Mexico’s Virtual Guerrillas

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

While their revolution may not be televised, the Zapatista rebels are at least making sure it’s online.

Their enigmatic leader, Subcommander Marcos, though struggling to keep his troops — and identity — cloaked, still manages to regularly rouse his global supporters. “They’re saying, ‘Stop the War,’ ” he recently posted, “in Spain, in France, in England, in the U.S., in Argentina.”

Since last fall, his communiqués (previously typed out and hand-delivered to Mexico’s newspaper editors) are posted on Ya Basta!, which draws an audience that checks in 400 times daily for the latest reports.

Not surprisingly, coverage of the Zapatistas’ Chiapas uprising on the Net — where rumors spread freely — has had its low points (like last winter, when a widely circulated message mistakenly reported tanks in the streets of San Cristobal).

But when a mob of 200 conservative opponents of Zapatista-sympathizer Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia attacked the cathedral in San Cristobal de las Casas last February, Father Pablo Romo sent out an urgent plea on the Internet.

“People in the U.S. who got the message called the Mexican consulates,” recalls Romo. “The consulates called Mexico City, Mexico City called the state government in Chiapas, and within two hours the police who had been standing around were ordered to stop the riot.”

Many analysts, including David F. Ronfeldt of the Santa Monica-based Rand think tank, argue that hierarchical institutions (including governments) are losing power because they cannot control the enormous amount of information avenues like the Internet — or even the fax machine — make available. And Ronfeldt credits the Zapatista presence on the Net with preventing a harsher crackdown from the Mexican government.

In the 1970s, the Mexican army launched a brutal campaign against a small guerrilla force in the state of Guerrero. Hundreds of peasants were killed, but the event went largely unreported, and few outsiders noticed.

That, according to Ronfeldt, isn’t as likely to happen again. The address for Ya Basta!:


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend