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Is Mexico's Zapatista Leader Yet Another Aspiring Tyrant?

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  • Clore Daniel C
    [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
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 7, 2000
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      [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?
      -- DC]

      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.

      Dan Clore

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