The Rise and Continuity of Indigenous Struggles

 Magdalena Gómez

We are two days away from the 27th anniversary of the signing of the San Andrés Accords. We would be mistaken if we discount them with an eye toward successive betrayals by the state. They are certainly not forgotten, and yet it is a document that marked a key stage in the struggle of indigenous peoples. As the Zapatistas insist, let each one construct their autonomy according to their geography and possibilities, in their own way, then. I have insisted that we break with the temptation of anniversaries, because just as we have February 16, 1996, it was preceded by February 9, 1995, which had nothing to do with the March of Loyalty recently evoked by the federal government. These are other historical data, because the one of 1995 did mean a major betrayal and artful blow to the peace process that was intended to restart with the Zapatista National Liberation Army, since the so-called Cathedral dialogues had been left in limbo with the crisis that the assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio, on March 23, 1994 meant.

We know well that the crisis generated by the coup of that February 9 led to the construction of a legal scaffolding for the dialogue process between the EZLN and the federal government within the framework of which the document was signed, one that in fact resulted in the single dialogue table, since until today the dialogue is suspended and there have been no serious signs of attempts to resume the path of dialogue, although an attempt took place during Foxism in 2001 and, in the face of the indigenous counter-reform, the EZLN retreated to the construction of its autonomous spaces. The peoples in the rest of the country joined this de facto construction, confronting the State that, in its neoliberal logic, approved a whole constitutional and legal scaffolding for dispossession, especially with the mining and energy reforms. Needless to say, the agenda of peace and resumption of dialogue did not enter the so-called Fourth Transformation.

A key element is to locate that the so-called San Andrés dialogues had a result beyond the unfulfilled document, and that was the creation of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), in October 1996, which has marked until today the very close relationship of the EZLN with the indigenous movement of a good part of the country, which is not grouped in that space. They also defined an anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal agenda, with a broader scope and horizon than the aforementioned agreements outlined. On the other hand, members of indigenous peoples’ organizations today do not necessarily know the text of the agreements, but they do participate in the axis of building autonomy-in-fact and based on the rights that emanate from the international aspect in the face of the shortcomings and contradictions of national law and the Judiciary. The key is in the organization to advance in that line.

The current moment in the struggle of indigenous peoples occurs in a context marked by violence against their territories that have often suffered dispossession due to the escalation of mining concessions from 2006 to 2018, for example, whose deadlines far exceed the current six-year period. What is happening today is the imposition of ongoing megaprojects such as the so-called Maya Train, the Interoceanic Corridor or the Morelos Integral Project. The clamp closes with social programs that are individualized and in fact divide communities that try to strengthen collective life through their spaces of self-government. All this, in addition to confronting the expansion and consequent aggression of criminal groups without obtaining protection from the state to stop the open impunity with which they act. 

Examples: in Michoacán the very recent crimes of community guards in Ostula and Aquila, the disappearance of Ricardo Lagunes and Antonio Díaz. Guerrero, full of violence against communities. Chiapas, aggressions against Zapatista support bases. These strokes are the backdrop against which the resistance of the peoples and the struggle for life are developing, whose concrete evidence is in the activities planned until the first days of next May. From all this they will define the features of the next stage of their struggle that, they point out, is not measured by six-year terms, nor with the electoral calendar.

On March 4 and 5, the CNI will hold its national assembly in Tehuacán, Puebla, “in the face of the narco-state’s growing violence and the imposition of megaprojects.” On May 6 and 7, the international meeting El Sur Resiste 2023 will take place; it will be preceded by a caravan that will leave on April 25 from the coast of Chiapas, will travel the Isthmus of Tehuantepec from south to north to continue in the Yucatan Peninsula and will end with this meeting in the Cideci / Jacinto Canek Caracol, in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. As we can see, in the CNI they take up the Zapatista thought of “achieving the impossible, because too much has already been said about the possible.”

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Tuesday, February 14, 2023, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee. Re-posted by Schools for Chiapas with permission.

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