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The Media Revolution in Chiapas Mexico

April 26, 2009

One of the first examples on how effective the Internet truly is

By Tzul Vasquez-Lopez 2/20/09

On February 9, 1995, Mexico’s President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León broke a ceasefire agreement and ordered thousands of Mexican troops into the area of Chiapas state, occupied by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), the group that had launched a rebellion on, January 1, 1994 to demand indigenous rights, improved democracy, liberty, and justice.

The stated purpose of the crackdown was to prevent further violence by capturing Zapatista leaders, in particular Subcomandante Marcos, their expressive but elusive spokesperson. As part of the offensive, Zedillo unmasked Marcos as Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente, a middle-class “maverick philosopher and university professor,” in an attempt to discredit him as the voice of the peasant-led EZLN and to strip him of the charismatic guerrilla mystique that had captured the imagination of many.

Pictures of Guillén adjacent with those of the masked Marcos appeared worldwide. One of the EZLN’s few non-Indian fighters, Marcos had become internationally known for his literate communiqués, issued in the name of the Revolutionary Indigenous Clandestine Committee of the General Command (CCRI-CG) of the EZLN.

These letters to the Mexican people often combined humor, poetry, and storytelling with keen political commentaries, were distributed widely in the early internet age.

The important and exemplary role that Internet technology played in improving the publicity campaign of the Chiapas insurgents in their struggle for political change in Mexico is the main reason the message was spread so vastly.

By using the Internet as an alternative distribution network for Subcomandante Marcos’ communiqués, it can be conjectured that the technology provided him with an opportunity through which his voice could be heard in the international political world.

It was an area both external to Mexican government control and through which Marcos extended a powerful discourse representing the insurgents’ political goals and grievances—one contrary to that being transmitted by the state-sponsored media. Internet technology generated the necessary national and international public consciousness, opinion, scrutiny and support for the Chiapas insurgents, which ultimately transformed their conflict with the Mexican government from a violent war of guns, to one of dialogue and peaceful negotiations.

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