Running head: Recommendation Memo
University of Maryland University College, 2011
Mexico: Current political situation and how it developed from the 1990s netwar.
Mexico “is a far cry from tradition perception of it as a laid-back and uninspiring nation
only considered part of North America by courtesy” (Klepak, 2008). Currently, Mexico is
enjoying a relatively stable democracy since its first peaceful election in 2002. The current
political situation has evolved from the 1990s netwars which saw the evolution of a different
kind of activists. These activists recognized the importance and the effect of modern computer
and utilized it well. This fight is not so much about trotting guns but about mobilizing people of
common interests and concerns across the globe through the use of the Internet. Notable to
mention is an article on “Emergence and Influence of the Zapatista Social Netwar” (Ronfeldt &
Arquilla, 2001), that described how the 1990s netwar shaped the current political situation in
According to the article, on January 1, 1994 in the city of Chiapas in Mexico, the
Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) publicly debuted as an indigenous insurgent group
demanding for their indigenous human right and dignity. They fought with the Federal troops in
San Cristobal and Ocosingo and somehow managed to take over these cities. Weeks later, the
government dispatched more troops with fighter planes and helicopters, staging a clash that
claimed the lives of the civilians, the Zapatistas and the government troops. The Zapatistas fled
into the hills and from there waged a flea-like guerilla war.
Simultaneously, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was being
inaugurated and from the Zapatistas’ point of view, the trade agreement is a death certificate for
the ethnic peoples of Mexico (Brown, n.a). The fear perceived by the Zapatistas that the
agreement would bring in cheap products from the US and Canada and displace indigenous
producers contributed to the uprising. It is important to note that NAFTA did not actually cause
the rebellion but was rather an aggravating factor.
From the first day of the insurgency, the technology has been a fundamental medium
through which the Zapatista voice was heard across the globe. It is also important to note that the
power of the Internet allowed the information to flow horizontally, dissipating across the globe
without passing through any form of central structure capable of filtering or censuring it. Many
people through the Internet got to know what was happening in Chiapas. While the Zapatistas
were waging their guerilla war as well as disseminating their human right declarations, some
social activists and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were quickly mobilizing activists
around the globe to support the EZLN movement.
As a result, there began the rise of the influence of non-governmental organizations as
activists intent on influencing political change and mobilizing activists around the world in
support of the Zapatistas. After the 1994 insurgency, the Mexican government reached an
agreement on greater autonomy for the indigenous Chiapas.
The objective of this memo is to use my position as a member of the IT strategic
implementation team of New Technologies Software (NTS) and make a recommendation to NTS
president describing the current political situation in Mexico. The memo will analyze how this
political situation developed from 1990s netwar, and describe the role social activists and
NGOs have in Mexico, as well as the impact they could have on the NTS mission and goals as
the company considers moving its corporate headquarters to Mexico.
Mexico has evolved into a democratic country after its first peaceful election in 2002.
However, it is faced by two threats such as security problem and dependency on the United State
that threatens its economic growth. The security problem is as a result of the drug war being
waged constantly very close to its border with the US. Nonetheless, being considered the second
biggest country and the second largest economy in Latin America shows that the relatively
political stability it is currently enjoying makes it very attractive to investors.
Prior to its present political situation, Mexico had been plagued with uprisings and
insurgencies with that of the EZLN being the most influential that ushered in a significant
political change. The Zapatista Movement netwar represents a hybrid of all the three eras (pre-
modern, modern and postmodern) and provides a seemingly plethora of social netwars in the
years ahead (Ronfeldt et al., 2001). Though, the characteristics surrounding these netwars are
bound to be different depending on each country. What happened in Chiapas is almost similar to
the events that took place in Burma and Seattle, U.S.A. It is noted that the inauguration of
NAFTA was an aggravating factor during the Zapatistas’ activist movement.
Similarly, in 1997 Pepsi responded to a fast growing student and civic movement which
opposed economic links with Burma’s military dictatorial government. They claimed that any
company that did business with their government supported the government in oppressing the
people. In the same token, the World Trade Organization (WTO) protest of 1999 in Seattle,
U.S.A., resulted from the many differences in the perspective of developing and industrial
nations on the current reality of free trade and its effect on them” (Shah, 2001). From all
indications, all these three events have one thing in common, which is the use of social netwar to
prevail in their activist movement.
The use of new information technologies in these countries aided the grassroots activists
in mobilizing “netizens” and challenging nondemocratic regimes (Ronfeldt et al., 2001).
However, the notable characteristic difference in Chiapas cause is that it served as a prototype
and consequently, turned out to be special. Emelio Zapata, to whom EZLN owes its name
though started out with hostility but later on changed the group rhetoric by calling for reforms
instead of overthrow.
The role of information in the Zapatista Movement
The Zapatistas understood the importance of information dissemination by word of
mouth and brilliantly used it as a tool for seeping information in and out. Though the Zapatistas
did not have electricity that drives the Internet tools, they had the words that travelled quickly
carrying their message around the world. This strategy worked so well in attracting social
activists and NGOs that swarmed Chiapas with alacrity to help the Zapatistas carry their netwar
further across the globe. The activists also received support and solidarity from their counterpart
in the US and Canada. The NGOs’ position is not strange due to the fact that 1970s saw a great
of number of NGOs springing up around the world. They developed information-age
organizational and technological networks for connecting and coordination with each other
Cleaver, 1998). Therefore, when the Zapatistas called the transnational NGOs answered.
The role of social activists and NGOs
Non state actors such as the NGOs and independent civil-society played a positive role in
facilitating communications by emails and fax messages that quickly mobilized supporters
around the globe to support the Zapatistas. They played service, advocacy (Ronfeldt et al., 2001),
and counter revolutionary role by fostering democracy and making decisions that affect the civil
Readers may wonder how mobilization was possible at that time when social networking
media that offers tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and microblogger were not
available. The answer is not farfetched. Old media such as newspapers, television, faxes email,
and computer conferencing systems equally served the purpose of disseminating information
well. Grassroots activists from over forty countries and five continents attended intercontinental
meetings in Chiapas. Without the Internet, this turnout would never have been possible (Cleaver,
The result of the conflict
Through the Zapatista boasted of network of Internet supporters and good relationship
with the media, the EZLM initiated an information war that the state actors stood no chance of
winning. Instead the state actors found themselves in an awkward situation of cleaning up their
public image. The NGOs and the global activists outcry became a net power; a different kind of
power that diffused the military power of the state actors. The net power took the state actors by
surprise and had them searching for ways to salvage their image. Consequently, the Mexican
government had to halt combats operations and turn to political dialogue and negotiation.
The Mexican state actors invited the Human Right Watch to discuss the human rights
situations in Chiapas. The Human Right Watch report showed concern about the accuracy of the
government report on how civilians were killed. As a result, the Human Right Watch called on
the United States government to withhold among others, foreign military sales to Mexico
(Refworld, 1995). The Mexican officials went as far as admitting being overwhelmed by the
“information-age social netwar”. In a strange twist of event, they finally recognized the EZLN
and reached an agreement with them to offer greater autonomy to the indigenous Mayans.
As recorded by Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy
(Ronfeldt et al., 2001), “the EZLN did not mount new operations… and with a sense of
fulfillment “many NGO activists turned their attention to other matters in Mexico”. Apparently,
judging by what happened later in Burma, Seattle, and Egypt, the “Zapatista” effect did spread
The impact the social activists could have on the NTS mission and goals
The social activists are not interested in business or political agenda. Their role is to use
power of the Cyberspace to facilitate communication among the NGOs about the cause of the
Zapatista. Since their role is all about communication, any company in the IT business that can
assist them realize their goal, is welcome. Therefore, their role could impact positively on the
goals and mission of NTS. The reason is because as the fish needs water, so does the NGOs need
communication tools, and NTS may be able to sell these tools and IT services to them.
The current political situation in Mexico after the Chiapas netwar and the role of the
social activists and NGOs is relatively stable, notwithstanding the persisting drug cartel war and
Mexico’s economic dependency on the US. Their large population offers a huge market to
investors. The NAFTA agreement signed between Canada, the USA, and Mexico created the
world's largest free trade zone for goods and services. The Zapatistas may have been nervous
about NAFTA, but will certainly welcome an investment from an IT industry which will provide
them the tools needed to fight their cause. In this view, NTS should not be wary of relocating.
Investing in a country where there is a social movement network could be daunting.
There is the risk of currency devaluation that could greatly impact on the mission and goals of
NTS. Another negative factor is the fear of unknown. No one knows what EZLM’s next plan and
the response by the social movement networks will be. Things may get out of hand leading to
loss of lives. As a result, NTS should also be leery of investing in Mexico.
The above immediate factor calls for an alternative action which is to watch and monitor
the unfolding events of the social movement. From both business and IT professional
perspective, this idea is not very sound. The reason is because in every business there are some
elements of risk and some businesses thrive better in a risky environment. Consequently, for
NTS to fear and watch the unfolding events before relocating to Mexico could result into a
missed investment opportunity.
Having analyzed the situation in Chiapas, Mexico and studied the roles of the NGOs and
social activists as well as discussed the three options available to NTS Company, I recommend
that they relocate. The Mexican government has already embraced the NAFTA free trade zone
agreement and would welcome NTS from the US to help their country develop technologically.
I recommend that NTS takes precautionary measures to ensure its success and the
wellbeing of its employees. These measures include making all relocating employee read this
memo to understand the EZLM background, the Chiapas netwar and the role the social activists
and NGOs have in Mexico as well as the impact they could have on NTS mission and goals.
I recommend that they register each employee with the US embassy in Mexico, provide
them with emergency telephone numbers and also advise them to avoid areas plagued by cartel
drug wars. NTS should establish a cordial relationship with the NGOs who may need donation
from time to time to support their work. Apart from monetary donation, NTS should also donate
IT equipment and tools. Basically, all these recommendation will keep NTS in a much needed
cordial relationship with the NGOs and the social activists.
Army Officer Held “Responsible “ for Chiapas Massacre: Accused Found Dead at Defense
Ministry. (1995). Refworld. Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/publisher,
Brown, P. (n.a). Cultural Resistance and Rebellion in Southern Mexico. Latin American
Research Review. University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Vol. 33, No. 3, pgs 217-229.
Retrieved from http://lasa2.univ.pitt.edu/LARR/prot/search/retrieve/?Vol=33&
Cleaver, H. M. (1998). The Zapatista effect: The Internet and the rise of an alternative political
fabric. Journal of International Affairs, 51(2), 621. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Retrieved from http://ehis.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/eds/detail?vid=2&hid=
Klepak, H. (2008). Mexico: Current and Future Political Economic and security Trends.
Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute. Retrieved from http://docs.google.com
Ronfeldt, D., Arquilla, J. (2001). Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and
Militancy. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2001. Retrieved from
Shah, A. (2001). WTO Protests in Seattle, 1999. Global Issues. Retrieved from