dorset chiapas solidarity

February 13, 2013

17 years since the signing of the San Andres Accords

Filed under: Indigenous, Zapatista — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:14 pm

How Mexico Politics Supplanted San Andrés Accords with Zapatistas

La Jornada: Luis Hernández Navarro
acuerdos-300x204February 16 marks the passage of seventeen years since the signing of the San Andrés Accords between the federal government and the EZLN. In these Accords, the federal government gave its response to some of the demands raised by the Zapatistas–those related to indigenous rights and culture. They distilled the results of the first round of five talks scheduled between the two sides in order to resolve the issues that had led to the January 1994 uprising. Despite the elapsed time, the federal government continues not to fulfill the agreements.

The negotiation process of the First Round of Talks lasted just over four months, but they followed five months of talks between the EZLN and the federal government in order to define the procedures and content of the dialogue. San Andrés was important not only for its results but also for the unprecedented way in which civil society participated in the peace process. The negotiations succeeded in involving large segments of society and in placing the ‘indigenous question’ at the top of the national agenda.

Instead of negotiating their own particular project, the Zapatistas invited a wide range of indigenous leaders, academics and intellectuals with roots [experience] and knowledge of the issue to participate in the negotiations as consultants and guests. Their points of view were far from homogeneous. The diversity of their approaches set the tone of the discussions. Despite the challenges, it was possible to reach consensus.

The San Andrés Accords were signed at a time of great political upheaval in the country. Catalyzed by the EZLN uprising, a belligerent national indigenous movement emerged. The devaluation of the peso in December 1994 precipitated a huge wave of dissatisfaction and the emergence of vigorous debtor movements against the banks. Post-electoral conflicts in Tabasco and Chiapas became a national call for democracy. The conflict between Carlos Salinas, the outgoing President, and Ernesto Zedillo, the incoming President, took on major dimensions.

Just as Enrique Peña Nieto did with the signing of the Pact for Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo tried to ease the crisis by promoting the signing of a national political settlement with the four registered political parties: PRI [Party of the Institutional Revolution], PAN [National Alliance Party], PRD [Party of the Democratic Revolution] and PT [Workers Party]. However, the project was aborted in light of the government’s failure to clean up the elections in Tabasco and the failure of the military offensive ordered against the Zapatistas on February 9, 1995.

It was in the context of this countrywide social unrest that the federal government signed the San Andrés Accords. With them, the government sought to defuse the discontent and buy time for a political manoeuvre of greater sweep: the negotiation of an electoral reform.

Effectively, parallel to the dialogue with the EZLN and its allies, the Zedillo administration urged the parties to an agreement that gave birth to a new, “definitive” political reform. At the time, that negotiation was named the Barcelona Accords because the talks were held in the offices of the Secretary of the Government Relations [SEGOB], Arturo Nuñez, located on Barcelona Street in Mexico City.

The new political reform basically consisted in citizen-izing the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), creating the Federal Electoral Tribunal [Court], limiting over-representation in the Chamber of Deputies, expanding plurality in the composition of the Senate, establishing individual* party memberships, creating a new system of party financing and giving to members of the Legislative Assembly of the Federal District [Mexico City] the character of deputies.

The new political reform led to a true distribution of power among the three main parties, which then participated in constituting the IFE and the Federal Electoral Tribunal. The appointment of citizen councillors took place outside the Legislature and on the condition that talks would be secret. The PRI nominated José Woldenberg, Mauricio Merino and Jacqueline Peschard. For the PAN were named Alonso Lujambio, Juan Molinar and José Barragán. The PRD selected Jaime Cárdenas, Emilio Zebadúa and and Jesús Cantú.

As Miguel Ángel Romero has noted, some of the mechanisms for transfer of power [from one President to another] were constructed thanks to Zedillo’s political reform. And, as Rosalbina Garavito has said, a veneer of political modernity was adopted without changing the essence of the authoritarian regime.

In the federal elections this redistribution of power paid off for the opposition parties. In 1997, no party had an absolute majority in the Congress and, for the first time in decades, the PRD won the government of Mexico City. In 2000, Vicente Fox [PAN] won the presidential election.

However, these negotiations reinforced the partisan monopoly of political representation, leaving many political and social forces not identified with these parties outside the institutional representation and conserving, practically intact, the power of the corporate* leaders of mass organizations.

Given these circumstances, the federal government aborted the San Andrés Accords. It broke its commitment to promote constitutional reform on indigenous rights and culture…. It continued its policy of militarizing the conflict, using paramilitary groups, resulting in the massacre at Acteal, and it violently attacked several autonomous municipalities.

Since then political and social conflicts outside the sphere of institutional representation have proliferated across the country. Their protagonists are outside or on the edges of institutional politics. The Barcelona Accords threw all these issues off the negotiating table.

Seventeen years after the signing of the San Andrés Accords, by means of the Pact for Mexico, the federal government and the politicians seek to prescribe the same medicine used in 1996. It remains to be seen if Mexicans from below will tolerate it.

Spanish original

Mexico: San Andrés Accords with the Zapatistas and Undermining Indigenous Autonomy

La Jornada: Magdalena Gómez*

February 16 marks completion of one more year since the signing of the San Andrés Accords [1996]. On December 30 the EZLN invited the PRI government to comply with them. Apart from the need to update these agreements, it is important to observe the scene of open regression that has been practiced by all three of the State’s branches [Executive, Legislative, Judicial].

For now, we find that within six weeks of the Zapatista pronouncement, the issue of establishing the Peace and Reconciliation Commission (Cocopa) has already been dropped in the current legislative session, and no more has been said of the initiative presented by the Party of the Democratic Revolution [PRD] last month with the intention of reviving the historic agreements. In reality, two previous initiatives with the same intent are already in the freezer. It is the same as happened in 2001 after approval of the indigenous counter-reform promoted by Martí Batres [former PRD member, now head of leftist group Morena], among others, with the signature of 160 Deputies. It is also what happened six years later with the December 11, 2007, initiative promoted by Marcos Matías, which was vetoed by the PAN [National Alliance Party]. All this, apart from the numerous partial and marginal initiatives taken up by the Congress for more than a decade.

On the Executive [Presidential] side, we observe two events that were not accidental. First is the appointment of a commissioner with a mandate against all of the country’s indigenous peoples. At the same time, a director of the Committee on Development of Indigenous Peoples has been appointed who lacks experience in the area and whose role is restricted to coordinating infrastructure programs and relating to the fight against hunger and poverty.

Three decades ago it was possible to consider the concept of population and of “vulnerable” indigenous groups. Paradoxically, today we have gone back to treating indigenous women and men as individual beneficiaries, rather than as belonging to an indigenous group with a logic of collective rights. In this context, of course, the right to be consulted and to [give] free, prior and informed consent is ignored.

Constitutional advances and those in international law have not driven a new institutional framework commensurate with the autonomy and self-determination “recognized” in Article Two of the Constitution. They find it easier to get out through the false door of the call to “fight poverty” that in the best of cases, i.e., in very few cases, provides palliatives that allow a thin veneer of legitimacy before a “clientele” favoured by their actions.

With regard to the political participation of the people, there is a tendency to bring it about in terms of the logic of institutional, governmental programmes, rather than in the logic of necessary autonomy and decision-making capacity. Indigenous groups that have assimilated the ideology of inter-mediation move in the arena of government institutions; on occasion, this has resulted in genuine replacement of towns.

In these deeds, this new dynamic is dividing communities, as it brings about a wave of interventions and projects that, regardless of their viability, are not decided by the people’s own representative bodies. This doesn’t seem innocent, since the governmental activism destroys local leadership and replaces it with artificial representation. It is no coincidence that projects favour areas that have by their own great effort developed independent strength. At stake is a State operation, and it is not just any operation, it seeks to suck dry the well of autonomy.

Moreover, in the indigenous countryside we find that along with emblematic experiences of autonomy such as the Zapatistas’ good government committees, community police in Guerrero  and the town of Cherán, other peoples resist the territorial dispossession  and the mining mega-projects and concessions. In some cases, alongside the political mobilization, they are waging legal battle only to find that there are no conditions for administering justice according to their acquired rights. Internally, there is an absence of mechanisms to force the states to comply with their international commitments.

The Supreme Court is not able to overcome the logic of individual rights, despite the fact that they have handed down isolated opinions potentially favourable to the people; nevertheless, in other cases they show regressions by ruling that municipalities with significant indigenous populations do not represent the people, and that only agricultural forms of land possession are typical indigenous forms of social organization.

But the icing on the cake is that–in open violation of the right to self-determination–the Court has defined the criteria on the grounds of a possible “fraud to the law”; that is, so indigenous peoples may not commit this fraud, one must perform studies, get expert reports, perform a sort of “indianómetro” [measure of Indian-ness]. This set of indicators shows that to fulfil the San Andrés Accords involves not only regulating but deregulating in order to reverse the current anti-self-determination policy.

Spanish original

*Magdalena Gómez is an Attorney; she also earned the Master’s Degree in Political Science and a Certificate in Educational Technology. Her areas of specialization are: agrarian law, indigenous rights and law, political education and society.

Translations by Jane Brundage

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