The Successes and Failures of the Zapatista Movement

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The Successes and Failures of the Zapatista Movement

On January 1, 2004, over one thousand people in the mountain hamlet of Oventic, Chiapas, celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) rebellion with song and dance. Thus, it seems a fitting time to take stock of the successes and failures of the Zapatista movement in the context of its original goals. While the EZLN has been able to establish thirty eight autonomous indigenous communities in Chiapas, it has failed to weaken the Mexican government's commitment to neo-liberal economic policies. In the following pages, we will explore those factors which enabled the Zapatistas to establish regions of autonomy and extrapolate from Theotonio Dos Santos' understanding of the effects of reliance on foreign capital and Nora Hamilton's analysis of the 'limits to state autonomy' to rationalize the failure of the Zapatista's broader vision of social justice.

In a letter to President Zedillo in 1994, Subcomandante Marcos of the EZLN demanded ?democracy, liberty and justice? for all Mexicans. These nationalist ideals were supplemented by practical demands to meet the needs of the impoverished and exploited indigenous peoples of Mexico. In 1993, the EZLN promoted an indigenous struggle

?for work, land, housing, food, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace. We declare that we will not stop fighting until the basic demands of our people have been met by forming a government of our country that is free and democratic.?

By the late nineties, the struggle for indigenous autonomy had become ?the central basis of the Zapatista movement.?

Since 1994, the Zapatistas have made significant gains...

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