noise that had just shattered the morning. I knocked at the nearest door and was met by the intrigued but evasive face of a little boy, who agreed to each of my requests. He would have to call an ambulance, and fast, and tell them that on such and such street this person had been run down. Do you understand? Yes. Do you know the phone number? Yes. Do you know which street we’re on? Yes. Then run, but come back and let me know what you find out. He closed the door, I heard his steps as he moved down the long hallway, and I never saw him again. It didn’t matter. At that moment Leona had managed to intercept a police vehicle a white pickup carrying two policemen and one soldier, all armed with rifles and wearing flack jackets. Once they had taken note of the number, the license plate and the color of the bus, they said they were going after the suspect. With tires squealing, they were off, but two blocks away turned left and disappeared. All we could do was knock on more doors, look for helpful storekeepers, ask for telephone numbers and plead with countless skeptical or indolent operators. Almost an hour later another police truck arrived to pick up the agonizing Indian. In an instant he was hoisted into the air and thrown like a sack into the bed of the truck. Yes, yes, of course, we are going to take him to get help, don’t worry. If you like, you can call in the afternoon to see how the boy is doing. That afternoon no one could tell us anything about what had happened. They were all very sorry, but there had been no report of an incident like the one we described. “No, honestly, no accident reported this morning, if you like you can call tomorrow, maybe then …” That was September of 1988, when Carlos Salinas de Gortari had not yet been inaugurated and Patrocinio Gonzalez Garrido was the illustrious governor-elect of Chiapas. I was there, with Leona, as a guest at a seminar on border journalism and thus had the rare opportunity to talk with some of the principal players in the public life of Chiapas, people who today are unwilling protagonists in Mexico’s current outrage. I saw Patrocinio, dressed in chamula at one of his victory celebrations. I met with Bishop Samuel Ruiz and listened to him expound on the basics of his mision salvifica in the Chiapan highlands. I conversed with the then-departing governor Absalon Castellanos, today a prisoner of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, and I was deeply impressed by the example of Jan de Vos, the Dutch anthropologist who had dedicated decades to a study of the dolorous and magical culture of the Chiapaneca Indians. But not one of these encounters taught me as much about the social reality of Chiapas as that moment when a Tzotzil Indian was run down on the street and abandoned to die like a dog ignored while the world passed him by. What law, then, are they talking about in Chiapas? What is this civic order that supposedly had been shattered since the January 1 uprising? It all comes down to this: The country we see from the halls of government is abysmally and irreconcilably divorced from the country we experience when we walk our streets. There we were, just about to place our right foot into the First World, us, the moderns, the reformed, the democrats, and on the very day of the inauguration of the free trade agreement, out from the catacombs came the demons of marginalization and misery that had long since been officially exorcised. And ironically, a Spanish organization has just presented the Mexican government with a new prize. On January 5, the Salinas Administration received the “Golden its skill in restoring Mexico’s international image. Image, however, is one thing and substance another. Mexican governments seem to have mastered the polishing of appearance without the regenerating of essence and the results are now obvious: Nobody can cure a cancer with cosmetics. Sooner or later, the organic decomposition begins to devour the face, and thengoodbye false eyelashes, green eyes, lipstick and make up … In a sense, Chiapas is an outbreak of cancer and the unavoidable revelation that cosmetic changes are devoid of meaning. It was useless for our federal government to increase its investment in Chiapas from 70 million pesos in 1988 to 750 million pesos in 1993. It is now clear thatprogress does not come from passing out pesos to obtain votes. With less money, invested in fundamental and truly, democratic change; campesinos in Chiapas would not have found it necessary to look to guerrillas for leadership. So it is a fallacy to attribute what happened there to the congenital evil of a few professional agitators and guerrillas with green eyes and foreign accents. Extremists you will find everywhere, but they don’t stir up trouble where there is work, food, justice and democracy. They are not the problem. The problem is that for many of our Indians, campesinos and poor it is still easier, quicker and less painful to die by a bullet than to die by hunger. And it is this, and nothing else, that makes them easy prey for manipulators, opportunists and desperados. The whole affair in Chiapas is political and is about democracy and justice. Our government, the same government that has made us candidates for membership in the First World, is the same government that for years has tolerated strong-arm governments and atrocities in Chiapas. The same government that knew about guerrilla movements preferred to ignore them to avoid worrying our associates in the north. The same government that today sees the horrifying consequences of its own policies and can think of no better response than to give the army a green light to bomb its own territory. In a matter of hours, the modern Mexico, the democratic and First World Mexico, tore up its constitution and returned, impotent, to its cradle of barbarianism, to the primitivism of bullets and blood. Now that the masquerade is over and the the costumes are ruined, it’s time to begin to construct a true democracy, where justice is within reach of everyone. Continued from page 2 inside the Beltway and that the political and moral aspirations of the majority of Americans can be safely ignored. It demands that they accept the corporate interests of a few health care and insurance companies as sufficient reason to lower their own life expectations, to accept greater risks of morbidity, disability, and early death on the ground that it would be too large a burden on these interests merely to provide access for them to highquality medical care. Obviously, this is a moral demand, not a neutral claim about markets. It is central to managed competition, though obscured in the Clinton plan by populist rhetoric about responsibility. Acceptance of the Political Unfeasibility argument, and support for managed competition, are therefore not signs of progress in health policy, or evidence of political realism, but rather symptoms of intellectual failure, moral insensitivity, and political cowardice. True enough, the majority of Americans supporting single-payer health insurance is largely a latent majority, waiting to be activated. But as the Political Unfeasibility argument makes plain, much more is at stake than health care reform, important as that is, in activating it. The viability of democracy is at stake too. R.G. Stubbings, Ph.D., Professor of Health Policy, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas Coordinator, Physicians for a National Health Program THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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