Shroud of secrecy hides Mexican convention

SOME 5,500 Mexicans from diverse walks of life and every corner of the country, meeting in the heart of the Lacandon jungle, are hoping to alter the course of the nation's history.

There was no way of being sure, since they have been cut off from civilisation since Sunday night, but the so-called National Democratic Convention organised by subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) guerrillas was assumed to be continuing today at a jungle clearing dubbed Aguascalientes in guerrilla-held territory.

Worker, peasant and student representatives from all over Mexico, as well as leading writers, intellectuals and at least one national newspaper editor answered Marcos' call for a convention. Its aim is to create a new constituent assembly and a 'transition government' to bring real democracy to Mexico, as well as to organise 'civil resistance' if the country's upcoming elections on 21 August are considered fraudulent.

After initial working sessions in the town of San Cristobal de las Casas on Saturday, the delegates set off on Sunday in a 196-vehicle convoy of lorries, buses and vans through Mexican army lines for the long, bumpy all-day drive east through the state of Chiapas into the guerrilla-held zone. At a final army checkpoint at Las Margaritas, where the paved road ends, an officer warned the delegates and 700 accompanying journalists: 'You're on your own now. Good luck.'

The convoy, accompanied by Mexican Red Cross officials and given the green light by the authorities, was assumed to have reached its destination during the night of Sunday to Monday.

Marcos and his men had spent weeks creating a jungle clearing and building a Roman-style amphitheatre from felled trees. They named the site Aguascalientes after the city where a renowned convention was held in 1914 during the Mexican revolution.

That convention resulted in the so-called Ayala plan, which changed the shape of the revolution. Marcos, already being compared with Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa and other Mexican revolutionary figures, clearly hopes his jungle assembly will be of similar historic import.

Effectively, while garnering broader civilian support, he is preparing the ground for rejecting an election victory by either the long- ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) or the conservative National Action Party (PAN). Both favour neo-liberal economic policies which he says are detrimental to the vast, poor majority of Mexicans.

Even if the convention agrees on the EZLN's call for a rewritten constitution and a transition government, no one knows what the next step might be. It seems doubtful whether Marcos would accept even a PRI-led coalition government. Should whoever wins the election not heed the conclusions of the jungle convention, however, Marcos retains the option of a return to armed struggle.

Among those invited to the convention were Mikhail Gorbachev, Yasser Arafat and Nelson Mandela. Since Marcos' communiques 'from the mountains of south- eastern Mexico' take days or weeks to reach their destination, it seems likely those invitations are still winging their way to the intended recipients.

Government and other critics ridiculed the convention as a 'masked ball' - a reference to Marcos' famous balaclava - or a 'Zapatista Woodstock without the music'. Perhaps with the latter in mind, the guerrilla leader banned alcohol and drugs among delegates, observers and journalists. He also insisted newsmen hand in mobile telephones before setting out for the jungle, imposing a news blackout and barring anyone from leavng until the convention ends tonight or tomorrow

The guerrilla leader's democratic ideals were also questioned by scores of journalists barred because their publications or networks were considered anti- EZLN. Mexico's big Televisa TV channel was among those left behind. Assuring the journalists it was 'nothing personal',' the organisers said each could come along if they quit their jobs on the spot. None did.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable