The Zapatista National Liberation Army began January 1, 1994, as a paramilitary rebel group with the goal of protecting the rights of Mexico's indigenous population. During that initial uprising, zapatistas seized seven Chiapan towns, all of them municipal seats: San Cristobal, Las Margaritas, Altamirano, Oxchuc, Huixtan, Chanal and Ocosingo. Since this early, somewhat bloody confrontation between the Zapatistas and the government, there has been little to no violence. Indeed, there was a general cease-fire established on January 12, 1994.
Essentially, the Zapatistas believe that 70 years of PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) one-party rule has led to a racially biased society wherein the bulk of the indigenous population lives in poverty. Their stated demands of the Mexican government include an end to illiteracy, the right to education, the right to dignified jobs, respect for indigenous peoples and cultures, the creation of hospitals, freedom for an independent press, cancellation of debts for the poor, an end to hunger, malnutrition and brutal exploitation, the release of political prisoners, the creation of truly free and democratic elections, "an end to centralization" and establishment of municipal "self-governance with political, economic and cultural autonomy," and for women, they demanded birth clinics, child care and access to education.
Detailed Timeline of Zapatista/Mexican Gov't Conflict:
|January 1, 1994||Zapatistas seize control of seven Chiapan towns|
|January 12, 1994||100,000 people overflow the Zocalo in Mexico City to demand that the president declare a cease-fire and begin to dialogue with the insurgents. Salinas decrees a cease-fire:'The Army will only attack if it is attacked'.|
|February 20, 1994||Nineteen delegates from EZLN arrive in San Cristobal to participate in a dialogue with Mexican government.|
|March 23, 1994||Luis Donaldo Colosio, the PRI's presidential candidate, is assassinated. EZLN decides it cannot sign peace agreement with government that kills its own candidates.|
|January 1995||The EZLN unveils the Third Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. In it, the rebels call for the creation of a Movement of National Liberation|
|February 1995||The Federal Army forces on Chiapas detail launch a military offensive in order to capture the EZLN's leaders and make incursions into the Lacandon Jungle. Arrests, skirmishes, murders, rapes, sacked towns and more than 30,000 displaced people are the result of the military offensive.|
|April 9, 1995||The Joint Declaration of San Miguel and the Protocol on the Grounds for Dialogue are both signed, and the town of San Andres Sacamchen is declared the permanent base for peace encounters.|
|February 16, 1996||The EZLN and the federal government sign the first agreements on Indigenous Rights and Culture. The goverment makes a commitment to recognize indigenous peoples in the PreConstitution.|
|September 2, 1996||In view of the lack of compliance with the first agreements, the EZLN decides to suspends its participation in dialogues with the government. The rebels establish five conditions that must be met before returning to the negotiating table--they have not been met to date.|
|June 1998||The EZLN breaks its silence with the Fifth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. Broad sectors of Mexican civil society demand that the EZLN participate in an encounter in order to pool ideas and prepare consultations.|
|November 1998||The EZLN accepts and from the 20th to the 22nd the EZLN-Civil Society Encounter is held in San Cristobal de las Casas, attended by 32 zapatista delegates and more than 3,000 Mexicans.|