Indigenous Peoples and the Other Pandemic

By Magdalena Gómez

At this stage it is clear that the vulnerability of the indigenous peoples of the continent faced with the global pandemic is closely related with inequality, racism, and the classism that States have historically been incapable of addressing. Whether it be through action or omission, they have been its active proponents. Of course, our country is no exception, not before not now. I would like to refer to this as the other pandemic, the abiding one that coexists alongside Covid-19, and that we will be experiencing acutely in this first electoral season of the year in all of its violent expression, and with its roots from that go back a long way.

This other pandemic is mired in the impunity of the paramilitary aggressions that are affecting Chiapas in a very prominent way and even more concretely, the Zapatista communities, but not only those, as we will see. In recent days the municipality of Oxchuc, with authorities elected by Uses and Customs, has been a scene of shootings and displacements in dispute by the political parties that seek to retake the municipal seat. No official version or investigation is known.  Also, the municipality of Aldama continues to suffer under this climate of violence, despite official agreements that have been signed and not fulfilled. More concretely we have the paramilitary escalation against the Zapatista communities, which in fact are acting with the backing of three levels of government. Let’s recall that the Regional Organization of Coffee Growers of Ocosingo (ORCAO) in August of last year looted and set fire to the coffee warehouses of the New Dawning of the Rainbow Trading Center located in the crucero of Cuxuljá, an attack followed by other aggressions in November with the kidnapping and torture for three days of a Zapatista support base from the community of Moisés Gandhi. During the week of the 18th and 21st of January this year, this Zapatista community was the target of successive armed attacks on their homes by the very same ORCAO.

The same pattern of aggression in the three cases that we just mentioned share a similar lack of direct intervention from officials. This climate that fosters the dispossession of the aggrieved communities is exacerbated in the context of the political electoral marketing that already began even before it was formalized. Furthermore, also in Chiapas, but not only in this State, conflicts are arising with territorial deployment of the National Guard. 

Representatives of the Tzeltal Maya in the municipality of Chilón, Chiapas, accompanied by the Fray Bartolomé (Frayba) and the Miguel Augustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh)  Centers for Human Rights announced the admission of the order of protection that they filed for the imposed construction general headquarters for the National Guard in their territory, without having been previously, freely and adequately consulted in order to give or not give their consent. (Bulletin 1/27/21).

The rest of the country also faces this other pandemic. We must look at the crimes in Oaxaca and Guerrero against indigenous defenders of territory.  

It is precisely in this context of global social resistance that we should place the Declaration for Life that the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) announced on the first day of the current year, signed onto by peoples and organizations, collectives and individuals of the world. On the 28th of January, the agreements of the fifth assembly of the National Indigenous Congress – Indigenous Governing Council and the Peoples’ Front in Defense of Land and Water of Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala were released.

After offering a retelling of the impacts of the ongoing megaprojects in the country and of the resistance in the face of them, they reported that they accept the invitation to participate directly in a delegation of the CNI-CIG and FPDTA-MPT in its tour of Europe and the world in months of July to October of 2021 and to the extent possible in the tours that will later be realized in Asia, Africa, Oceania, and America. They also agreed to plan actions for life against the megaprojects and in memory of Samir Flores Soberanes, from the 19th to the 21st of February. They suggested that this be replicated throughout Mexico and the world. 

They joined in the demand for an end to attacks and harassment of the Zapatista communities and for the liberation of indigenous prisoners of CODEDI in Oaxaca, of the Yaqui tribe in Chiapas, of the Voz Verdadera of Amate and Viniketic in resistance. For the end to crimes against the members of the CIPOG-EZ in Guerrero; the return of Sergio Rivera Hernández alive, from the organization MAIZ of the Sierra Negra de Puebla; of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa and of all the disappeared. This panorama doesn’t pass before the attention and concerns of the political forces that have called themselves democratic. It is not in their electoral interests, nor even in their rhetoric to look at this other pandemic, the one of violence, criminalization, and the megaprojects. The vaccine for injustice is not on the market. 

This article was originally published in Spanish in La Jornada. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2021/02/02/opinion/017a1pol This English interpretation has been re-published by Schools for Chiapas.