Thousands of Zapatista supporters filled the streets of Oaxaca in Mexico, waving flags to greet the convoy of Zapatista insurgents that is headed for Mexico's capital. The so-called "Zapatour" coincides with a two-day meeting of the World Economic Forum, and its attendant protests, in Cancun.
The revolutionary Zapatistas started a their two-week tour, through 12 states to the doors of Congress in Mexico City, on Sunday in the city of San Cristobal de Las Casas in the Chiapas state. The National Zapatista Liberation Army's tour is aimed at building grass roots support for the rights of Mexico's indigenous people. The EZLN aims to pressure the government to accept their conditions for peace in Chiapas. The Zapatour ends in Mexico City on 11 March.
The Zapatista convoy has nearly doubling its size to around 100 vehicles as student, indigenous and popular groups joined the rickety buses and flatbed trucks as travelling into the southern Oaxaca state. Chiapas state has been in turmoil since New Year's Day 1994, when EZLN took up arms against the government in the name of Indian rights. In a speech in Oaxaca City, where supporters hung off balconies to cheer the rebel convoy, the EZLN leader, Subcomandante Marcos said that the powerful call them ignorant and say that their belief in collective work and benefit comes from foreigners, communists, subversives. "Maybe they don't know that, in this land, collective work and benefit existed well before the rest of the world discovered us."
There have been threats of violence against the rebel chief. A note was thrust into the rebel's bus on Sunday, warning that Subcomandante Marcos would be killed in the town of Jalapa de Marquez, en route to Oaxaca. However, a single banner across the town's dusty main street on Monday read, "Jalapa supports the EZLN." National Mexican radio reported early on Monday that the authorities in Oaxaca had arrested a man in connection with another death threat against Marcos, which had been sent to the Roman Catholic diocese in San Cristobal on Saturday.
Subcomandante Marcos was also critical of the economic and political leaders meeting in Cancun this week. The Zapatistas are long established as fierce opponents of globalisation. In Cancun itself, Mexican activists dropped their pants in protest against globalisation. Bankers, industrialists and government officials have been discussing economic and social issues at the seaside resort. Around 200 protesters marched several kilometres along the main avenue under tropical heat, chanting "death to capitalism" and other slogans in support of Palestinian activists and opposition to Plan Colombia, the US-backed anti-drug plans.
A dozen militants staged an anti-globalisation protest in front of the luxury hotel that hosted a two-day meeting of the World Economic Forum. Police in full riot gear and armed with shields and batons were deployed around the demonstration, as participants in the WEF held the first day of talks on poverty and economic development in Latin America. Organisers of an alternative forum gathered to discuss similar issues from a radically different angle. The organisers said that they hoped to avoid violence. A meeting between leaders of both forums, which was initiated by the WEF, is scheduled for later today.