TO THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO:
The Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army expresses its regret for the death of Bishop Emeritus Samuel Ruíz Garcia.
In the EZLN there are people with different religious faiths, and some with no religious belief at all, but the human stature of this man (and that of those who, like him, walk alongside the oppressed, the dispossessed, the repressed and the despised), inspires our word.
Although our differences and disagreements have not been not few or superficial, today we wish to highlight his commitment and path that was not only that of one individual, but rather a whole current within the Catholic Church.
Don Samuel Ruiz Garcia not only emphasized a Catholicism practiced for and with the dispossessed, with his team he also trained a whole generation of Christians committed to this sort of practice of the Catholic religion. Not only was he concerned about the misery and marginalization of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas, he also worked with a heroic team of pastoralists to improve their inhumane conditions of life and death.
What the governments have purposefully forgotten in order to cultivate death, he made a living memory in the diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas.
Don Samuel Ruiz García and his team not only strived to achieve peace alongside justice and dignity for the indigenous people of Chiapas, they also risked and continue to risk their lives, liberty and wealth walking this path, one constantly thwarted by the arrogance of political power.
Even long before our uprising in 1994, the Diocese of San Cristobal suffered harassment, attacks and slander on the part of the Federal Army and State Government in turn.
At least since the time of Juan Sabines Gutiérrez (remembered for the massacre of Wolonchan in 1980) and throughout the era of General Absalón Castellanos Dominguez, Patrocinio González Garrido, M. Elmar Setzer, Eduardo Robledo Rincón, Julio César Ruiz Ferro (one of the perpetrators of the slaughter in Acteal in 1997) and Roberto Albores Guillén (better known as “nuggets”), the governors of Chiapas have harassed anyone in the diocese of San Cristobal who opposed their acts of murder and their running of the state as if it were one of Porfirio Díaz’ personal ranches.
Beginning in 1994, while he worked in the National Intermediation Commission (CONAI) in the company of all the women and men who participated in that demand for peace, Don Samuel came under pressure, experienced harassment and received threats, including attempts on his life by the paramilitary group poorly named “Peace and Justice.”
And once president of CONAI, Don Samuel also suffered, in February 1995, a threat of imprisonment.
Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, as part of a distraction strategy (such as are used to this day) to draw attention from the serious economic crisis in which he and Carlos Salinas de Gortari had left the country, revived the war against the Zapatista indigenous communities.
And at the same time as he launched this major military offensive against the EZLN (which failed), Zedillo attacked the National Intermediation Commission.
Obsessed with the idea of doing away with Don Samuel, this former president of Mexico and current employee of transnational corporations took advantage of the alliance, which under the tutelage of Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, had been forged between the PRI and the PAN.
During this time, in a meeting with the leadership of the Catholic Church, the then Attorney General of the Republic Antonio Lozano Gracia, being a PANista as well as a fanatic of spiritualism and witchcraft of the most dubious kind, threw in Don Samuel Ruiz García’s face a document ordering his arrest.
They say that this Attorney and graduate of the Occult Sciences was then confronted by the rest of the Bishops, among them Norberto Rivera, who came out in the defense of the holder of the Diocese of San Cristobal.
The PRI-PAN alliance (which the PRD and PT of Chiapas later also joined) against the progressive Catholic Church did not stop here. The federal and state governments godfathered further slanderous attacks; whence also came attempts on the lives of various members of the Diocese.
The Federal Army was not to be left behind. At the same time as it was financing, training, and equipping the paramilitary groups, it promoted the idea that the Diocese itself was the one sowing violence.
Their argument then (now repeated by idiot armchair leftists) was that the diocese had created the bases and the leadership cadres of the EZLN.
A mere button of the large sample of these ridiculous arguments was shown when a general demonstrated a book as proof that the Diocese with in league with the “lawbreakers.”
The title of this incriminating book was “The Gospel of Mark.”
These attacks continue to the present day.
The Human Rights Center “Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas” receives continuous threats and harassment.
Beyond having been founded by Don Samuel Ruiz García and having a Christian inspiration, the “aggravated offenses” of the “Frayba” include belief in the Integrity and Indivisibility of Human Rights; respect for cultural diversity and the right to Self-Determination; belief that justice is integral to, and a prerequisite for, peace; and their development of a culture of dialogue, tolerance and reconciliation with respect for cultural and religious plurality.
Nothing more grievous than these principles.
And this grievance is felt all the way up to the Vatican, where they maneuver to split the diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas in two in order to dilute the alternative project of working alongside and with the poor; where they accomodate government and wash consciences with money. Taking advantage of the death of Don Samuel, they are now reactivating this project of control and division.
Because up there they understand that the preferential option for the poor does not die with Don Samuel. It lives and acts in all sectors of the Catholic Church that decide to practice what they preach.
Meanwhile, the pastoral team, especially deacons, ministers and catechists (the indigenous Catholics working in communities), suffers slander, insult and attack by the neo-lovers of war. Power keeps longing for its days of dominion and it sees in the work of the Diocese an obstacle to the reinstatement of its knife and gallows regime.
The grotesque parade of characters from local and national political life surrounding the coffin of Don Samuel is not there to honor him, but rather to make sure, with relief, that he is dead. Likewise the media pretend to lament what they are actually celebrating.
But above all these ecclesiastical attacks and conspiracies, Don Samuel Ruiz García and Christians like him had, have and will always have a special place in the dark-skinned heart of the indigenous Zapatista communities.
Now that it is fashionable to condemn the whole Catholic Church for the crimes, excesses, commissions and omissions of some of its superiors …
Now that the self-dubbed “progressive” sector delights in deriding and making fun of the whole Catholic Church …
Now that all are encouraged to see in every priest a pedofile, potential or active …
Now would be a good time to turn around, look below, and find there those who, as Don Samuel did before, challenged and continue to challenge Power.
Because these Christians firmly believe that justice must also reign in this world.
And they live and die accordingly, in thought, word and deed.
Because although it is true that there are Marciales and Onésimos in the Catholic Church, there have also been, and there are, Roncos, Ernestos, Samueles, Arturos, Raúles, Sergios, Bartolomés, Joeles, Heribertos, Raymundos, Salvadores, Santiagos, Diegos, Estelas, Victorias, and thousands of others in religious and secular orders that are on the side of justice and freedom, the side of life.
Within the EZLN, Catholic and non-Catholic, believer and non-believer, today we we honor the memory of Don Samuel Ruiz García, but not only that.
We also, and above all, salute the substantial commitment of all the Christians and believers in Chiapas, Mexico and the World who don’t keep silent when faced with injustice, nor sit still when faced with war.
Don Samuel has gone, but many others are still here, many others that, in and by Catholic Christian faith, struggle such that our earthly world be more just, more free, more democratic, that is to say, struggle for a better world.
Bless these women and men, because from their sleeplessness tomorrow’s morning will be born.
From the mountains of the Southeast of Mexico
From the Comité Clandestino Revolucionario Indígena-Comandancia General of the EZLN.
Teniente Coronel Insurgente Moisés. Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, January 2011.
This post is also available in: Spanish