We Are Not the Same?

By Magdalena Gomez
Graphic by Israel Vargas| The Economist1

AMLO depicted in the May 27, 2021 Economist in front of a billowing oil refinery and surrounded by military personnel.

The so-called 4T each day accumulates a brief of grievances against sectors that are supposed to be respected, such as rural teachers’ colleges and the indigenous peoples, to cite two of the most outstanding. The most recent case against 93 students, 74 women, of the Mactumactzá Normal School in Chiapas, sent to the El Amate prison this past 18th of May, when they carried out a protest against the intent to administer the admission exam virtually. They demanded that it be administered in person, since the majority of the applicants do not have the digital tools and live in regions without access to the Internet. The female students were victims of sexual abuse abuse by the police during their detention and admission to the prison. The outrage and demand that they be liberated grows and extends throughout the national normal schools, human rights organizations, the National Indigenous Congress, and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation among many other entities. In this context, it seems a pyrrhic victory that last Sunday under secrecy, they released only the 74 women, leaving them subject to trial proceedings without being informed about the investigation and sanctions of police abuse. It is not minor that the repression comes from forces of an authoritarian state governed by a member of Morena. It seems unavoidable to turn to the oft-repeated Presidential declaration that “we are not the same2” and at the same time evoking Atenco3 and Ayotzinapa4 without noting the difference. 

On the other hand, and continuing the brief of grievances, there are areas of continuity, like the megaprojects that in the name of so-called “progress” are being imposed against the rights of  indigenous peoples. And it has already been sufficiently insisted that the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the social programs of economic support is not related to the fulfillment of collective rights. In fact, these supports are operating as a factor in community division. The Sembrando Vida Program stands out in this regard. One of the rights openly manipulated by simulation and cooptation is that of consultation, which should be exercised in the spirit of their self-determination. Pardon me, but the strategy of official protocols was designed by the previous government and premiered with the wind farm projects in Juchitán, Oaxaca, and the pipeline in Loma de Bácum, with the Yaquis in Sonora. The Independence Aqueduct was also imposed. In the current period, with regard to the Mayan Train, the consultation is already heavily documented, including in spaces of the United Nations. In recent days, a kind of second round of consultation took place. This time it was about the development poles for well-being (Podebis) planned in the Inter-Oceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (CIIT) that consist of industrial parks that yield financial benefits to companies that come to install themselves, with the objective of promoting the development of southern Oaxaca, the government says, but the dimensions of the project will favor transnational capital. It is not for nothing that the United States government is promoting investment.

Unlike the Mayan Train, which also requires ejidal lands for its tourist and agroindustrial poles, upon ruling out its trusts, [the CIIT] is negotiating them downstream, with its sights set on expropriation if necessary. The CIIT and its operative the INPI5 promoted consultation assemblies for the authorization of the poles with the commitment to offer polygons of 500 hectares each. Observers of the National Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations Program for Development in Mexico attended. It was reported that the community, agrarian and municipal authorities demanded measures to guarantee care of the water, the environment and the natural resources. In the official logic, it was a success because the approval of three of the five industrial parks planned for development in Oaxaca was achieved.

We are not equal, we don’t have a degree and we have other facts, they seem to say in a communiqué signed by, among other groups, the Permanent Assembly of Puente Madera, inhabitants of Santa María Mixtequilla and Ciudad Oaxtepec, as well as the Global Campaign the Isthmus is Ours. They denounced the imposition of the Podebis, the simulation of a consultation that was not prior, free and informed, and they stated that in Ciudad Ixtepec, last May 15th the supposed consultation assembly was carried out with less than 500 people, the majority of which were workers and family members of municipal seat that are sympathetic to the Morena candidate and the current municipal president that is seeking reelection. The gathering did not represent an acceptable percentage to make a decision for a population of 4 thousand 500 residents. The so-called government of the 4T would do well to stop and look at its policies, so as not to be worse, before sowing future apologies.

This article was published in La Jornada on the May 25th, 2021.
This English interpretation has been re-published by Schools for Chiapas.

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  1. In a tweet, sociologist/activist Raúl Romero, points out that the image, though critical in nature, was immediately appropriated by AMLO fans (aka AMLO-zombies).
  2. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has repeatedly vowed that his administration is different “not the same” as previous administrations with regard to clientelism, corruption, and violations of the rights of  indigenous communities.
  3. Atenco was a 2006  incident of police brutality initially against flower vendors that were trying to enter the Texcoco market, and later against community members of San Salvador Atenco for supporting the vendors. The incident resulted in two deaths and dozens of women being sexually assaulted.
  4. Ayotzinapa refers to the abduction and disappearance of 43 student teachers of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College  by local police of Iguala, Guerrero in collusion with organized crime on September 26th, 2014. Federal officials and forces are also implicated in the heinous crime. Families of the students still struggle for truth, and there continues to be little cooperation from the federal government.
  5. National Institute of Indigenous Peoples has long-been criticized for being an apologist front for State indigenist policies, which perpetuate a logic of paternalistic developmentalism.
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