It is important to understand that we are now in a new stage where there has been a qualitative change in the process both in relation to the conflict as well as to the question of peace. During October and November, the main tensions came from the different post-electoral and social conflicts and actors having left the military conflict on a second level. This situation of growing violence was seen by Don Samuel a risk of a diversified type of confrontation without any agenda nor interlocutors. The situation pointed towards civil war.
The situation changed on December 8, the day in which the PRI candidate took office as Governor of Chiapas. At the same moment, we had the initiation of the Transition Government in Rebellion. There was a change of scenarios as the EZLN again became the principal actor with its communiques of December 6th and 8th. The EZLN brourght the conflict back to the military terrain when it publically stated that the cease-fire had been broken bilaterally. It called for a series of internal mobilizations which culminated on December 19th with the public and simultaneous presentation of Zapatistas in 38 municipalities. At that moment they declared that they had broken the military blockade and had extended their area of influence in all the municipalities that had declared their autonomy.
Vis a vis the risk that the Mexican Army would respond to the Zapatista mobilization, Don Samuel began his permanent fast on that very same day.
The Mexican Army responded by increasing its mobilization in different areas of the state including zones of Zapatista influence and the area of conflict. Military checkpoints multiplied and there was a great influx of military equipment. Tensions were growing and the movements of the two armies produced a generalized fear that confrontation would break out at any moment, even though both armies reiterated that neither one would not fire the first shot.
During this period of possible confrontation, one of the proposals on a federal level was the creation of a Special Congresional Commission for dialogue and dispute settlement. Finally, on December 23rd, the Mexican Government decided to name the Minstry of Internal Affairs (Gobernacion) as its representative and well as stating its acceptance of the National Mediation Commission (CONAI) as the official mediating group. From that point, the CONAI and Don Samuel (maintaining his fast) began to work intensively to promote some type of dialogue that would lead to an immediate distension and put a halt to military movements.
Thus, there was the beginning of a reversal of hard line tendencies which had been moving toward confrontation and there is now a tendency towards a distension that will help create the conditions for a political solution with dialogue and negotiation. Although there is still no consolidation of this tendency and hard line positions are not yet controlled, Don Samuel halted his fast on January 3rd in order to work more actively on the conditons needed for peace.
At this moment there is still a situation of high risk due to the presence and mobilization of the armies. There is no pacted truce, no solid conditions to initiate a new stage marked by political logic nor solid conditions that would pull together political and civilian forces which are demanding negotion instead of a hard line tactics. Such a hard line approach within the framework of the present economic and political crisis would only deepen the seriousness of the situation on a nationwide level.
We are in the middle of a complicated and difficult process, where work needs to be done at the level of global key basic issues as well as at the level of events and concrete steps. Peace is viable, but the way to build such a peace in terms of justice and dignity is still not clear. There is a high risk of war but there has been a favorable correlation of forces during the last couple of weeks. These new relationships must express themselves along the lines of a political solution rather then military mobililzations.
Within this situation, the role of Don Samual, the CONAI and all those involved in diocesan pastoral work continue to be factors for hope and pacification. Such efforts still need the support, solidarity and prayer of the different church groups and social organizations in Mexico and throughout the entire world.
Executive Secretary, CONAI
January 5, 1995