condition of the poor. Today there arern280 organizations affiliated to CEDIC,rnthe state-level Council of Indians andrnPeasants. Despite their great diversity ofrnperspectives and goals, the central issuesrnof justice and dignity give unity to themrnall, emphasizing agrarian policy, land, respectrnfor individual and communal humanrnrights, politics free of corruption,rnjust prices for their products, and publicrnservices such as running water, electricity,rnschools, health care, sanitation,rnroads, etc. This upsurge of organizationsrn”from below” parallels, and to a certainrnextent reflects, the increased repressionrnfrom the top, as rich ranchers, landowners,rnplantation owners (sugar and coffee)rnhave organized private armies knownrnas guardias blancas, which, althoughrnclandestine and illegal, operate freelyrnthroughout Chiapas.rnThirdly, there is the clash of rising expectationsrnand increasing demands, especiallvrnamong the hidians, which thernpolitically powerful totally ignore. Thernhidian communities saw NAFTA andrnthe entire “neoliberal” project imposedrnby the Salinas administration as a merernscheme by the political elite to garner internationalrncapital, which in turn producedrnthe Chiapas conflict.rnFor the natives of Chiapas, as for mostrnof the worid’s poor, the globalization ofrnthe economy is a disaster that has alreadyrnhappened. With the ability of transnationalrncorporations to relocate theirrnplants around the world, the global economyrnforces all workers, communities,rnand nations to become competitors forrnthe corporation’s favors; and as governmentsrnwish to attract investments, thcvrnalso seek to pulverize ethnic communitiesrnthat persist in their traditionalrneconomies, thus making the poor vulnerablernto corporations as sources ofrncheap labor. This explains why Chiapas’rnpoor, especially the Indian communities,rnha’e regarded the NyFTA agreement asrntheir own death sentence. During 1993,rnwhen the agreement was being negotiated,rnthe Salinas administration used thernpower of the state to break down the institutionalrnprotection of the native communitiesrn(Article 27 of the constitution)rnin preparation for Mexico’s entry intornNAFTA. Through its total control of thernsenate, the government approved a constitutionalrnrevision that prohibited furtherrnexpropriation of large landholdingsrnunder the agrarian reform laws while allowingrnfor the breakup and sale of ejidos,rnthe peasants’ cooperative farms. Thus,rnone of the key achievements of the Mexicanrnrevolution was sacrificed at the altarrnof the New Economic Order, thus aggravatingrnthe plight of Indian peasants allrnover Mexico.rnAfter the initial attempt to wipe outrnthe rebels militarily, the federal governmentrncame to its senses, agreeing tornnegotiate a solution, a process that hasrndragged on for over a year and a half.rnMeanwhile, the federal army and otherrnsecurity forces carry on a parallel strategyrntaken from the textbooks of counterinsurgeneyrntraining at the School of thernAmericas, of which the three generals inrncharge of the Chiapas operations arerngraduates. It is known as “low intensityrnconflict,” which was successfulK- appliedrnin El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.rnIn this well-structured war plan, thernliarget is the civilian population. It involvesrnthe careful management of thern”image of the army,” making it appearrnfriendly, giving public concerts, carryingrnon social service activities, passing outrncandies to children and food to the communities.rnMeanwhile, sporadic but systematicrnviolations of human rights occur:rnthe sudden search of a peasantrnhome, another peasant leader tortured, arnyoung woman raped, another local leaderrn”disappeared,” a sudden takeover of arncertain village. The fact that these violationsrnare not generalized enables thernarmy to portray them as isolated cases,rn”excesses” or “abuses” to be investigatedrnlater. The timing of the operations is alsorncarefully considered. In the Altos dernChiapas, for example, military penetrationrntook place during the critical weeksrnwhen the peasants were preparing theirrnplots for planting beans and coffee,rnthe staples of their diet. In some cases,rnthe meager food reserves were destroyedrnor sprayed with insecticide. The end resultrnwas to leave the entire populationrndependent for its survival on food distributionsrnby the army. In some cases, evenrnthe water tanks were contaminated withrnpetroleum. Thus, the “low intensityrnconflict” strategy in fact intensifies thernhuman rights crisis which the poor andrnespecially the Indian population of Chiapasrnhas suffered for many years.rnDifferent from most Latin Americanrnguerrilla wars of the Cold War period,rnthe Chiapas rebellion, whose social baserncomprises Indians and small farmers orrncampesinos, is not aimed at toppling thernstate, but at achieving respect (“reconocimiento”),rnand gaining a sav in howrntheir lives are goerned. It is the searchrnfor a sustainable Mexican society “withrnroom for everyone,” where the “littlernones” are guaranteed the right to speakrn”the truthful word” and to be heard andrntaken into account; for a community ofrnlife gathering the traditions of a peoplernyearning for equality, justice, and the ancestralrndemocratic structures of the ruralrnpopulation that are based on dialogue,rnconsensus, continuous consultation, andrnpersistent vigilance of local leadersrnthrough communal assemblies, what thernTzeltal Indians call wojk ta wojk (“tornthrow and gather the word”).rnEvery struggle for “dignity and justice”rnis frail and uncertain. Its outcomernis linked to, and to a large extent dependsrnon, structural changes in the economic,rnsocial, political, and cultural fields,rnwhich threaten recalcitrant habits, establishedrnforms, and vested interests, and inrnthe case of the present Mexican crisis,rnthe interests behind the NAFTA agreement.rnThe leaders of the Chiapas rebellionrnare very aware of this, as shownrnby the fact that the denunciation ofrnNAFTA is a central feature of EZLN’srnplatform. In the end, EZLN does notrnsee itself as a pressure group, but as thernmilitant conscience of the country as arnwhole.rnGonzalo Castillo-Cardenas is a professorrnat the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.rnThis letter is based on a recent visit tornSan Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.rnLetter FromrnRomney Marshrnby Derrick TurnerrnCasting an EyernAs the car purred southward into thernblue distance along the Kent-Sussex border,rnI felt as if we were gently falling intornthe sea. As you approach the Marshes,rnyou are approaching a land which has alwaysrnhad an ambiguous relationship withrnthe sea, which has always looked seawardsrnrather than landwards, which bearsrnlittle resemblance to the gentle Englishrnlandscapes that surround it. You alwaysrnfeel that these lands so lately rescuedrnfrom the waters may some day gentlvrn44/CHRONICLESrnrnrn