Indigenous Tseltals in Chiapas Won’t Participate in 2024 Elections

Since 2018 they have constituted a community government that functions de facto, they reject the party system which they consider to be corrupt and, in their region, in collusion with organized crime.

Photo: Ángeles Máriscal

They are residents of 11 regions of the municipality of Chilón, they are Tseltal indigenous people who live in the jungle region of the state of Chiapas, who preserve their indigenous worldview and, through legal means, have sought recognition of the right to self-determination and their structure of community government, without so far the state and federal electoral bodies (IEPC and INE) having carried out the due process to formalize it.

In spite of this, de facto, since 2018 they formed their government and began to exercise it, creating community organizational structures that work in practice to resolve conflicts, improve their health, education and manage economic projects.

This Saturday the Chilón Community Government Council presented its report on six years of work, before thousands of indigenous people who gathered in the municipal center of Chilón.

In previous weeks the Council toured the 11 regions where it has a presence. In Bachajón, Palma Xanahil, Patwits, San Antonio Bulujib, Ch’ich’, Ahlan Sac Hun, Lázaro Cárdenas, Pamanabil, Sacun Palma, San Jerónimo T’ulilh’a y Chilón, they held 11 assemblies where the indigenous population spoke about the proposal “of struggle and life.”

They talked about the challenges they face, how “the clandestine sale of alcohol and drugs has increased in communities, which causes the death of innocents and the destruction of families. We note with concern the increase in organized crime cells colluding with the political party system,” explained the councilors of the community government.

“We have already seen that party systems only seek to have power, win elections, and then they do not defend the interests of the people. That is why the young people, women and men decided to continue along the path that is community government,” explained Pascuala Vazquez Aguilar, spokesperson for the community government.

In the last assembly, which was held in the municipal seat of Chilón, they presented the route they will follow. There, thousands of indigenous people confirmed that they will continue along the path of autonomous governments.

“The election year has begun and the party campaigns have already expressed their corrupt ways of proceeding, reaching the point of handing out beer at their events, getting drunk and manipulating citizens. We said it from the beginning and we repeat it, the parties split, divide and subjugate the people.”

“By seeing and feeling in our hearts the suffering of our communities, we strongly express that we will continue to build paths of life from our autonomy. We will continue to be a Community Government legitimately, although legally our right is postponed.”

“We are called to fight for the right to self-determination and thus strengthen the origins of our people. We promote the collective over the individual, we defend cultural roots against the dispossession of our identity, we fight for Mother Earth in the face of the extractivist threat,” they said.

In the assemblies they remembered the process they followed until reaching the formation of the community Government. In 2017 the IEPC received their request to begin the procedure that could lead to their right to self-determination, in which they collected the signatures of thousands of indigenous people from Chilón. This body received it, and after several months of postponing the response arguing that documentation was missing, it was finally forced to start the process.

But again they sought to postpone it, arguing that they were on the verge of the 2018 elections. The indigenous people decided to move forward in practice, in assemblies they appointed councilors who would represent them and work as before, without any salary, but as part of of their community responsibility.

After the 2018 elections, faced with the demand of the population of Chilón to continue with the legal recognition of its Government Council, IEPC officials said that due to Coronavirus there were no conditions to reach the community, but they could not prevent it given that in accordance with the legal process, a cultural study was carried out to show that they really are a Tseltal majority people who are governed by the indigenous regulatory system.

However, the constitutional municipal authorities responded with violence, kidnapping the anthropologists to prevent the ruling requested by the IEPC. Despite this, the anthropologists managed to carry it out and gave a positive response to the community.

At that point the IEPC requested that a public consultation be held. When this process began, 23 of the indigenous people of the community government were kidnapped; there were more death threats towards the population from the city council and representatives of the political parties. This caused the process to stop, and the IEPC indicated that there were no conditions to continue.

“In the territory we said that they did not recognize this right, they do not prevent us from exercising it. We set up our offices and started working,” explained the spokesperson for the Community Government. Until now, they continue.

“No to organized crime. No to violence caused by political parties. Cease all types of violence, wars, murders and disappearances,” was written on one of the banners held by residents of the Community Government of the municipality of Chilón.

As part of the celebration of their six years of government, they marched in the municipal center, and held a celebration, where they reiterated their position of living in a different way from that which the party system imposes on them.

They spoke about their spirituality, about the conservation of the land that implies being in harmony in a comprehensive way and governing oneself “with good will without chasing a salary, because our feeling and the beating of our hearts is in the fight and defense of the rights of the people. The communal aspect of our governance is that we do not have a single command that presides over the movement, but rather a group of councilors elected in their regions who represent the feelings of their people.”

They were accompanied by civil society organizations that have supported them in their training and management process, by thinkers from centers of study who have accompanied them in learning about their potential as indigenous peoples and the importance of their movement given the challenges humanity faces, and by religious people who have opted to exercise and enhance spirituality in the face of the specific needs of the population.

Members of the town of Chilón publicly thanked them in a ceremony where there were songs and prayers. “Today we call on those who agree with our struggle to join our demands that seek to build a more harmonious present,” they said before leaving for their communities.

Original text and photo by Ángeles Máriscal in Chiapas Paralelo on March 10th, 2024.
Translated by Schools for Chiapas.

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