The “new” war of conquest and the defense of territory

Before he was assassinated, Oscar Eyraud Adams, dedicated his last several months to denouncing the hoarding of water by corporate users in Tecate.
Photo: Friends of Oscar published in Pie de Página

By Raúl Romero

Oscar Eyraud Adams, of the Kumiai people, was shot to death on the 24th of September in Baja California. Jesús Migue Jeronimo and his son, Jesús Miguel Junior of the Púrhépecha people of Ichán were shot to death on the 23rd of July, 2020, in Michoacan. Josué Bernardo Marcial Santos, known as Tío Bad, rapper and delegate of the Popoluca people to the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), was found dead the 16th of December of 2019 in Veracruz. All had several things in common: they were indigenous, defenders of territory and they managed to open dialogues and generate convergences, within and outside of their communities, with regard to the struggles against the plunder of (government) projects and extractive megaprojects. 

They are not the only ones murdered up to this point in the six-year term. Also, there is Samir Flores Soberana (Nahua), Ignacio Pérez Girón (Tzotzil), Julián Cortés Flores (Mephaa), and another twenty-some stories.

Samir Flores Soberanes was killed in February 2019 for openly opposing the Morelos Integral Project. Photo: Ana Ramos, Pie de Página.

The assassination of territory defenders in México, mostly from indigenous communities, is a systematic and recurrent practice. The offensive makes up part of the war for the territories that neoliberal capitalism has been waging around the world for years. 

At the end of the 90’s, the then spokesperson of the EZLN, SupComandante Marcos, shared the Zapatistas’ analysis of the issue. Two texts stand out that today seem prefigurative: The seven loose pieces of the world puzzle and What are the fundamental characteristics of World War IV? In those analyses, neoliberalism was characterized as a new war of conquest of territories, a war in which there is a process of destruction/depopulation and reconstruction/reorganization, a total war, that can happen in any moment, in any place and under any circumstance. A war against humanity in which everything human that opposes the logic of the market is an enemy and must be destroyed. 

In this war against humanity, the people inhabiting  the territories that capital seeks to conquer and reorder are the number one enemies. They stand in the way of the financialization of Nature and of the construction and integration of new commercial zones. 

For these territories to have market value, first they must be destroyed and de-populated, whether it be with paramilitaries, organized crime groups, or directly with State forces. Elimination also implies destroying worlds of living, that is, erasing the peoples’ ways of being, above all breaking their connections with the land and their community being. Simultaneously, the process of reorganization and reconstruction of these territories occurs to make them functional to the logic of  the market. 

There, where there are peoples and communities with their own ways of seeing and relating to the world, cities begin to be built  that link to other cities, and that they euphemistically call “poles” or centers of development. Naturally, the former members of the communities, now as consumers of goods, or as cheap labor, will be able to integrate themselves into capitalist modernity.

Including those who, not long ago called themselves leftists and even revolutionaries, today defend the ecocidal and colonialist projects. They do so by dusting off their manuals: we must promote the development of the productive forces, industrialize the country, proletarianize the indigenous peoples.

In the new war of conquest the organizations of the people, like the CNI, are a constant target of attacks. The journalist Zósimo Camacho revealed with data from Congress itself that, since the founding of the CNI in 1996 until June of 2019, 117 assassinations and 11 disappearances could be documented. But the real figure is higher, because on this tentative list, only those who had political responsibilities or functions appear. The names of those who ended up dead and resisted from their milpas, their ceremonies, and their daily labors are missing ( 

 The same happens with the EZLN and their bases of support. Since December of 2018, there has been a significant increase in hostilities against them. At least three lines of confrontation stand out:1)physical warfare, that includes military incursions, paramilitary attacks and the expansion of 2) the media war, based on the diffusion of lies, rumors, and conspiracy theories on social networks and communication media, and 3) the political war, directed at coopting, dividing and confronting organizations and communities through individualized, paternalistic social programs that don’t change the structural conditions. 

The indigenous communities that make up the CNI and also the EZLN are also, in Mexico, the principal resistance in this struggle in defense of life. These communities again launch a call to all of humanity: it is the time of our common dream, it is the time of freedom.


This conversation with Raúl Romero, hosted by Sexta Grietas del Norte, is a thorough look at what is happening in Chiapas, but also throughout Mexico, in the struggle in defense of life and territory.

This piece was originally published in La Jornada, on October 13th 2020. This English interpretation has been re-published by Schools for Chiapas.

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