Socialist Party
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16 March 2001

Mexico - when Zapatista resistance came to town

LIKE A touring rock band the Zapatista motorised cavalcade arrived in Mexico city last weekend, having set out from their base in the southern state of Chiapas.

Led by sub-commandante Marcos and escorted by the Mexican police the deputation of guerrilla fighters, unlike their 1914 peasant revolutionary namesake Emiliano Zapata, have not come to take power but to demand 'justice' from the national congress for the country's poor and especially the oppressed native American population.

Nonetheless, tens of thousands of Mexico city's workersand poor greeted the Zapatistas, putting pressure on the 100-day-old presidency of Vincente Fox to make a peace deal to end the guerrilla insurgency.

The Zapatista movement (EZLN) burst upon the world on 1 January 1994, the very day when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) - which opened up further the Mexican economy to US capitalist interests - came into being.

The Zapatista uprising in Chiapas was later brutally suppressed by Mexican government troops.

The guerrillas criticise the vast inequalities of wealth in the country and have become a symbol internationally for the anti-capitalist globalisation movement.

However, their demands are limited and their strategy remains unclear.

One Zapatista told Channel 4 news that they stood for "justice for all, including the rich as well as the poor".

Mexico's rural masses and the urban working class are both exploited by Mexican and US capitalism.

To build a political movement allying the urban workers and rural poor the EZLN must advance a clear socialist programme to abolish capitalism.

Only this would truly bring 'justice' to the exploited.