By Mitzi Fuentes
Altamirano, Mexico, Apr 26 (EFE).- Seven members of Mexico’s Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) set off Monday on a trip to Europe, where they will press their demands for social justice and greater autonomy from the federal government.
The delegation bid farewell to indigenous communities near the Jatate, Tzaconeja and Colorado rivers in the mountains of the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas and are now en route to the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo.
On May 3, they will depart from Isla Mujeres on a trans-Atlantic journey aboard the ship La Montaña to an as-yet unconfirmed port in Spain.
The so-called “Journey for Life: Europe Chapter” was launched at the invitation of different European organizations and NGOs with the idea of exchanging ideas on how to confront “the inequality derived from the capitalist economic and social system.”
The expedition members received the blessings of community elders, social organizations and human rights defenders in the town of Altamirano, Chiapas, before setting off via caravan to Quintana Roo.
“Our comrades will visit different parts of Europe to talk about our experience sowing the seed of struggle, to share our movement during these years (of) autonomy,” a representative of the Zapatista expedition said, referring to territories in Chiapas that are controlled by the EZLN and where the group exercises de facto autonomy.
She said that the expedition members will explain how they carry out “the work of our autonomous healthcare, autonomous education, our agro-ecology work, and the administration of justice among our people.”
They will also speak in Europe “about the failures and experiences that we’ve experienced in our journey, and (how) despite everything we continue to advance in our autonomy,” she added.
The current Zapatista movement emerged on Jan. 1, 1994, in Chiapas with the uprising of a group of armed indigenous people led by Subcommander Marcos.
The EZLN went public and declared war on the Mexican state – an event of global significance – on the same day that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed by Canada, the United States and Mexico entered into force.
The Zapatistas stormed several towns in Chiapas as part of their insurrection toward the end of the 1988-1994 presidency of Carlos Salinas. A brief armed struggle gave way to a negotiation process that culminated in the 1996 San Andres Accords, an agreement that pledged a constitutional amendment to grant limited autonomy to indigenous communities.
But when that reform finally was approved in 2001, it was widely seen by the EZLN as too limited and a betrayal of the spirit of the Accords.
The Zapatistas have since renounced their armed struggle and sought instead to achieve their ends through civil resistance and electoral politics.
In that regard, the Europe trip is a means of expressing their rejection of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico’s first leftist head of state in decades, and continuing to make their demands for greater autonomy heard at the highest levels of government. EFE