One of the many ways that public diplomacy is used effectively is by calling global attention to an issue and gaining support by educating others through means of communication such as TV, radio, and the internet. Ultimately, the raising of awareness turns into an aspiration for change, which ideally would arouse a need in people to act to improve the situation. This is exactly what the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) did by holding a conference in which thousands of supporters from every corner of the world spoke about the anti-Neoliberalism movement in Chiapas and around the world. They used the internet and independent run media outlets such as radio and newspapers to promote this event and were greatly successful in reaching and committing thousands of people to attend.

The Zapatistas and their support groups met on December 30th through January 2nd, 2007 in Oventik, Chiapas, Mexico to celebrate the New Year along with the 13th year anniversary of their armed uprising against the economic inequalities in Chiapas. More than 1,042 people were part of this initiative coming from four continents. The Americas alone accounted for 18 countries including Argentina, Basque country, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, United States, and Venezuela. European participation was also strongly felt in the presence of Austria, Belgium, Catalonian countries, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. Representatives of Oceania included Australia and New Zealand and representing Asia was Israel. The great number of EZLN supporters from around the world made for a truly diverse international event.

Participants organized themselves in workshop format and brought up themes such as: What does it really mean to govern autonomously?, What are the challenges?, What does autonomy mean for the Zapatistas?, What does it mean to rule obeying? The goal was, as Insurgent Colonel Moisés stated, “...to discuss the problems we have faced in the past few years such as those that our autonomous governments have presented toward our anti-capitalist projects. We will attempt, with humility and respect, to speak about our mistakes and by doing this attempt to improve our approaches to the problems of inequalities and human rights.” In the minds of the Zapatistas, the struggle that they are fighting in Mexico is everyone’s struggle because problems such as poverty, misery, ignorance, marginalization, and exploitation are global issues that must be addressed along with the just demands of the indigenous peoples of the world.

Through robust communications, the Zapatistas have been able to raise global awareness and have successfully gained support from around the world to put pressure on the Mexican government to be open to dialogue. Although the Zapatistas have yet to achieve complete success with every one of their demands, they certainly have elevated themselves to a point where the Mexican government acknowledges their concerns and has taken steps towards improvement of indigenous rights. Therefore, this 13th year anniversary signifies one step closer to, what the Zapatistas call, a ‘world where those who govern, govern through obedience of the people”.

Further Reading

Online Article (Spanish)

Picture and Links (Spanish)

Zezta International Main Page (Spanish)

Mexican Independant Media (Spanish and English)

"The Struggle" (English)

Zapatista Communiqués (English)

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