Complete First Letter From Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos to Don Luis Villoro: On War

Original en Español:

January-February 2011

To: Don Luis Villoro

From: Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Greetings Doctor,

We truly hope that you are in better health and that you take these lines not only as an exchange of ideas, but also as a loving embrace from all that we are.

We thank you for agreeing to participate as a correspondent in this exchange of letters. We hope that from this exchange, reflections arise that can help us, here and there, to try to understand the calendar that our geography endures, that is to say, our Mexico.

Let me begin with a sort of outline – an outline of ideas, fragmented like our reality, which can follow their own independent paths or intertwine, like a braid (which is the best image that I have found to “draw” our process of theoretical reflection), and that are the product of our discontent over what is occurring now in Mexico and the world.

And here begin these hastily written notes on different subjects, all related to ethics and politics, or rather, about what we have begun to understand (and to undergo) from them, and about resistance in general, and our resistance in particular. As expected, in these notes, schematism and reduction predominate, but I think that they manage to draw one or many lines of discussion, of dialogue, of critical reflection.

And this is exactly what is intended, that the word come and go, dodging military and police checkpoints and patrols, from our here to your there, but then it happens that the word goes in other directions and it doesn’t matter if someone picks it up and sends it once again on its way (which is what words and ideas are for).

Although the theme that we have agreed on is Politics and Ethics, maybe it is necessary to make a few detours, or better, approximations from apparently distant points.

And since this involves theoretical reflections, we need to begin with reality, or what the detectives call, “the facts.”

In “Scandal in Bohemia” by Arthur Conan Doyle, the detective Sherlock Holmes says to his friend Dr. Watson: “It is a major mistake to theorize before one has the facts. Without realizing it, you begin to distort the facts in order to fit theory, instead of adjusting theory to the facts.”

We can begin, then, with a description, hasty and incomplete, of what reality presents to us, in the same form, that is to say, without anesthetic, and gather some facts. It’s something like trying to not only reconstruct the facts, but also the way that we come to know them.

And the first thing that appears in the reality of our calendar and geography is an old acquaintance of the indigenous people of Mexico: War.


“And in the beginning, there were statues.”

This is how a historiographic essay on war could begin, or even a philosophical reflection on the birth of modern history, because these military statues obscure more than they reveal. Built to sing in stone the memory of military victories, they merely conceal the horror, the destruction, and the death of any war. And the stone figures of gods and angels crowned with the laurels of victory are not meant only for the conqueror to remember their success, but also to forge forgetfulness among the conquered.

But in the present moment these rocky mirrors have fallen into disuse. Besides being buried daily by the relentless criticism of birds of all kinds, they have also found an unbeatable competitor in the mass media.

The statue of Saddam Hussein toppled in Baghdad during the US invasion of Iraq was not replaced by one of George Bush, but by the advertisements of large transnational firms.  Although the stupid face of the then US president could have easily served to advertise junk food, the multinationals preferred to erect themselves a monument to a newly conquered market. The business of destruction was followed by the business of reconstruction. And although the death of US troops persists, what matters is the money that comes and goes as it should: with fluidity and abundance.

The toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein is not the symbol of the victory of the multinational military force that invaded Iraq. That symbol can be found in the rise of the stocks of the sponsoring corporations.

“In the past it was the statues, today it is the stock market.”

This is how the modern historiography of war could continue.

But the reality of history (this chaotic horror, which is seen less and less and each time more aseptically), obligates, calls to account, requires consequences, and demands. An honest look and a critical analysis could identify the pieces of the puzzle and thus hear, like a macabre roar, the verdict:

“In the beginning there was war.”

The Legitimation of Barbarism

Perhaps at some point in the history of humanity, the material, physical aspect of a war was the determining factor. But as the heavy and awkward wheel of history moved forward, that was not enough. And so, like the statutes that served to memorialize the conquerors and [the] forget(ing) of the conquered, in war the contenders needed to not only physically defeat their opponents, but also to produce a self-justification, that is, their legitimacy. To defeat them morally.

At some point in history, it was religion that granted this certification of legitimacy to warlike domination (although some of the latest modern wars do not seem to have made much progress in that sense) – but then a more elaborate thinking became necessary and philosophy entered the scene.

Now I remember some of your words [Don Luis]: “Philosophy has always had an ambivalent relationship with social and political power. On the one hand, it succeeded religion as a theorertical justfication for domination. All constituted power attempted to legitimize itself, first through belief in religion and later through philosophical doctrine (…).  It seems that the brute force that sustains domination would be meaningless to humans if it wasn’t somehow justified by an acceptable end. Philosophical discourse, in supplanting religion, has been responsible for bestowing that sensibility; it is a thinking of domination. (Luis Villoro. “Philosophy and Domination: Opening Speech at the National College, November 1978).

Indeed, in modern history, this alibi could become as elaborate as a philosophical or juridical justification (the most pathetic examples being those given by the United Nations). But what was fundamental was, and is, a to make a media justification.

If a certain philosophy (following Don Luis, the “thinking of domination” in contradistinction to the “thinking of liberation”) took over, from religion, this task of legitimation has now been taken over from philosophy by the mass media.

Does anyone remember that the justification of the multinational forces for invading Iraq was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? Upon this was built a giant media scaffolding that was the fuel for a war that has still not ended, at least in military terms. Does anyone remember that they never found those weapons of mass destruction? Now it doesn’t even matter if it was a lie, if there was (and is) horror, destruction, and death, all perpetrated on a false justification.

They say that in order to declare victory in Iraq, George Bush didn’t wait for the reports that they had found and destroyed these weapons, nor for confirmation that the multinational forces already controlled, if not all of Iraqi territory, at least its key nodal points (The US military was entrenched in an area called the “green zone” and could not even venture out into the surrounding neighborhoods, see the excellent reporting on this by Robert Fisk for the British Newspaper “The Independent”).

No, the report that Washington received, and that allowed him to end the war (which is certainly not over yet), came from the consultants of the large transnational companies: the business of destruction can give way to the business of reconstruction (on this see the brilliant articles by Naomi Klein in the US weekly “the Nation” and her book entitled “The Shock Doctrine”).

And so, what is essential in war is not only physical (or material) force, but also the moral force, which in these instances was provided by the mass media (as before it had been provided by religion and philosophy).

The Geography of Modern War

If by physical aspect we refer to an army, that is, an armed organization, the stronger that army is (that is, the greater its power of destruction), the greater its possibilities for success.

If by moral aspect we refer to an armed organism, the more legitimate the cause that drives it (that is, the greater its power of convocation), the greater its possibilities for achieving its objectives.

The concept of war has been broadened to mean not only the destruction of the enemy’s physical capacity (soldiers and weapons) in order to impose one’s own will, but also to destroy the enemy’s moral capacity for combat, even if it has sufficient physical capability.

If war only took place only on military terrain (physical that is, that being here our frame of reference), it is logical to expect that the armed organization with greater power of destruction would impose its will on the other (that being the objective of the confrontation of forces), destroying the other’s material capacity to fight.

But it is no longer possible to locate any conflict upon a strictly physical terrain. The terrain of war is more and more complicated (be they large or small wars, regular or irregular, of low, medium, or high intensity, world, regional or local).

Behind that great ignored world war (the “cold war” as it is called in modern historiography; we call it the “third world war”), we can find a historical verdict of that will frame all the wars to come.

The possibility of nuclear war (taken to the limit by an arms race consisting of, grosso modo, how many times one could destroy the world) opened the possibility of “another” end to military conflict: armed confrontation could result not in the imposition of the will of one side over another, but could in fact suppose the annulment of the wills in struggle, that is, of their material capacity for combat. And by annulment I refer not only to “the incapacity for action” (a tie), but also (and above all) to their disappearance.

In effect, geomilitary calculations told us that in a nuclear war there would be neither winners or losers. In fact, there wouldn’t be anything. Destruction would be so total and irreversible that human civilization would cede its presence on the earth to the cockroaches.

The recurring argument in the highest ranks of the military powers of the era was that the accumulation of nuclear weapons was not for the purpose of fighting a war, but for inhibiting the possibility of war. The concept of “weapons for containment” was thus translated to the more diplomatic “elements of deterrence.”

To simplify: “modern” military doctrine can be synthesized thus: impeding the other side from imposing greater (or strategic) will meant imposing one’s own greater (or strategic) will, that is, displacing the large-scale wars toward small or medium-sized wars. This was not about destroying the physical or moral capacity for combat of the enemy, but rather of avoiding a situation where the enemy was able to employ that capacity in a direct physical confrontation. On the other hand, the theater of war (as well as the physical capacity for combat) was redefined from a world scale to the local and regional. In sum, peaceful international diplomacy accompanied by regional and national wars.

The result: there was no nuclear war (at least not yet, although the stupidity of capital is as great as its ambition), but in its place there were innumerable conflicts on all levels that resulted in millions of dead, millions of displaced, millions of metric tons of destroyed material, devastated economies, destroyed nations, political systems smashed to smithereens… and millions of dollars in profit.

But the verdict had been handed down for “more modern” or “postmodern” wars: military conflicts are possible that, by nature, are irresolvable in terms of physical force, that is, by imposing one’s will over the other.

We could infer then that a parallel struggle began ABOVE AND BEYOND “conventional” war. This was also a struggle to impose one’s will over the other—the struggle of the militarily (or “physically,” to traverse the human microcosm) powerful to avoid war ever breaking out on a terrain where they could not obtain conventional results (of the type “the best armed, trained, and organized army will be powerfully victorious over the more poorly armed, trained, and organized army”). We could suppose, then, that against this proposition is the struggle of the militarily (or physically) weaker in order to fight wars on a terrain where military power is not the determining factor.

The “more modern” or “postmodern” wars are not, then, those that bring the most sophisticated weapons to the battlefield (and here I include weapons in terms of military technique but also those defined as such in military organigrams: the infantry, cavalry, armor, etc.), but rather those that are taken to the terrain where the quantity and quality of military power is not the determining factor.

Several centuries behind, military theory from above discovered that, in this context, conflicts would be possible where the side with overwhelming military superiority would be incapable of imposing its will over a weaker rival.

Yes, they are possible.

Examples [of these types of wars] in modern history are numerous, those that come first to mind are the defeats of the greatest military power in the world, the United States of America, in Vietnam and Playa Girón, although we could add some examples from past calendars and our own geography—the defeat of the Spanish royalist army by insurgent forces in Mexico 200 years ago.

Nevertheless, war continues as does its central issue: the physical and/or moral destruction of the opponent in order to impose one’s own will continues to be the foundation for war from above.

Therefore, if military force (or physical, I reiterate) is not only not relevant but can in fact be discarded as the determining variable in the final decision, we have a situation where other variables, or existing secondary variables, become primary.

This is not new. The concept of “total war” (although not as such) has antecedents and examples. War by any means (military, economic, political, religious, ideological, diplomatic, social, and even ecological) is synonymous with “modern war.”

But we are still lacking the most fundamental aspect: the conquest of a territory. That is, will is imposed on a particular calendar, yes, but above all on a specific geography. If there is no territory conquered—that is, brought under direct or indirect control of the victorious force—there is no victory.

Although one can talk of economic wars (like the blockade that the North American government maintains against the Republic of Cuba) or the economic, religious, ideological, and racial aspects of a war, the objective is the same. And in the current era, the will that capitalism attempts to impose is to destroy/depopulate and reconstruct/reorder the conquered territory.

Yes, war today is not content to conquer a territory and demand tribute from the defeated force. In the current era of capitalism it is necessary to destroy the conquered territory and depopulate it, that is, destroy its social fabric. I am speaking here of the annihilation of everything that gives cohesion to a society.

But war from above does not stop there. Simultaneous with destruction and depopulation is the reconstruction of that territory and the reordering of its social fabric, but now with another logic, another method, other actors, another objective. In sum: war imposes a new geography.

If in an international war this complex process occurs in the conquered nation and is operated from the aggressor nation, in a local or national or civil war the territory to destroy/depopulate and reconstruct/reorder is common to the forces in battle

That is, the victorious attacking force destroys and depopulates its own territory.

And it reconstructs and reorders it according to its plan for conquest or reconquest.

Although, if it doesn’t have a plan… then “somebody” operates this reconstruction-reordering.

As originary Mexican peoples and as the EZLN we have something to say about war. Above all if that war is fought on our geography and on this calendar: Mexico, beginning of the twenty-first century…


“I would welcome almost any war because I believe that this country needs one.”Theodore Roosevelt.

And now our national reality is invaded by war.  A war that is not only not far away from those who were accustomed to see war in distant geographies or calendars, but also one that begins to determine the decisions and indecisions of those who thought that wars were only in the news and in places so far away like…Iraq, Afghanistan,…Chiapas. And in all of Mexico, thanks to Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s sponsorship, we don’t have to look towards the Middle East to critically reflect on war.  It is no longer necessary to turn the calendar back to Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, always Palestine. I don’t mention Chiapas and the war against Zapatista indigenous communities, because it is known that they aren’t fashionable (that’s why the Chiapas state government has spent so much money so that the media no longer puts it on war’s horizon, instead, it publishes the “advances” in biodiesel production, its “good” treatment of migrants, the agricultural “successes” and other deceiving stories that are sold to editorial boards who put their own names on poorly edited and argued governmental press releases).

The war’s interruption of daily life in current-day Mexico doesn’t stem from an insurrection, nor from independent or revolutionary movements that compete for their reprint in the calendar 100 or 200 years later.    It comes from, as all wars of conquest, from above, from the Power. And this war has in Felipe Calderón Hinojosa its initiator and its institutional (and now embarrassing) promoter. The man who took possession of the title of President by de facto wasn’t satisfied with the media backing he received, and he had to turn to something else to distract people’s attention and avoid the massive controversy regarding his legitimacy: war. When Felipe Calderón Hinojosa made Theodore Roosevelt’s proclamation that “this country needs a war” his own (although some credit the sentence to Henry Cabot Lodge), he was met with fearful distrust from Mexican businessmen, enthusiastic approval from high-ranking military officials, and hearty applause from that which really rules: foreign capital.

Criticism of this national catastrophe called the “war on organized crime” should be completed with a profound analysis of its economic enablers.  I’m not only referring to the old axiom that in times of crisis and war, the consumption of luxury goods increases.  Nor am I only referring to the extra pay that soldiers receive (in Chiapas, high-ranking military officials received, or receive, an extra salary of 130% for being in “a war zone”).  It would be necessary to also look at the patents, the suppliers, and the international credits that aren’t in the so-called “Merida Initiative.” If Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s war (even though he’s tried, in vain, to get all Mexicans to endorse it) is a business (which it is), we must respond to the questions of for whom is it a business, and what monetary figure it reaches.

Some Economic Estimates

It’s not insignificant what’s at stake: (note: the quantities listed are not exact due to the fact that there is not clarity in the official governmental data.  which is why in some cases the source was the Official Diary of the Federation [the federal government’s official publication], and it was complemented by data from [government] agencies and serious journalistic information). In the first four years of the “war against organized crime” (2007-2010), the main governmental entities in charge (the National Defense Ministry–that is, army and air force–, the Navy, the Federal Attorney General’s Office, and the Ministry of Public Security) received over $366 billion pesos (about $30 billion dollars at the current exchange rate) from the Federal Budget.  The four federal government ministries received: in 2007 over $71 billion pesos; in 2008 over $80 billion pesos; in 2009 over $113 million pesos; and in 2010 over $102 billion pesos.  Add to that the over $121 billion pesos (some $10 billion dollars) that they will receive in 2011.

The Ministry of Public Security alone went from receiving a budget of $13 billion pesos in 2007 to receiving one of over $35 billion pesos in 2011 (perhaps because cinematic productions are more costly). According to the [federal] Government’s Third [Annual] Report in September 2009, in June of that year, the federal armed forces had 254,705 soldiers (202,355 in the Army and Air Force and 52,350 in the Navy). In 2009 the budget for the [Ministry of] National Defense was $43,623,321,860 pesos, to which was added $8,762,315,960 pesos (25.14% more), in total: over $52 billion pesos for the Army and the Air Force.  The Navy: over $16 billion pesos; Public Security: almost $33 billion pesos; and the Federal Attorney General’s Office: over $12 billion pesos. The “war on organized crime’s” total budget in 2009: over $113 billion pesos. In 2010, an Army private earned about $46,380 pesos per year; a major general received $1,603,080 pesos per year, and the Secretary of National Defense received an annual income of $1,859,712 pesos. If my math is correct, with 2009’s total war budget ($113 billion pesos for the four ministries) could have paid the annual salaries of 2.5 million Army privates; or 70,500 major generals; or 60,700 Secretaries of National Defense.

But, of course, not all that is budgeted goes towards salaries and benefits.  Weapons, equipment, bullets are needed…because those that they already have don’t work anymore or they’re obsolete. ”If the Mexican Army were to engage in combat with its over 150,000 weapons and its 331.3 million cartridges against an internal or external enemy, its firepower would only last on average 12 days of continuous combat, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s estimates for the Army’s and Air Force’s weapons.  According to the predictions, the gunfire from 105mm howitzers (artillery) would last, for example, 5.5 days of combat if that weapon’s 15 grenades were shot continuously.  The armored units, according to the analysis, have 2,662 75mm grenades.

In combat, the armored troops would use up all of their rounds in nine days.  In the Air Force, it is said that there are a little over 1.7 million 7.62mm cartridges that are used by the PC-7 and PC-9 planes, and by the Bell 212 and MD-530 helicopters.  In a war, those 1.7 million cartridges would be used up in five days of aerial fire, according to the Ministry of National Defense’s calculations.  The Ministry warns that the 594 night vision goggles and the 3,095 GPS used by the Special Forces to combat drug cartels “have already completed their service.”

The shortages and the wear in the Army and Air Forces’ ranks are evident and have reached unimaginable levels in practically all of the institution’s operative areas.  The National Defense [Ministry’s] analysis states that the night vision goggles and the GPS are between five and thirteen years old, and “they have already completed their service.”  The same goes for the “150,392 combat helmets” that the troops use.  70% reached their estimated lifespan in 2008, and the 41,160 bulletproof vests will do so in 2009.


In this panorama, the Air Force is the sector most affected by technological backwardness and overseas dependency, on the United States and Israel in particular.  According to the National Defense Ministry, the Air Force’s arms depots have 753 bombs that weigh 250-1,000 lbs. each.  The F-5 and PC-7 Pilatus planes use those weapons.  The 753 that are in existence would last in air-to-land combat for one day.  The 87,740 20mm grenades for F-5 jets would combat internal or external enemies for six days.  Finally, the National Defense Ministry reveals that the air-to-air missiles for the F-5 planes only number 45, which represents only one day of aerial fire.” — Jorge Alejandro Medellín in “El Universal”, Mexico, January 2, 2009. This was made known in 2009, two years after the federal government’s so-called “war.”  Let’s leave aside the obvious question of how it was possible that the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, could launch a war (”long-term” he says) without having the minimal material conditions to sustain it, let alone “win it.”  So let’s ask: What war industries will benefit from the sales of weapons, equipment, and vehicles? If the main promotor of this war is the empire of stripes and cloudy stars (keeping note that, in reality the only congratulations that Felipe Calderón Hinojosa has received have come from the US government), we can’t lose sight of the fact that north of the Rio Grande, help is not granted; rather, they make investments, that is, business.

Victories and Defeats

Does the United States win with this “local” war?  The answer is: yes.  Leaving aside the economic gains and the monetary investment in weapons, vehicles, and equipment (let’s not forget that the USA is the main provider of all of this to two contenders: the authorities and the “criminals.”  The “war on organized crime” is a lucrative business for the North American military industry), there is, as a result of this war, a destruction/depopulation and a geopolitical reconstruction/rearrangement that benefits them.

This war (which was lost from the moment it was conceived, not as a solution to an insecurity problem, but rather a problem of questioned legitimacy) is destroying the last redoubt that the Nation had: the social fabric. What better war for the United States than one that grants it profits, territory, and political and military control without the uncomfortable body bags and cripples that arrived, before, from Vietnam and now from Iraq and Afghanistan? Wikileaks’ revelations about high-ranking US officials’ opinions about the “deficiencies” in the Mexican repressive apparatus (its ineffectiveness and its complicity with organized crime) are not new.  Not only amongst the people, but also in the highest circles of government and Power in Mexico, this is a certainty.  The joke that it is an unequal war because organized crime is organized and the Mexican government is disorganized is a gloomy truth.

On December 11, 2006, this war formally began with “Joint Operation Michoacan.”  Seven thousand soldiers from the army, the navy, and the federal police launched an offensive (commonly known as the “michoacanazo”) that, when the media’s euphoria passed, turned out to be a failure.  The military official in charge was Gen. Manuel García Ruiz, and the man in charge of the operation was Gerardo Garay Cadena of the Ministry of Public Security.  Today, and since December 2008, Gerardo Garay Cadena is imprisoned in a maximum security prison in Tepic, Nayarit, accused of colluding with “el Chapo” Guzmán Loera.

And, with each step that is taken in this war, the federal government finds it more difficult to explain where the enemy is. Jorge Alejandro Medellín is a journalist who collaborates with various media outlets–Contralinea magazine, the weekly Acentoveintiuno, and Eje Central, amongst others–and he’s specialized in militarism, armed forces, national security, and drug trafficking.  In October 2010 he received death threats because of an article where he pointed to possible between drug traffickers and Gen. Felipe de Jesús Espitia, ex-commander of the V Military Zone and ex-chief of the Seventh Section–Operations against Drug Trafficking–during Vicente Fox’s administration, and in charge of the Drug Museum located in the offices of the Seventh Section.  Gen. Espitia was removed as commander of the V Military Zone following the tumultuous failure of the operations he ordered in Ciudad Juarez and for his poor response to the massacres committed in the border city.

But the failure of the federal war against “organized crime,” the crown jewel of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s government, is not a destiny that the Power in the USA laments: it is a goal to reach. As much as corporate media tried to present resounding successes for legality, the skirmishes that take place every day in the nation’s territory aren’t convincing. And not just because the corporate media have been surpassed by the forms of information exchange used by a large portion of the population (not only, but also the social networks and cell phones), also, and above all, because the tone of the government’s propaganda has passed from an attempt to deceive to an attempt to mock (from the “even though it doesn’t appear as though we’re winning” to “[drug traffickers are] a ridiculous minority,”  which pass as barroom boasting for the president). About this other defeat for the written, radio, and television press, I will get back to that in another missive.  For now, and regarding the current issue, its enough to remind people that the “nothing’s happening in Tamaulipas” that was extolled by the media (namely radio and television), was defeated by the videos shot by citizens with cell phones and portable cameras and shared on the Internet.

But let’s get back to the war that, according to Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, he never said was a war.  He never said it, right?

“Let’s see if this is or isn’t a war: on December 5, 2006, Felipe Calderón said: “We work to win the war on crime…”. On December 2007, during breakfast with naval personnel, Mr. Calderón used the term ‘war’ on four occasions in a single speech.  He said, “Society recognizes in a special manner the important role our marines play in the war my Government leads against insecurity…”, “The loyalty and the efficiency of the Armed Forces are one of the most powerful weapons in the war we fight…”, “When I started this frontal war against crime I stated that this would be a long-term struggle,” “…that is precisely how wars are…”.  But there’s more: on September 12, 2008, during the the Commencement Ceremonies of the Military Education System, the self-proclaimed “president of employment” really shined when he said war on crime a half a dozen times: “Today our country fights a war that is very different from those that the insurgents fought in 1810, a war that is different from that which the cadets from the Military College fought 161 years ago…” “…it is the duty of all of Mexicans of our generation to declare war on Mexico’s enemies… That’s why, in this war on crime…” “It is essential that all of us who join this common front go beyond words to acts and that we really declare war on Mexico’s enemies…” “I am convinced that we will win this war…” (Alberto Vieyra Gómez. Agencia Mexicana de Noticias, January 27, 2011).

By contradicting himself, taking advantage of the calendar, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa neither corrects his mistakes nor corrects himself conceptually.  No, what happens is that wars are won or lost (in this case, lost) and the federal government doesn’t want to recognize that the central focus of this administration has failed militarily and politically.

Endless War? The Difference Between Reality… and Videogames

Faced with the undeniable failure of his warmongering policies, will Felipe Calderón Hinojosa change his strategy?

The answer is NO.  And not just because war from above is a business, and like any other business, it is maintained as long as it is profitable. Felipe Calderón de Hinojosa, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the fervent admirer of [former Spanish Prime Minister] José María Aznar, the self-proclaimed “disobedient son,” the friend of Antonio Solá[1], the “winner” of the presidential elections by a half a percentage point thanks to Elba Esther Gordillo’s alchemy[2], the man of authoritarian rudeness that is close to a tantrum (”Get down here or I’ll make them bring you down here!”[3], he who wants to cover up the murdered children in the ABC Daycare Center in Hermosillo, Sonora, with more blood[4], he who has accompanied his military war with a war on dignified work and just salaries, he who has calculated autism when faced with the murders of Marisela Escobedo[5] and Susana Chávez Castillo[6], he who hands out toe tags that say “members of organized crime” to little boys and girls and men and women[7] who were and are murdered by him because, yes, because they happened to be in the wrong calendar and the wrong geography, and they aren’t even named because no one keeps track, not even the press, not even the social networks.

He, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, is also a fan of military strategy video games. Felipe Calderón Hinojosa is the “gamer” “who in four years turned the country into a mundane version of The Age of Empire–his favorite videogame–,(…) a lover–and bad strategist–of war.” (Diego Osorno in Milenio, October 3, 2010). It is he who leads us to ask: Is Mexico being governed videogame-style?  (I believe that I can ask these sorts of controversial questions without them firing me for violating an “ethics code” that is determined by paid advertising[8]). Felipe Calderón Hinojosa won’t stop.  And not only because the armed forces won’t let him (business is business), but also for the obstinacy that has characterized the political life of the “commander-in-chief” of the Mexican armed forces. Let’s remember: In March 2001, when Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was the parliamentarian coordinator of the National Action Party’s federal deputies [in Congress], that unfortunate spectacle took place when the National Action Party (PAN) did not let a joint indigenous delegation from the National Indigenous Congress and the EZLN take the podium in Congress during the “March of the Color of the Earth.”

Despite the fact that he was making the PAN out to be a racist and intolerant political organization (which it is) by denying the indigenous people the right to be heard, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa stood firm.  Everything told him it was an error to take that position, but the then-coordinator of the PAN deputies refused to cede (and he wound up hiding, along with Diego Fernández Cevallos and other distinguished PAN members, in one of the chamber’s private halls, watching on television as the indigenous people spoke in a space that the political class reserves for its comedy sketches). ”No matter the political cost,” Felipe Calderón Hinojosa would have said at the time. Now he says the same, although now it’s not about the political costs that a political party assumes, but rather the human costs that the entire country pays for that stubbornness.

At the point of ending this missive, I found the statements of the US Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, speculating about the possible alliances between Al Qaeda and Mexican drug cartels.  One day prior, the undersecretary of the United States Army, Joseph Westphal, declared that in Mexico there is a form of insurgency lead by the drug cartels that could potentially take over the government, which would imply a US military response.  He added that he didn’t want to see a situation in which US soldiers were sent to fight an insurgency “on our border…or having to send them to across the border” into Mexico. Meanwhile, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was attending a rescue simulation in a simulated town in Chihuahua, and he boarded an F-5 combat plane and he sat in the pilot’s seat and joked with a “fire missiles.”

From the strategy video games to the “aerial combat simulation” and “first-person shots”?  From Age of Empires to HAWX? HAWX is an aerial combat video game where, in a not-so-distant future, private military companies have replaced governmental militaries in various countries.  The video game’s first mission is to bomb Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, because the “rebel forces” have taken over the territory and threaten to cross into US territory. Not in the video game, but in Iraq, one of the private military companies contracted by the US State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency was “Blackwater USA,” which later changed its name to “Blackwater Worldwide.”  Its personnel committed serious abuses in Iraq, including murdering civilians.  Now it has changed its name to “Xe Services LLC” and is the biggest private security contractor the US State Department has.  At least 90% of its profits come from contracts with the US government.

The same day that Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was joking in the combat plane (February 10, 2011), and also in the state of Chihuahua, an 8-year-old girl died when she was hit by a bullet from a shoot-out between armed people and members of the military. When will this war end? When will “Game Over” appear on the federal government’s screen, followed by the credits, with the producers and sponsors of the war?

When will Felipe Calderón be able to say “we won the war, we’ve imposed our will upon the enemy, we’ve destroyed its material and moral combat abilities, we’ve (re)conquered the territories that were under its control”? Ever since it was conceived, this war has no end, and it is also lost. There will not be a Mexican victor in these lands (unlike the government, the foreign Power does have a plan to reconstruct-reorganize the territory), and the defeat will be the the last corner of the dying National State in Mexico: the social relations that, providing a common identity, are the base of a Nation. Even before the supposed end, the social fabric will be completely broken.

Results: the War Above and the Death Below

Let’s see what the federal Ministry of the Interior reports about Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s “not-war”:

“2010 was the most violent year during the current administration, accumulating 15,273 murders linked to organized crime, 58% more than the 9,614 registered during 2009, according to statistics published this Wednesday by the Federal Government.  From December 2006 up to the end of 2010 34,612 murders were counted, of which 30,913 were reported as “executions”; 3,153 are listed as “clashes” and 544 are listed as “homicides-attacks.”  Alejandro Poiré, the National Security Council’s technical secretary, presented an official database created by experts that will show, beginning now, “monthly disaggregated information at the state and municipal level” about violence in the whole country.” (Vanguardia, Coahuila, Mexico, January 13, 2011)

Let’s ask: Of those 34,612 murders, how many were criminals?  And the more than one thousand little boys and girls murdered (which the Secretary of the Interior “forgot” to itemize in his account), were they also organized crime “hitmen”?  When the federal government proclaims that “we’re winning,” against which drug cartel are they referring to?  How many tens of thousands more make up this “ridiculous minority” that is the enemy that must be defeated?

While up there they uselessly try to tone down this war’s murders with statistics, it is important to note that the social fabric is also being destroyed in almost all of the national territory. The Nation’s collective identity is being destroyed and it is being supplanted by another. Because “a collective identity is no more than an image that a people forges of itself in order to recognize itself has belonging to that people.  Collective identity is those features in which an individual recognizes himself or herself as belonging to a community.  And the community accepts this individual as part of it.  This image that the people forge is not necessarily the persistence of an inherited traditional image, but rather, generally it is forged by the individual insofar as s/he belongs to a culture, to make his/her past and current life consistent wit the projects that s/he has for that community. So identity is not a mere legacy that is inherited, rather, it is an imagine that is constructed, that each people creates, and therefore is variable and changeable according to historical circumstances.” (Luis Villoro, November 1999, interview with Bertold Bernreuter, Aachen, Germany). In a good part of the national territory’s collective identity, there is no (as they wish us to believe) dispute between the national anthem and the narco-corrido [“narco-ballad”] (if you don’t support the government you support organized crime, and vice-versa.

No. What exists is an imposition, by the force of weapons, of fear as a collective image, of uncertainty and vulnerability as mirrors in which those collectives are reflected.What social relationships can be maintained or woven if fear is the dominant image which which a social group can identify itself, if the sense of community is broken by the cry “Save yourself if you can”? The results of this war won’t only be thousands of dead… and juicy economic gains. Also, and above all, it will result in a nation destroyed, depopulated, and irreversibly broken.


To those who complete their miserable electoral calculations, their additions and subtractions, we would like to remind them:

17 years ago on January 12, 1994 an enormous mobilization of ordinary citizens (N.B.: without bosses, central commands, or leaders) put a stop to the war here [in Chiapas]. In the face of horror, destruction and death, 17 years ago the reaction was immediate, overwhelming, and effective.

Now it is paralysis, greed, intolerance, vileness that minimizes support and calls for immobility and ineffectiveness.

The laudable efforts of a group of cultural workers (“NO MAS SANGRE”/NO MORE BLOOD) was marginalized from the beginning because it did not lend itself to an electoral project, because it did not comply with the mandate to wait for [the electoral cycle of] 2012.

Now that they have war over there, in their cities, on their streets, on their highways, in their homes…what have they done? I mean, besides “yield” when faced with the question of who has a “better project.”

Ask people to wait for 2012? So what, again one is told to go vote for the least worst candidate and this time [is one to expect that] the votes are going to be respected?

There’s been more than 34 thousand deaths in four years, that’s more than 8,000 deaths a year. That is, we have to wait for another 16,000 deaths to do something?

Things are going to get worse. The leading candidates for the presidential elections in 2012 (Enrique Peña Nieto y Marcelo Ebrard), govern over the most populous regions. Shouldn’t we expect that “the war against organized crime” with its tally of “collateral damage” will increase?

What will they [the political class] do in the face of this? Nothing. They will continue on the same path of intolerance and demonization that they took four years ago when in 2006 everything/everyone that didn’t support Lopez Obrador [for president] was accused of being a handmaiden to the right wing. Those people that attacked us and slandered us, and continue to do so now, follow the same playbook when faced with other movements, organizations, protests, and mobilizations.

Why doesn’t that great national organization that is supposedly being prepared for the next national elections, so that this time an alternative national project can ‘really’ win, do something now? I mean, if they think they can mobilize millions of Mexicans to vote for someone why don’t they mobilize them to stop this war and save this country? Or is it simply a matter of vile and selfish calculation, hoping that the sum of death and destruction will be subtracted from their opponents and tallied up by the person elected?

Today, in the midst of this war, critical thought is once again postponed. First things first, 2012 and answers to the questions regarding the new and recycled “cocks” [in this fight], for a future that is already crumbling today. Everything should be held captive to that calendar and to its lead up in the local elections in Guerrero, Baja Calfornia Sur, Hidalgo, Nayarit, Coahuila, el Estado de Mexico.

And while everything comes crashing down, they tell us that what really matters is the analysis of the electoral results, the electoral tendencies, and the electoral possibilities. They tell us to grin and bare it until it’s time to check off the electoral ballot, so that once again we can be in the position to wait and see if things get better, and to see if once again that fragile house of cards known as the Mexican political class can rebuild itself.

Do you remember how they attacked and laughed at the fact that since 2005 we called on people to organize themselves according to their own demands, identities, and goals, and not to bet on the likelihood that someone up there [in the political class] was going to solve everything?

Who got it wrong? Us or them?

Who in any major city can today dare say that they can leave their house in peace, (and we’re not even talking about late at night, but rather, even at the first sign of dusk)?

Who actually identifies with the motto “we are winning” promoted by the federal government and actually views the soldiers, the marines, and the police with respect and not with fear.

Who are the ones that wake up not knowing if they are going to be alive, healthy, or free, by the end of the day?

Who are the ones that can’t offer the people an alternative that doesn’t consist of waiting for the next elections?

Who are the one that can’t put into practice any initiatives that really takes hold locally let alone nationally?

Who are the ones who today find themselves alone?

Because in the end, those that will survive are those who resisted; those who did not sell out, those that did not stop fighting, those that did not give up, those that understood that solutions don’t come from above, they are built from below, those that never bet on, and never will, the hopes and dreams sold to them by a political class that for some time now reeks like a cadaver, those who didn’t follow the calendar of those above and didn’t reorganize their geographies to that calendar by converting a social movement into a list of electoral voting card numbers, those who in the face of this war were not immobilized, waiting for the next tight wire act in the circus tent of electoral politics, but instead decided to construct a social, not an individual, alternative, made up of liberty, justice, work, and peace.


We have said before that war is inherent to capitalism and that the struggle for peace is anticapitalist.

You Don Luis have also said, “social morality constitutes only a first, precritical level of ethics. Critical ethics begins when the subject separates itself from the forms of morality that are in force and actually questions the validity of its rules and actions. From this angle it can be seen that social morality doesn’t live up to the virtues it claims for itself.” Is it possible to bring ethics to war? Is it possible to make ethics appear within military parades, roadblocks, operations, combat, and death? Is it possible to question military rules and actions?

Or is the mere thought of this possibility just an exercise in philosophical speculation?

Because perhaps the inclusion of this “other” element in war would only be possible within a paradox: to include ethics as a determining factor of a conflict would have to have as it’s consequence a radical recognition…the contender has to know that the result of its “triumph” will be its defeat.

And I am not referring to its defeat as “destruction” or “abandonment” but rather to the negation of its existence as a fighting force. That is, a force makes war and if it wins it will mean its disappearance as a force. If it loses the consequences will be the same, but no one makes war with the idea of losing it (well, except Felipe Calderon that is).

And this is the paradox of Zapatista war: if we lose, we win, and if we win, we win. The key here is that ours is not a war that intends to destroy our opponent in the classical sense.

It is a war that attempts to eliminate the grounds for its realization as well as the possibility for the existence of the opponents (us included).

It is a war so that we may cease to be who we are so that we can be who we should be.

This has been possible because we recognize the other, the others, who in different lands of Mexico and the world, and without being the same as us, suffer the same pain we do, carry on a similar resistance, that struggle for a “multiple” identity that won’t annihilate, dominate or conquer and that will desire a world without armies.

Seventeen years ago, on January 1, 1994, the war against the originary peoples of Mexico became visible.

Looking at our national geography from the point of view of this calendar, we remember:

Weren’t we, the Zapatistas, the violent ones? Didn’t people accuse us of trying to divide our national territory? Wasn’t it said that our objective was to destroy the peace, undermine the institutions, sow chaos, promote terror, and put an end to the well being of a free, independent, and sovereign nation? Didn’t people say, to the point of nausea, that our demand for the recognition of our rights and cultures as indigenous people would destroy the social order?

17 years ago, on January 12, 1994, a civilian mobilization, without any clear political affiliations, demanded that we attempt the path of dialogue in order to have our demands met.

We lived up to our part.

Again and again, despite the war against us, we insisted on peaceful initiatives.

For years we have resisted military, ideological and economic attacks, and today we resist the silence about what is happening here.

Under the most difficult conditions not only did we not surrender, sell out, or give up, we actually created better living conditions for our people.

At the beginning of this letter I said that war is an old acquaintance for the indigenous peoples of Mexico.

More than 500 years later [attempted conquest], more than 200 hundred years later [Mexican independence], more than 100 years later [Mexican revolution], and now with this other movement that demands its multiple communal identity, we say:

Here we are.

We have [our] identity

We have a sense of community because we didn’t wait or even wish for the solutions that we need and deserve to come to us from above, because we did not tie our path to those who fix their gaze what up there above.

Because, by maintaining the independence of our proposal, we relate on the basis of equality with the other(s), whom like us not only resist but have also constructed their own identities that give them social cohesion and that now represent the only real possibility to survive this disaster.

We are few, our geography is limited. We are no one.

We are originary peoples dispersed among the most distant geographies and calendars. We are something else. We are few and our geography is limited. But on our calendar is not dictated by fear. We only have ourselves. Perhaps that is not a lot to have, but we are not afraid.

Vale Don Luis. Health to you and to critical reflection opening new paths.

From the Mountains of Southeastern Mexico,

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, January-February 2011

Part II Translated by Kristin Bricker

Parts I, III, and IV translated by El Kilombo

Kristin Bricker’s Notes to Part II:

Translator’s Notes:

[1] Antonio Solá is a Spaniard who was in charge of Felipe Calderón’s “Image” during his presidential campaign.

[2] Elba Esther Gordillo is the despised (and arguably self-imposed) president of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), one of the largest unions in Mexico.  Critics argue that thanks to Gordillo, the teachers’ vote gave Calderón the 0.5% advantage he needed in the 2006 elections.

[3] In October 2007, Calderón visited Villahermosa, Tabasco, to inspect flood-damaged areas.  He helped fill sandbags for a few minutes, then yelled, “Get down here or I’ll make them bring you down here!” to observers on a bridge.  He then sent the military to get them so that they would help fill sandbags.

[4] On June 5, 2009, the ABC Daycare Center in Hermosillo, Sonora, caught on fire, killing 49 children and injuring another 76, all between five months and five years old.  The daycare caught fire when an adjoining file warehouse belonging to the Sonora state government caught on fire.  A lack of fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and emergency exists lead to the enormous loss of life.  The children’s parents continue their fight for justice and accountability.

[5] Marisela Escobedo fought for justice in the disappearance and murder of her daughter, Rubí.  Rubí’s boyfriend admitted to murdering her and directing authorities to her body, but he was released for lack of evidence.  Marisela campaigned unsuccessfully to have him imprisoned until she herself was assassinated in front of the Chihuahua municipal palace on December 16, 2010.

[6] Susana Chávez Castillo was a poet from Chihuahua who coined the slogan “Not one more [murdered woman]” (”Ni una más”).  She was mutilated and murdered in January 2011.

[7] Mexico is in the midst of a “false positive” scandal in which soldiers murder civilians and then the government issues press releases arguing that the dead were members of organized crime who attacked the soldiers.  Such is the case of five-year-old Bryan and nine-year-old Martin Salazar, shot by soldiers at a checkpoint and accused of being members of organized crime ; and US citizen Joseph Proctor.  Soldiers murdered Proctor at a checkpoint and then planted a weapon in his hands to argue that he had opened fire on the soldiers…except that the gun was registered to the soldiers, and not even Rambo can drive a minivan and shoot an assault rifle at the same time.

[8] Radio and TV journalist Carmen Aristegui, a critic of Calderón, was fired in February 2011 for having asked on air if Calderón has a drinking problem.

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