Peace Process, War Process
Brief history of the conflict in Chiapas
The conflict in Chiapas (1994-99) cannot be defined as something spontaneous, but rather as the result of a long and complex process in the context of historical injustice.
Leading up to the conflict, there were several factors to which one can point:
1.- One characteristic of the conflict in Chiapas was the paradox of a rich state with one of the poorest populations in the country. In a state that produced 35% of the country's electrical energy, 34% of its inhabitants did not have access to this service. In an area rich in natural resources, agriculture, and oil, nearly 60% of the population survived on the minimum wage. Sixty percent of school-age children were unable to attend school and the illiteracy level is 30%. Only 57% had access to potable water. Fifteen thousand indigenous people died in 1993 due to their impoverished conditions. [These statistics are from 1994. More recent sta-tistics indicate similar trends.]
2.- Indigenous peoples in the state faced heavy racial discrimination, even though they represented 30% of the state population and almost the entire population lived in the conflict area.
3.- Due to the exclusionary character of neo-liberalism and globalization, several other factors added to the high levels of marginalization of indigenous peoples:
- The drop in coffee prices in 1989
- The reform of article 27 of the Constitution in 1992 (to facilitate the commercialization of land) weakened the traditional ejido land system in the basic organizational structure of indigenous communities
- The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which came into effect January 1, 1994)
4.- The group that eventually founded the EZLN (Zapatista Army for National Libera-tion) entered the jungle in 1983 with a traditional guerilla profile. As explained by Subcomandante Marcos in subsequent writings, the contact with indigenous communities changed and broadened the movement's perspective. This explains how, despite having a limited military force, the EZLN benefited from strong social support.