Military Cartography and Sembrando Vida

In August 2019, reporter Zósimo Camacho warned us: “It is not a military campaign but the largest military deployment in history” (, which is concentrated around those who are rehearsing autonomous societal forms such as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and modes of organizational resistance through the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena). Presented information reveals that militarization is not present in the regions with the greatest problems of violence due to drug trafficking.

In another article we took up Karl Polanyi’s metaphor of the “satanic mill” to analyze, in the center-south of the country, the systemic patriarchal project of the self-declared government of the “fourth transformation”, identifying the socio-territorial subjugation with at least three ambitious megaprojects (

This time, we recover the word “Muerteforas” to make visible the association found in the design and functioning of criminal political power throughout Mexico, but also as a resource to generate tension in words/language.

More than a year has passed since the implementation of the National Development Plan of the current Mexican government; during the last three months of research, tours and testimonies, we can discern the outline of the Theater of Operations and the political form of Muerteforas in Chiapas, where the scenario of military cartography clearly shows the emergence of a new form of subjugation against the multiple forms of indigenous-peasant life.

The Espacio de Lucha contra el Olvido y la Represión (Elcor), which has been documenting the repression in Chiapas for 11 years, warns that it is a remilitarization anchored in the “territories of Zapatista resistance and rebellion” and in new ways of doing and naming the territorialization of megaprojects (the Train and “the Palenque-San Cristóbal-Tuxtla-Pijijiapan superhighway”), having as a filter the assistance programs (Sembrando Vida, Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro). The aim is to achieve maximum political control of rural society through the money fetish and the National Guard. Transforming the indigenous communities into an accumulation of consumers of their own historical self-destruction and a drinking fountain of political patronage.

To understand the above, it is necessary to consider the following:

1) The still existing scenario of Integral (Intensive) War of Attrition, designed, activated and sustained since January 1, 1994 against the Zapatista families, communities and peoples of the EZLN.

2) The form/composition and deployment of the National Guard along with the reference points where the Sembrando Vida program is located.

From the political-military logic of the Theater of Operations, what is the scenario from which they act, who are the main actors, how do they appear on the scene and how do they say they appear?

In the visits and testimonies gathered by Elcor, mainly in the official municipality of Ocosingo, they recorded the presence of Army barracks in the jungle zone that goes from Toniná, La Peninsula, Monte Líbano, Taniperla, Río Jordan, Pathuitz, La Sultana, Vicente Guerrero, San Quintín, Maravilla Tenejapa, showing approximately 30 villages with Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life). The people share: “Sembrando Vida (Sowing life) is sowing the death of our thinking and deciding collectively what to do with our land, how to sow it and take care of it” and “It is not good to ask permission and advice from the bad government about what can be sown and what cannot be sown.”

For the Elcor collective, military intelligence appears in this scenario by summoning, recruiting and contracting young people within the same communities and, from the Youth Building the Future program, they could be the new informants (without knowing it) of the National Guard through its Territorial Coordinations to design the advanced diagnoses. At least in the area from Metzabok to Taniperla, the convenor is the Toniná General Headquarters, which articulates Military Zones 31 and 39,

The questions and testimonies lead us to two hypotheses.

The first hypothesis:

Behind the new form of subjugation, a pedagogy of utilitarianism and waste is practiced.

-The land and the ways of relating to it change abruptly: “what I need to sow versus what I am told I have to plant.”

-A new link appears in rural areas that establishes the relationship between money with the objective of installing the individualism-consumerism framework through the monetization and financialization of life, with the rural cashiers of the Welfare Bank guarded by the National Guard.

-Process of decampenization of the individual producer: by not sowing food for self-consumption, they choose not to have cornfields and buy imported corn that breaks the agricultural cycles of mountain-canopy, mountain-canopy, as well as the forest cycles mountain-herbs-mushrooms-animals, etc., or by acquiring processed products for feeding their families.

-The relationship of utilitarianism and waste, also involves migrants, once they are expelled from their territories they are placed to be used and then discarded by companies that momentarily suck their labor force. For Elcor, it is no coincidence that the official border municipality of Tapachula is one of the places where the National Guard and Sembrando Vida coexist.

The second hypothesis:

Militarization along with Sembrando Vida are territorialized in the same target areas where there is the particularity that the assignment, in most cases, is aimed at men. By targeting men, youth and adults, women are left in the background, or to a greater extent excluded, and at the mercy of economic control from the male mandate in the domestic sphere. Therefore, the device of economic subjugation is not necessary to deliver it to women since the one who executes the control over their being/being/doing, their bodies-territories, is the man.

Invisibilizing such exploitation and perpetuating hierarchies is not accidental, rather it is structural to the current moment of patriarchal-capitalism.

– This form excludes the community way of life, that is to say; the political form of self-organization through assemblies. These are no longer necessary because the way to decide what to do with the land, with what is planted and therefore with the way from where the reproduction of life is conceived, is exclusively through individual scale in new spaces, such as “biofactories” and/or nurseries, where decisions are also made by technicians, people outside the community.

In sum:

The Theater of Operations in this Integral War of Attrition has as its scenario the “fourth annihilation.” For Elcor, the strategy “is the political control of the indigenous-peasant lifeworlds, using as a tactic a cunning language that is removing the heart from the words of the peoples.”

Sowing Muerteforas through economic power and remilitarization potentiates the patriarchal masculine form from multiple scales and dimensions: from the change of land use and the subjugation of the population as a form of political control. This allows us to identify and strip the advanced design with the intention of annihilation.

The existing machista garb of the “Sowing Control” program (cunningly called “sowing life”), its ties with the National Guard (remilitarization) and the territorialization of varied and multiple projects of destruction (megaprojects) all territorialize: individualism-consumerism and alcoholism specifically for young and adult males who exercise control and invisibilization of domestic exploitation of women, increasing physical, and emotional violence towards women, girls and boys; competition between adult and young males; community divisions, hatred of those who do not accept the projects; apathy for the community organizational form. And in the meantime, everyone is controlled within their own land through the said program, the megaprojects and the presence of the National Guard.

*D. in Agrarian Social Studies from the National University of Córdoba (Argentina); independent researcher.

Original text:
English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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