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Zapatista Army of National Liberation

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 1 month ago


Zapatista Army of National Liberation



"Everything for everyone, and nothing for ourselves."















Brief History



        The EZLN take their name from Emiliano Zapata, the leader of the Liberation Army of the South during the Mexican Revolution who fought for the rights of the campesinos, Mexico's poor farmers.  The Zapatista Army of National Liberation was founded on November 17, 1983, concerned with the social situation of the peasants and Mexico's indigenous people.  Their movement is based in Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state.  The indigenous people of Chiapas had been denied constitutional rights and were suffering from lack of food, health care and the loss of their agricultural land. The Zapatistas were greatly opposed to the North American Free Trade Agreement, a neoliberal policy which would take jobs, land and social services away from the farmers of Chiapas. 

On January 1, 1994, the same day the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented, the EZLN declared war against the Mexican government.  Their armed movement was done with the hope of bringing about a revolution in Mexico however this did not happen and the Mexican army quickly defeated the rebels.  A cease fire was called and after three years, the San Andreas Accords was signed.  However the Zapatistas felt they were being cheated by the accords and retreated to the Lacandon Jungle.  With a large military presence in Chiapas, little was heard from the Zapatistas until the election of President Fox in 2000.  They then brought their case before Congress only to be rejected.  In 2005, Zapatistas began the Other Campaign, a pacifistic movement, traveling across the country to gain support.


 Emiliano Zapata

This information was taken from:





North American Free Trade Agreement



      The Zapatista movement grew rapidly during the 1980’s but didn’t break out on to the national scene until the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  In order for the treaty to be ratified, Mexico had to repeal Article 27 of its constitution.  The constitution followed the Mexican Revolution and Article 27 granted land reparations to indigenous peoples and protected their land ownership from foreign exploitation.

        NAFTA did away with tariffs between the countries of North America allowing trade without governmental restrictions.  This results in the Mexican government implementing policies similar to the Structural Adjustment Programs of the IMF and World Bank.  These policies include the privatization of land through land reforms, the reduction of social welfare service spending, and concentration on producing exports. 

        The privatization of land drives the Zapatistas from their land and resulting in the loss of agricultural production, their economic foundation.  Cuts in government spending on social welfare services takes money away from programs such as healthcare, hitting Chiapas the hardest as its people already suffer from malnutrition and poor health.  The focus on export production hurts the low class farmers producing goods for internal consumption by denying them loans and the poor farmers of Chiapas cannot compete with the low price of imported goods.


This information was taken from:





Political Ideology




        The Zapatista movement is much different than the other socialist movements in Latin America; it is a small, independent guerilla force with no support or recognition from other nations.  They share many of the same political views with other movements in Latin America in their opposition to neoliberalism and their belief in socialist policies such as the land redistribution program of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

    However the Zapatista movement is much more radical than other Latin American socialist movements.  The governments of Venezuela and Bolivia believe in change, not through revolution but through electoral processes and legislation.  Their aim is at democratic socialism while the EZLN’s political goals are closer to that of communism.  While they believe first in the movement toward democracy in Mexico their ultimate vision is a classless society in which all members own the means of production, this is to be brought about through revolution.  With their declaration of war, the EZLN released a series of revolutionary laws outlining their political views.  Some of the key laws that point out their radical views in comparison with the other movements are: 



“Increases in the prices of basic products cannot, in any way, be more than increases in salary.”


“The hoarding of any product is prohibited.  Hoarders will be detained and turned over to the military authorities, accused of sabotage and treason to the country.


“The purpose of collective production is primarily to satisfy the people’s needs, to instill in those who benefit from this law a consciousness of collective work and benefit, and to create production, defense, and mutual-aid units in the Mexican countryside.  When a region doesn’t produce some product, it will trade justly and equally with another region where it is produced.  Excess production can be exported to other countries if there is no national demand for the product.”



        The Zapatista movement could play a huge role in the future of Latin American politics.  “…leftists are already growing restless in nations like Venezuela where Chavez has been unable to follow through on promises of a more equal society with the speed the public had hoped for.  Electoral socialism may not satiate the public’s thirst for reform.”  The slow pace of reform could result in the spread of radical revolutionary political philosophies like those of the Zapatistas, throughout the region.


This information was taken from the The Dartmouth Free Press and the EZLN Revolutionary Laws:






Current Situation




May 2006: Violent attacks by Federal Police against people protesting in response to the removal of flower vendors from a site planned for the construction of a Wal Mart results in many casualties including the death of a child.


October 2006: EZLN calls for a Continental Indigenous Encounter for October 12, 2007 at which the indigenous peoples of the America’s can talk and listen to one another.


April 2007: the EZLN announced that it would begin the second phase of its Other Campaign.  The first phase of listening and learning was complete and they would now begin the second phase in which they will develop a draft of a plan for national struggle.


September 2007: the EZLN announced that it will suspend the second phase of the Other campaign to carry out civil and peaceful actions in defense of the Zapatista communities as military groups have begun to seize their land with support from the Chiapan government.  However the EZLN will still attend the Continental Indigenous Encounter.



October 2007: The Continental Indigenous Encounter goes on as planned with a large number of Native Americans from the United States and Canada in attendance.


This information was taken from People's Weekly World and Narco News:







EZLN Revolutionary Laws

These are the laws the Zapatista Army issued on January 1, 1994, the day they declared war against the Mexican government.  Certain sections, primarily the Labor Law & Industry and Commerce Law and the Revolutionary Agrarian Law express their radical socialist ideology.


Chiapas Rebellion Video

This is a helpful video explaining the EZLN's declaration of war in response to the North American Free Trade Agreement


Movement Timeline

Timeline of the Zapatista Movement


NAFTA's Impact

An Explanation of the impact of NAFTA on the people of Chiapas

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