The Zapatista Liberation Army and its leaders belong on the Department of the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) and Blocked Persons watch list.
Despite the ongoing battles against the drug cartels, there are still many places to visit in Mexico that are relatively safe and worth a visit. The southern state of Chiapas, however, is not one of them.
Late last year the New York Times penned a feature piece on the Chiapas region. The area is the hometown of the Mexican separatist group, arguably terrorist organization, the Zapatistas. “The Zapatistas may be rebels, but they’re also patriots,” Matt Gross wrote in his travel journal.
The Zapatistas have kidnapped or tortured uncooperative land owners, taken over town halls, bombed infrastructure and shopping centers. In the 1990s, it declared war on the Mexican Army and the federal government and created a separatist government in the south of Mexico. It has issued several Declarations of the Lacandon Jungle, radical leftist manifestos.
The region is a major drug transit zone, especially close to the borders of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. Mexican government officials have said that the Zapatistas must have contact with the drug cartels in that region since no one can really function in that area without their support or protection. By the way, these folks are armed with automatic weapons and cover their heads with black hoods.
The Zapatista Liberation Army and its leaders belong in several categories of the Department of the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) and Blocked Persons watch list (an FTO designation from State Department comes to mind). The group has a wide network of support in the U.S. from which it receives money and other support include an electronic backbone that fuels its online work linking it up to other groups in the region and around the world. Listing the Zapatistas and its leaders on U.S. watch lists could lead to freezing bank accounts, shutting down online support networks.
As for the New York Times, it is no wonder that readership and advertising has reached crisis levels in recent years. Rather than looking for the good in Mexico, it does what is has done for decades in its biased reporting of many issues, seeks out the lowest common denominator in a society and attempts to make it a good thing.
Rather than serious, fulsome reporting, it became a propaganda tool for quixotic causes, or as in this case, promoting what amounts to terror tourism. It is irresponsible. The Zapatistas are dangerous and no American, no matter how ill informed, should be encouraged to visit that region.