The Awakening: The Zapatista Revolt and Its Implications for Civil-Military Relations and the Future of Mexico

  • December 01, 1994
  • Dr Donald E Schulz, LTC Stephen J Wager

Drs. Stephen Wager and Donald Schulz examine the causes, nature and implications of the Zapatista uprising, emphasizing in particular its impact on Mexican civil-military relations. They argue that, together with the onset of democratization, the Chiapas rebellion has strained these relations and led to a certain mutual distancing between the Mexican army and government. Interestingly enough, however, they argue that this may actually be a good thing since it means that the military is becoming a more politically neutral institution and will likely be more open to the idea of an opposition electoral victory than in the past. Of more immediate importance, Wager and Schulz note that there has been little progress toward resolving the rebellion, and that as long as this is so fighting could very well break out anew, with disastrous results. They therefore urge the incoming Zedillo administration to move quickly to "bring the Zapatistas in from the cold" by co-opting them and their supporters both economically and politically. This means fulfilling not only the socioeconomic promises that have been made by the government, but reforming state and local political power structures to assure the rule of law and the access of those who have been shut out of the system. They further argue that the process of national political reform should be broadened and deepened, since without democratization on the national level any other gains that might be made would probably be ephemeral.