Since the indigenous peasant uprising of the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) in 1994, the Mexican Ministry of National Defence (Sedena) and its main ideologue, partner, and sponsor – the Department of Defense of the USA – have been modifying and adapting their conceptions of “internal enemies” and their methods of warfare. And twenty years on from the counterinsurgency policies of Sedena’s Chiapas Campaign Plan of 94, we are seeing a number of new examples of their ‘irregular’ and ‘asymmetrical’ warfare.
With specific regional adaptations (from the Juárez Valley to Tamaulipas, and Michoacán to Chiapas), unconventional warfare in Mexico today is waged as part of a “full spectrum” occupation strategy – in which military, economic, media, and cultural policies have common objectives. In this context, and considering its own particular characteristics, Chiapas is at the centre of the Pentagon’s map. The state’s geography forms part of a “gap”, in which the danger zones for the dominant force of the global capitalist system can be found. As a result, the USA must have aggressive policies of prevention, deterrence, control, and imposition of norms which work in step with corporate interests (whose headquarters can be found in the United States). At the same time, it is necessary for them to persecute, break up, and eliminate all dissidents and rebels who are considered ‘enemies’.
Capitalism cannot be understood or explained without the concept of war. War is the only way to reproduce the current system of domination, and is indispensable for the current phase of neo-colonial re-conquest of social spaces and territories. But it is also a business – a way of ensuring new merchandise is produced and a way of opening up new markets in order to gain a profit. And the “Chiapas Gap” is found in an area of incredible biodiversity (including the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve), where strategic minerals, oil, and water can also be found. For this reason, appropriation of this territory could be very profitable for large corporations.
Moreover, the areas of Zapatista autonomy in Chiapas exhibit creative and peaceful civilian resistance to the neoliberal economic project – or the ‘imperialism of dispossession’. Here, new forms of emancipation and collective construction of freedom are being created by a number of anti-systemic social movements which represent critical, ethical, anti-capitalist, and anti-hegemonic thought. These are forces that act on the margin of the rules imposed by the plutocratic Mexican establishment – and the acts and customs of the administrators on duty and of the parliamentary political class, both of which can be identified by corruption and impunity. At the same time, they challenge the State in cultural spheres, advocating historical memory, different world views, and the possibility of utopias. They are a new historical subject that no longer believes in bandages or reforms within the current system. They also find the old and new forms of assimilation and co-optation alien, demonstrating instead another way of doing politics and of building an alternative power structure from below. They seek real people power, driven by pluralism, self-management, and truly participative democracy – with their Committees of Good Government, autonomous municipalities, and community authorities.
Because of the reasons stated above, the EZLN, its support bases, and its current allies represent a real danger: a strategic challenge for Washington and corporations related to oil, mining, biotechnology, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, hotels, soft drinks, false ecotourism, and the military industry. As a consequence, asymmetrical warfare is the articulating axis of a strategy of territorial clearance and control that seeks to displace populations in order to facilitate the appropriation and commercialisation of the land and its natural resources by large multinational corporations. Whoever finds themselves in these spaces and territories (where water, trees, ancestral knowledge, genetic codes, and other “goods” can be found) becomes, whether they want to or not, an enemy of capitalism. For that reason, a conservative offensive seeks – through the use of a comprehensive, hidden, irregular, prolonged, and erosive war – to discipline, crush, and/or eliminate all resistance from rebellious indigenous peasants. The aim of this war is to carry out a ‘restructuring’ of territory in accordance with the interests and requirements of the monopolist class.
This is a war of privatisation, territorial clearance, and social dispossession, which militarises and paramilitarises communities in an attempt to win a prolonged and unresolved armed conflict – and includes the containment of social movements and the criminalisation of protests with more ‘exceptional measures’. For example, a ‘bullet law’, or code for the “legitimate use of force”, was passed by the Chiapan Congress, with the aim of facilitating the free accumulation of resources by transnational corporations.
In December 2007, when faced with an offensive prepared by President Calderón, Subcomandante Marcos warned about the reactivation of military and paramilitary aggression in the areas under Zapatista influence. He said: “Those of us who have waged war know how to recognise when it is approaching and the ways in which it is prepared. The signs of war on the horizon are clear. War, like fear, can be smelt, and we are now beginning to detect its foul smell in our territories”.
And he was not wrong. The most recent episode was the premeditated murder of the indigenous Zapatista teacher José Luis Solís López (comrade Galeano) at the hands of the paramilitary group Los Luises on May 2nd. The provocation and trap in La Realidad – a place emblematic of peaceful Zapatista resistance – was carried out by the Historical and Independent Union of Agricultural Workers and Peasants (CIOAC-H in Spanish), which acted as an instrument of the government’s counterinsurgency strategy. In summary, such paramilitary activity responds to the State’s logic, in the form of an asymmetrical war as proposed by Sedena.
Translated by Oso Sabio from an article originally written in Spanish by Carlos Fazio at http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2014/05/26/index.php?section=politica&article=016a1pol