Is Mexico's Zapatista Leader Yet Another Aspiring Tyrant?
- [A rather disgusting attempt to smear Subcommandante Marcos,
not for any action he has action, but for his failure to
take action. Shouldn't we at least wait until he does
something before accusing him of being a wannabe dictator?
Published Sunday, September 3, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Is Mexico's Zapatista leader yet another aspiring tyrant?
Bad news for those of us with a congenital weakness for
socially conscious rebels: Mexico's guerrilla leader
Subcommander Marcos may prove to be something very
different from a champion of democracy.
You may remember that, when he led his Indian-supported
1994 Zapatista uprising in Mexico's southern state of
Chiapas, the white-skinned guerrilla leader wearing a
ski-mask to conceal his identity charmed the world with
his claims to be fighting to topple the ``dictatorship''
that had ruled his country since 1929.
Furthermore, even those of us who knew that Subcommander
Marcos -- who turned out to be Rafael Sebastián Guillén,
a Mexico City university professor -- secretly belonged
to the Maoist-inspired National Liberation Front guerrilla
group could not help but admit to the possibility that he
had evolved into a sincere fighter for democracy.
When I interviewed Subcommander Marcos in the Lacandon
jungle in mid-1994, he certainly tried to portray himself
as a Robin Hood-style fighter for basic freedoms. He
repeatedly told me that his goal was not to take power,
but to accelerate political change.
Asked about the early statements by his troops during the
Jan. 1, 1994, uprising, he played down their calls for a
socialist state. He said the main purpose of the Zapatista
uprising was to oust the corrupt Institutional Revolutionary
Party (PRI) ``dictatorship,'' which together with its friends
in Mexico's business elite had become the main obstacles to
social justice in Mexico, and particularly in Chiapas.
Marcos' personality helped give his words some credibility.
Unlike Cuba's Fidel Castro, he didn't talk with the pomposity
of an aspiring world leader. Rather, he played the role of an
anti-hero, a man who seduced his interviewers with casual
talk and self-deriding humor.
What would he do if, by some accident of history, he became
Mexico's president, I asked him at the time. Marcos looked at
me wide-eyed and smiled from behind his mask. ``What? Me,
president of Mexico? You must be crazy! . . . I'm a guerrilla
leader, a poet, a dreamer . . . [Mexico] would go down the
Today, nearly six years later, it's time for Marcos to live
up to his claim to be a democrat. Two key events in recent
weeks have changed history in Mexico and in Chiapas, and the
Zapatista leader's rhetoric would prove to be a farce if he
doesn't react to them accordingly.
On July 2, Mexicans broke with the PRI's seven-decade-old
monopoly of power and elected opposition leader Vicente Fox
as their next president. Fox, a former general manager of
Coca Cola in Mexico, will take office Dec. 1 and is promising
to lead a center-left government that will put special emphasis
on reducing poverty.
[Query: How is Fox, who ran as candidate for a right-wing party,
going to lead a "center-left" coalition? -- DC]
But even if Marcos wanted to argue that Fox's victory would not
necessarily change things in Chiapas, the state on Aug. 20
elected Pablo Salazar as its first opposition governor in recent
memory. Salazar was backed by a coalition of eight Chiapas
opposition parties, and is close to Roman Catholic Church groups
that have been close to the Zapatista rebels.
Despite these key developments, the usually talkative Marcos has
not said a word in public since the day of Fox's election.
Was his claim to be fighting the PRI ``dictatorship'' a public
relations strategy to seduce naive gringo reporters? What excuse
could he possibly have now for not opening the doors to a peace
settlement with the next government?
Subcommander Marcos has the opportunity of his life: He could
claim some credit for precipitating the political changes that
led to the downfall of the PRI, take off his ski-mask, and
renew his struggle for Mexico's Indians in the political arena.
If he doesn't do that soon, he will prove once and for all that
he never was an altruist ``dreamer,'' but just another guerrilla
commander who was interested only in one thing: power.
The Website of Lord Weÿrdgliffe:
The Dan Clore Necronomicon Page:
"Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas
zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam
not; Lha-Chohan not; Tenbrel Chugnyi not;
Dharmakaya ceased; Tgenchang not become; Barnang
and Ssa in Ngovonyidj; alone Tho-og Yinsin in
night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna),
-- The Book of Dzyan.