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  • EZLN Subcomandante Marcos, now known as Galeano, in Chiapas in 2005

    EZLN Subcomandante Marcos, now known as Galeano, in Chiapas in 2005 | Photo: EFE

The Zapatistas argued at the 20th anniversary National Indigenous Congress that resource exploitation will ultimately destroy the people.

As the iconic Subcomandante Marcos – also known as Subcomandante Galeano – made a rare appearance, the Zapatistas renewed their call Tuesday for Indigenous unity across Mexico in the face of what the movement criticizes as runaway social and environmental destruction for the benefit of a few, while the people – especially Indigenous communities – suffer the consequences.

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“Today, they truly want to destroy us with the slavery of capitalism, and at the same time finish off and destroy Mother Earth and nature,” Subcomandante Moises said Tuesday on behalf of the movement during the fifth National Indigenous Congress led by the Zapatistas in San Cristobal de las Casas, in the southern state of Chiapas.

“Talking among ourselves as Indigenous peoples was and is very important, today more than ever,” continued Moises, who Subcomandante Marcos introduced as a new subcomandante in 2013. “Because capitalist destruction against Mother Earth is now extended, and that means that we will also be destroyed, because we live off her.”

The event marks 20 years since the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, also known as the EZLN or Zapatistas, first launched the National Indigenous Congress as a rallying cry in the early years after the movement emerged from the Lacandon jungle and declared war against the Mexican state. The gathering brings together Indigenous peoples from Mexico and other countries, including Colombia and Guatemala, to share experiences, discuss collective challenges, and advance their struggles through solidarity.

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Subcomandante Marcos — known as Subcomandante Galeano since 2014 when he announced that “Marcos, the character, is no longer necessary,” — participated in the congress, joining working groups and roundtable discussions alongside other participants. The iconic leader’s public appearances have been less frequent since he announced the Zapatistas decided to “kill” Marcos to avoid his image overshadowing the collective voice of the movement. His new name, Galeano, is a reference to Jose Luis Solis Lopez “Galeano,” a teacher and EZLN leader killed on May 2, 2014, by a paramilitary group.

At the launch of the congress, which is scheduled to wrap up Thursday, Subcomandante Moises called for urban and rural movements to come together in the struggle for anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist alternatives.

“We the exploited need to bridge the countryside and city and build the world we want,” he said. “We believe that we need to dedicate our efforts and sacrifices to work together and organize ourselves.”

The EZLN declared war against Mexico on January 1, 1994, in conjunction with the launch of the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement, known widely by its acronym NAFTA. The movement quickly launched into the international spotlight as an example for autonomous social movements around the globe. After more than two decades, the masked EZLN militants and their struggle continue to be iconic symbols of the fight for alternatives to global capitalism in all corners of the world.

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