thorny paths is to look at the best of our past and our recent history. Thus, the Accords of San Andrés Larráinzar are one of the most important landmarks for the reconstruction of much of the social fabric, which has been torn apart today by poverty and insecurity.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Saturday, November 4, 2011
Original Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Jaime Martínez Veloz