Transnational Networks Of Support For The Zapatista Rebellion

5256 words - 22 pages

Transnational Networks of Support for the Zapatista Rebellion

Globalization, the term used to describe the dominant framework of international relations following the cold war, is affecting many aspects of politics and social experience. This is seen in the Zapatista rebellion and movement in Chiapas, Mexico that has benefited from globalization and transnational support. This paper examines the relationship of transnationalism and social movements with the Zapatistas as a case study. In particular, this paper argues that the Zapatistas are part of the anti-globalization cycle of protest. As a result, they have used the master frame of this cycle of protest and aligned that ...view middle of the document...

Subcomandante Marcos, the spokesman and de facto leader of the movement, addressed a huge rally and other comandantes addressed the Mexican Congress. Many observers compared this moment to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the American civil rights movement. (Klein 2001)

Since the beginning of this movement/rebellion, the Zapatistas have demonstrated a unique ability to attract support from activists outside of Mexico. I refer to this support as transnational because it is rooted in no particular territory and spans much of the developed world. This view is based in part on Tarrow who defines transnational political exchange as “temporary forms of cooperation among essentially national actors that identify a common interest or set of values in a particular political configuration.” (1998, 187) For the Zapatistas, this support comes in many forms. There are numerous Zapatista-related web sites and e-mailing lists, operated by supporters, which have allowed supporters all over the world to stay informed about events and contribute support without leaving their homes. As well, the Internet has allowed the Zapatistas and their supporters to circumvent the editing and framing processes of the mass media and the Mexican government, which desperately wishes to portray this rebellion as a purely domestic matter. In addition to the Internet, the Zapatistas have also benefited from foreign observers who have descended upon Chiapas to hold the Mexican government to a certain standard of human rights. These observers also spread the message of the Zapatistas when they leave Chiapas, thus disseminating the Zapatista message even further.

By creating this transnational network of support, the Zapatistas have dug “a moat of international support that army troops dare not cross….Were it not for the Zapatistas’ vocal partisans in the developed world that Mexico’s leaders are so determined to join, the authorities might have crushed them long ago.” (Golden 2001, 19) For instance, at any hint of attack by the Mexican government, the Zapatista supporters are ready to mobilize a fax and e-mail campaign to stop the attack. (Collier with Quaratiello 1999, 171) Calls to action are circulated frequently by Zapatista supporters and appended to these calls are the addresses and fax numbers of Mexican consulates and officials, leading to an occasional deluge of faxes and protests when the Mexican government acts in a way not consistent with the goals of the Zapatistas. (Froehling 1999, 168-9) Thus, the result of transnational support has been nothing less than the survival of the Zapatistas as a movement.

The relevant question then is, why? Why does such a transnational network of support exist for the Zapatistas when networks of equivalent strength do not exist for similar movements, such as, for instance, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or the Maoist rebels in Nepal? This paper will demonstrate...

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