Interview with Pablo Salazar

La Jornada
by Luis Herna'ndez Navarro
Tuesday, August 22, 2000.
Translated by irlandesa

Pablo Salazar: My Victory Is a Blow Against Southeast Governors' Syndicate
Says Chiapas Conflict Is Not "Inter or Intra-Community"

Pablo Salazar, the man who broke up the PRI in Chiapas and organized a broad civic-electoral movement, will be the next governor of the state. In an interview with La Jornada, he discusses how, between seven and nine on the night of election day, the State Electoral Commission's computer system almost crashed. He also said that his victory will affect not only the PRI, but also the political aspirations of the southeast governors' syndicate.

The senator rejects those legal reforms approved during Governor Roberto Albores Guille'n's administration whose purpose was to strip the contents of the San Andre's Accords, and he says he will review and overturn them if necessary. He said his election will not resolve the causes which gave rise to the EZLN uprising, and he will not lend himself to reducing the dimensions of the conflict, although he will work tirelessly to facilitate peace.

The next governor wants to be the man of the transition in Chiapas. Among his objectives are promoting a reform process which will culminate in a new Constituyente and a new Constitution.

The PRI's Losing Bet

[LHN]: Salazar's election victory changed the relationship of forces within the PRI. From the outset, it was a strong blow against the aspirations of Roberto Madrazo and the southeast governors' syndicate.

"We said from the beginning that there was more at stake in Chiapas than our election. The PRI wanted to resolve their internal struggles here. They put everything on it. When I beat the PRI, I beat Sami David, but I also beat Roberto Madrazo. Our victory here has a larger dimension. We didn't just beat the PRI candidate. We beat a political group which wanted to take over this part of the country. Our victory gives new encouragement to the democratic struggle throughout the area. The next state that is going to fall into the hands of the opposition is Tabasco."

[LHN]: Could this have been affected by the rapidity with which the news channels announced the exit polls recognizing your victory?

"You lived through it, as a close witness, a temptation that was present on August 20. From seven to nine at night - I don't know if it was the governors' syndicate, I don't know who - there was a very difficult moment when the system could have even fallen. What are we talking about? Of the resistance to accepting our victory, because they knew what the implications of that were."

[LHN]: Between August 21 and December 8 - the date on which you take office - a dangerous interregnum will be opening. There is the danger of provocations or destabilizing actions. What is Pablo Salazar thinking of doing in order to avoid them or to confront them?

"First, I'm encouraged by the fact of knowing that the government of Chiapas and the PRIs themselves are beginning to understand that it's not just them against the world, that there's a new reality in the country, that the next federal government will not be PRI. That any attempt to destabilize the state will not earn them any political profits. That they don't have any guarantee of impunity. There are commitments which I take seriously. The Secretary of Government has given full guarantees that there will be a climate of calm in Chiapas until the transfer of power. The responsibility is the federal government's and in the state government itself. The latter has already assumed its defeat, politically, and it has committed itself to enter into a process of delivery-reception over the next few months."

[LHN]: Pablo Salazar will have to govern with a PRI-majority Congress and with the majority of the municipalities in the hands of the 'tricolor.' What will your relationship with them be like?

"We are going to have to prioritize the building of accords with them. They are a reality that is here. The other thing is that they are without a national leader. The next president does not belong to the PRI. Nor does the future governor. It's going to be very interesting to see how they behave without a leader, without a direction. We don't want to be a replacement. We are going to favor consensus. We're already in talks with some legislators."

[LHN]: During Albores' government, there were a series of constitutional and legal reforms related to indigenous law and culture, redistricting and amnesty for paramilitaries. Many observers have pointed out that these are opposed to the San Andre's Accords, and that they are very far from helping to create a climate of de'tente. What is Pablo Salazar thinking of doing in response to these givens?

"I have explicitly committed myself to reviewing and sending back - within the powers of the Executive - everything whose purpose was to strip the contents of the San Andre's Accords. At the time, I was opposed to unilateral redistricting. I will promote an in-depth review of those actions, and even, if its necessary, I'll promote new drafts."

[LHN]: Pablo Salazar is today a man without a party. He comes helped by eight political parties, but he doesn't belong to any of them. How are you going to manage governing? Are you thinking of forming a regional party? Will some of those already existing be incorporated?

"I'm thinking about being a governor of transition and ending like all transitions end. We want to finish this entire impulse for reform with a new Constitution and new Constituyente. If I want to be a governor of transition, I should remain without a party. I have made a public commitment to the society of Chiapas that I won't become affiliated with any of them [parties]. I do not believe being affiliated is bad, but it stigmatizes, and I don't want to bias the role of governor. What we want to do is to leave a foundation, so alternation can be seen as a reality and so new kinds of relationships between society and government can be established. That is going to be helped quite a lot by the next governor's not being affiliated with any party."

[LHN]: Who will be the next Espinosa Villarreal of Pablo Salazar's administration?

"We're not going to come in with an attitude of revenge. But, as it's been said over and over again, the next government will have to give a clear accounting. I'm not going to send anyone to the courts. The one who goes will be going because his accounts aren't clear. One has to go into all rebuilding processes with a constructive mind, but in Chiapas reconciliation is not a matter of making a fresh start. I'm not coming to start a witch hunt. Those who are bad know it. They'll have to figure out how to make their accounting. We're not going to accept anything that's not clear. There will absolutely not be any impunity."

[LHN]: It's been said that Pablo Salazar's election victory resolves the conflict with the EZLN. What will Pablo Salazar do in response to zapatismo?

"As long as the causes for which they rose up still exist, they will still have reason, even more so if they are a group which has sought the political path, and if it was the institutions themselves which had closed that path off to them. Our presence does not take away the EZLN's raison d'e^tre. Far from it, the new government of Chiapas gives zapatismo reasons to find interlocutors who will facilitate the recovery of dialogue channels."

[LHN]: Who is the EZLN's interlocutor? The federal government? The state government?

"The federal government. I have said it, I reiterate it, and I'll say it to the end. It is also quite clear to me that a principal actor in the process should, in addition, be the Cocopa. I know the peace process in Chiapas as few others do. I know what the temptations are. I know what a government should do and what it should not do. It is clear to me what I have to do. I am not going to lend myself to the politics of reductionism. The idea of reducing the dimensions of the conflict have been underlying since it began. Also underlying has been the temptation to reduce it to an inter or intra-community conflict. If it had been an inter-community conflict, we would not have appealed to the full Congress of the Union, there would not have been a federal law, the actors would not have been described in that very law. The EZLN's interlocutor is the federal government. The conflict must be re-measured. The EZLN is a national actor. It's true that, militarily, their presence is focused in Chiapas, but their repercussions are national and international. I'm not going to go into that dynamic."

Neither Mediator Nor Messenger

[LHN]: If Pablo Salazar is not going to be an interlocutor, will he perhaps be an intermediary?

"Nor do I want to be a mediator or messenger. I want to be a facilitator of peace. There could have been many steps taken towards peace in Chiapas by just having a good government. But this has not happened. We have had a state government which has acted as a tyrant towards the communities: it has wreaked violence on them, it has dismantled them, it has beaten them, it has attacked them. That is not going to be our role. We are going to seek relationship with the communities. Many zapatista communities will be willing to be part of the development process, always and when they define the how and the with-whom. The next government will be willing to seek the channels of interlocution with them. A new relationship must be built between government and society, but this is not going to take place overnight just because we won the election. Credibility must be built. Destroying the EZLN is not my obsession, not on my agenda. Sadly, the PRIs did intend that, it was their aim, and that brutally affected the relationship with the communities."

[LHN]: Does the government come with commitments to local power groups?

"None. Not even with the parties. I don't have commitments with them that have to do with power quotas. I didn't receive any money from caciques or from wealthy businessman demanding concessions. The political parties didn't make me sign any agreements in exchange for giving them positions. The process in Chiapas was unique."

Conflict in Chiapas: Understanding the Modern Mayan World
by Worth H. Weller, Ben Weller (Photographer), Julia Weller (Photographer)
$16.95, Paperback, March 1, 2000
Rebellion in Chiapas : An Historical Reader
by John Womack (Editor)
$14.36, Paperback , March 1999
Voices from Exile : Violence and Survival in Modern Maya History
by Victor Montejo
$18.17, Hardcover, October 1999
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