Mexican diplomacy and military keep watch on Zapatista sympathisers in Europe

This story was published in Spanish on 21 October 2022.

Mexico’s embassies and military attaché offices in Europe separately followed up on the Zapatista National Liberation Army delegation that travelled to the region in 2021. However, hacked internal communications from the Ministry of National Defence reveal that it received internal reports prepared by diplomatic representations, which identified activists and European organisations sympathetic to the Zapatista movement. For security reasons, this media outlet has decided to omit the names of the officials and activists mentioned in the messages.

Por Yetlaneci Alcaraz, Marco Appel y Alberto Escorcia

BERLIN/BRUSSELS/STOCKHOLM – The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE), through its embassy in Belgium, handed over to the Ministry of National Defence (SEDENA) its internal reports on the Zapatista caravan which, between June and November 2021, travelled through several European countries. In some of them, the SRE mentions by name, surname and profile Mexican and foreign activists who sympathise with the guerrilla movement.

Underground Periodismo Internacional had access to files with e-mails hacked from SEDENA by the self-identified Guacamaya group, in which it is evident that, even abroad, the federal government reports and shares confidential information with the army.

In October 2020, the Zapatistas announced a trip to Europe with the aim of “holding meetings, dialogues, exchanges of ideas, experiences, analyses and collaborations between those of us who are engaged in the struggle for life”. On 30 April 2021, a group of seven EZLN militants set sail from Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, and disembarked in Vigo, Spain, on 22 June. This delegation – the so-called ‘Squadron 421’ – returned to the country in September and was replaced by a contingent of more than 170 Zapatistas who dispersed in small groups in various European countries before finally returning to Mexico at the end of November of the same year.

As is already known, the army followed the Zapatistas’ journey in detail, asking its military attachés for information on the activities of the “non-conformist group EZLN” (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) in Europe.

On 8 July 2021, an official of the Mexican embassy in Belgium sent an email to the military attaché and deputy air attaché of the same representation including the weekly reports of at least 17 Mexican diplomatic missions.

Dear Lieutenant Colonel.

In accordance with the Ambassador’s instructions, I am enclosing the communications we have received about the EZLN“, reads the message sent from her official email.

Document treated by Underground Periodismo Internacional

Six days later, on 14 July, the deputy attaché also e-mailed the information to his superior, the head of the Mexican military and air attaché’s office in Belgium.



The emails in question, using institutional addresses, are part of an extensive chain of messages “complying” with the official letter referenced as DGE 0700, issued by the SRE’s Directorate General for Europe. This letter ordered Mexican embassies in the region to follow up on the so-called “Tour for Life” (Gira por la vida) undertaken by members of the EZLN.

In the emails transmitted, the Mexican ambassadors report in detail not only the articles in the local press in their respective countries referring to the Zapatista trip, but also document the exhaustive monitoring some of them carried out of organisations, Mexican and foreign activists, and any other initiative – such as fund-raising, exhibitions, concerts and meetings that emerged to support the caravan.

One example is the report from the embassy in Sweden which on 2 July 2021 reported:

“It was noted that the group ‘Solidarity with Ayotzinapa- Sweden’ held on 12 June the event: ‘Journey for Life’ at the Röda Sten Konsthall gallery in Gothenburg. During this event, a paper boat workshop was given, various stories were read, and information was shared about the historical, decolonising and intersectional significance of the Zapatista brigade for Europe.”

Other reports highlight the extensive efforts to track down information, focusing on identifying not only collectives but also activists in the Mexican community. The communications also reveal the methods used to obtain this information. For instance, in an email dated 1 July 2021, the Mexican ambassador in Finland wrote:

“This Embamex has also followed up on Finnish information that could be published on social networks by non-governmental organisations and even Mexican nationals interested in the eventual visit of the EZLN Delegation to Finland.”

“At the moment it is known that two collectives are involved in hosting the Zapatista visit to Finland (‘Colectivo Armadillo Finland’ and ‘Somos La Colectiva’) and that the visit of the EZLN delegation to Finland would take place in September 2021. This information was shared via telephone by members of ‘Somos La Colectiva’”.

Some emails go further and identify activists by name and surname, also profiling them. For reasons of data protection, all names and their references are omitted from this article.

The Mexican embassy in Switzerland mentions in its report of 24 June 2021 a list of local networks of Zapatista sympathisers, including a local radio station, and notes:

“Local Zürich radio station for Spanish speakers. Among the presenters is the Mexican XXXX XXXX. The latter staged a protest in November 2014 at the University of Basel during the opening of a conference dedicated to the centenary of Octavio Paz’s birth”.

On 1 July 2021, the Mexican embassy in the Netherlands reported on activities in support of the Zapatistas on social networks. The mention of a private Facebook group stands out:

“The private Facebook group ‘Gira Zapatista Holanda’, created to establish contacts between individuals and collectives in the Netherlands in support of the Zapatista delegation heading to this country, was detected. The group coordinates the preparations for the arrival of the Zapatista delegation to the Netherlands, including events, volunteer recruitment, fundraising, as well as promotional activities for the tour, among others. Although the specific content of the meetings they hold is unknown, they have been convened mainly by the following persons:”.

The diplomat who writes the report then proceeds to list eleven Mexican and foreign activists by name and surname. For each one, a brief profile of their nationality, their place of residence, their profession and the social activism they have carried out. The list includes students, artists, journalists and academics who live, study or work in cities such as The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

For its part, SEDENA has been monitoring the Zapatistas’ passage through Europe since at least 3 May 2021. This is revealed in the ordinary letter No. ES-249, sent by the Military and Air Attaché of the Mexican embassy in Berne, Switzerland, to his superior in Mexico City. The letter states it is “in compliance with the order in his Msje. F.C.A. No. 033727 of 3 May 2021, regarding informing on the activities carried out by the delegation of the non-conformist group “EZLN” in Switzerland and other European countries”.

In the six-page document, the military attaché’s office reports:

“The mobilisation of the so-called “squadron 421″, that left Mexico for Europe with the aim of carrying out a socialist movement (sic) in the central region of Europe, was identified on social networks”.

From the information provided by this military representation, it is even clear that the Mexican Army has accounts on social networks of what they themselves call “leftist movements” in Europe:

“Greater activity has been identified on different Twitter accounts linked to left-wing movements in Germany and Switzerland, whose activities are (sic) more focused on the fight against climate change and environmental protection.”

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