Memory and repression mark the 91st anniversary of the assassination of Emiliano Zapata

Mobilizations and actions took place across México on Saturday, April 10, in commemoration of the assassination of Emiliano Zapata, Liberator General of the South during the Mexican Revolution, who was killed on April 10, 1920, in Chinameca, Morelos.

Members of the National Council of Farm and Fishing Organizations came to the Zócalo of Mexico City in the afternoon of the 10th, thus concluding the Chiapas-Mexico Caravan March for Dignity and Respect of the Peoples that began on the first of the month in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, México, the capital of Chiapas.  Arriving at the Zócalo, members of the march demanded the liberation of political prisoners and the implementation of a “new economic, political, and social model for the country, with honest politicians committed to the people.”  In particular, the group demanded the restoration of the constitutional right to ejidal propert, which was weakened by the neo-liberal reforms that took place during the last decade of the twentieth century, as well as a halt to the criminalization of social protest as well as the killing of journalists and social leaders. Fernando Lima, representative of the National Union of Electrical Workers (SME), said “in Mexico today, the demands are the same as they were 100 years ago.  The practices of the Porfiriato [ie, the period of the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, which took place prior to the Revolution] are reproduced by Calderón: the aim is to try to dominate the people by means of the military and the media.  If we don’t do anything, we will sadly be in the same place we were a century ago.”

In the morning of the same day, members of the women’s collective Weaving Resistance–adherents to the Other Campaign launched by the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN)–planned an event called “Zapata lives in the struggle of the peoples,”also to be held in the Zócalo of Mexico City.  Members of the collective denounced the police for not allowing them to enter the city’s Zócalo because they were said not to have the required permits.  The participants nonetheless intended to continue with the program, telling the police that “we don’t have to ask for permission to exercise our political and social rights.”  The confrontation continued as police began to hit and drag the women of Weaving Resistance; the police were also denounced for attempting to detain a member of the Zapatista Lawyers Collective (CAZ).

Additionally, other demonstrations took place in the states of Michoacan, Guanajuato, Chiapas, and Oaxaca along with commemorations in Switzerland and France.  The communiqué of the French supporters stressed that “A hundred years after [the Revolution], nothing has changed! The money and the arrogance of power continue governing Mexico, and to meet the demands of international capital, the revolutionary achievements of the early twentieth century have been dismantled […]. Land reform has been officially abandoned, so now the land returns to being a marketable good. The Mexican government continues persecuting the rebels. Corruption and patronage infect political life. “

As for the commemoration of the assassination in Chiapas, there was a blockade of the San Cristóbal-Tuxtla Gutiérrez highway by members of the Independent Regional Campesino Movement (MOCRI) demanding the release of their member Pablo Francisco Jimenez, who was arrested in Mexico City by members of the Attorney General’s Office. Additionally, the Emiliano Zapata Proletarian Organization (OPEZ) conducted a roadblock of San Cristóbal-Comitán to protest rising fuel prices. In Oaxaca de Juarez, members of Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) and members of the Peoples Popular Assembly (APPO) held a demonstration near the statue of Zapata.

Indeed, Imelda and Lucrecia Zapata Espinosa, granddaughters of General Zapata, lamented during a demonstration that took place in the Revolution Plaza of Cuautla, Morelos, where the remains of Zapata lie, that the ideals of the Mexican Revolution have not yet been realized, commenting that “few have their land now, some have nowhere to plant, and worse, no money at all, whether to purchase seeds or buy food.  The government does not help us at all.” For her part, Imelda emphasized that due to the various realities currently faced by the Mexican people, there is no reason to celebrate today, even if 2010 marks the centennial of the Revolution and the bi-centennial of independence.

The same day, an editorial appeared in La Jornada, in which the newspaper’s editors stressed that the anniversary of Zapata’s murder occurs concurrently with “a disastrous situation in the Mexican countryside.” The piece stated that in the 18 years that have passed since the start of the “counter-reforms” promoted by  then-president Carlos Salinas de Gortari in preparation for the passing of NAFTA (the North American Free-Trade Agreement), Mexico has  seen “a deepening abandonment of the countryside and the deterioration of living conditions among its inhabitants, the dismantling of state support for small production and domestic food-consumption, and the concentration of budgetary allocations to agriculture in the hands of a small group of large exporters.” The result, said the editors, was “[the] destruction of the social fabric in general. “

Also that day, President Felipe Calderón visited Chinameca, the location of Zapata’s murder. He opened his speech by saying that “the principles, values, ideals and legacy of Zapata are still valid and should be the objectives to be realized by all Mexicans.” Noting that “it is time for profound change,” Calderón stressed that “the best way to honor the memory of Emiliano Zapata” would be “to move from a logic of possible change to the logic of the profound and necessary change. ” He added that “the cry of ‘Land and Liberty’ was raised [by Zapata] against arbitrary rule and injustice, social inequality and the trampelling of rights.” Such comments could be are perhaps ironically parallel to the words of Martín Negrete Rodríguez, leader of the Independent Popular Campesino-Worker Union in Irapuato, Guanajuato, who, in marking the anniversary of the assassination, stated that the current social situation of the Mexican people could give birth to a new revolution.

For more information (in Spanish):

Indigenous and campesino groups demand a new economic, political, and social model (La Jornada, 11 April)

Harrassment and repression against the event in the Zócalo on 10 April (Enlace Zapatista, 13 April)

Commemorating the 10th of April in Paris and Bern, Switzerland (Enlace Zapatista, 11 April)

The ideals of the Revolution have not been realized, lament Zapata’s grand-daughters (La Jornada, 11 April)

Emiliano Zapata and the devastation of the countryside (La Jornada, 10 April)

President Calderón at the Civic Ceremony for the Commemoration of the 91st Anniversary of the Death of General Emiliano Zapata Salazar (speech, 10 April)

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