Insumisión: Community Self-Defense Against Narcos and the State
8th December 2016, section on Chiapas from the latest edition of Insumisión
Mobilizations and Repression in Chiapas
Gathering during the MODEVITE pilgrimage in Chiapas
On November 15, members of eleven municipalities in Chiapas began a twelve-day pilgrimage through communities threatened by neoliberal development projects, ending in San Cristóbal. The Movement in Defense of Life and Territory (MODEVITE) is a project of indigenous Catholic parishes practicing liberation theology, known the Pueblo Creyente, or Believing/Faithful People. “We seek to organize the peoples to construct our autonomy; that our right as original peoples to the life that we want is recognized. We need to join our voices in defence of our forests, our rivers. We demand the governments stop the extractive industry and the mega-projects that are being imposed without consulting us,” said one priest.
After traveling through 11 states, the Caravan of Mothers of Disappeared Migrants wrapped uptheir eighteen-day tour in Tapachula, Chiapas on December 3. Forty-one parents from Central America made the trip to call attention to the attacks, murders and disappearances of Central American migrants in Mexico and to denounce Enrique Peña Nieto’s Southern Border Plan, implemented at the behest of the U.S. in 2014, which has gravely increased the risk to migrants travelling through Mexico.
Caravan of Mothers of Disappeared Migrants
In the autonomous indigenous communities of Ejido Tila and San Sebastian Bachajón, statements have been issued decrying attempts by local politicians to incite violence in the communities in order to justify the entrance of the state in order to crush their autonomous projects. In Bachajón, the community has identified Juan Jiménez as the one responsible. As it happens, Jiménez is a local leader of MORENA, the “leftist” party of Andres Manuel López Obrador. In Tila, the community has barricaded the entrance to the village to prevent paramilitaries or provocateurs from entering.
During a meeting to resolve a labour dispute in Ixtacomitán, four teachers belonging to the dissident CNTE branch were shot by gunmen linked to local politicians and the mainstream, sell-out SNTE union. Roberto Díaz Aguilar was killed and the three others wounded.
And of course we can’t talk about Chiapas without mentioning the Zapatistas. They’ve released four statements – two jointly with the National Indigenous Congress – in the past three weeks. The first, “It’s Not the Decision of One Person”, is an angry rebuke to mainstream critics of their proposal to run a presidential candidate for 2018. The second outlines the schedule for the conclusion of consultations and the planned announcement on the decision of whether or not to run a candidate. The third is a lengthy “Story to Try to Understand.” At over 30 pages, I have not read it yet, but it is an explanation as to how the Zapatistas arrived at the decision to propose the idea of participating in the presidential elections. The fourth statement denounces the attacks on indigenous peoples in Mexico, and gives a nod to Standing Rock, all while confirming that the community consultations over the proposal continue.
On October 11, 500 delegates from the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the military command of the Zapatistas (EZLN) met in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the CNI. The opening comments from the Zapatistas were largely a call for indigenous peoples to get organized. It was the closing statement that caught everyone’s attention though. The CNI and EZLN announced they would begin consultations with their communities on the EZLN’s proposal of naming “an indigenous woman, a CNI delegate, as an independent candidate to the presidency of the country under the name of the National Indigenous Congress and the Zapatista Army for National Liberation in the electoral process of 2018.”
The reactions were immediate. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the darling of the liberal electorate, was furious. He blames the Zapatistas for his losses in 2006 and 2012, and now they seem poised to interfere again with his presidential plans. Meanwhile, some anarchists pointed out that this proves the Zapatistas aren’t anarchists and that those who support the EZLN have been duped. Never mind that the EZLN has never claimed to be an anarchist group. On the authoritarian left, Mexico’s Socialist Workers Party could barely contain its glee over the news, emphatically endorsing the EZLN’s proposal.
The Zapatistas responded with a defensive and irritated statement largely arguing that this proposal is valid due to the impact it would have on the spectacle of electoral politics in laying bare the racism and sexism inherent in that process. A few days later, another statement communicated that the CNI and EZLN will announce the decision to run a candidate or not on January 1. They also said the “Zapatistas and ConSciences for Humanity” gathering will begin in Chiapas on December 25.
In reading and discussing these developments with compas in Mexico, the generally attitude seems to be to wait and see what happens. Some feel it is a publicity stunt, designed to provoke just the sort of reaction it did, and that this will be made clear on January 1. On the other hand, if a joint CNI-EZLN candidate is put forward, then a re-evaluation by many anti-authoritarians would have to occur. While some of what they are proposing is interesting – to have an indigenous woman as president guided by the decisions of an assembly – to consider entering the electoral arena strikes many as a betrayal and is difficult to reconcile with the EZLN’s strident critiques of the system and power. To flirt with electoral politics even with the goal of détournement is to engage with a system fundamentally opposed to liberation, designed to consolidate power and legitimize repression. Such a move seems more akin to Michael Moore and his ficus plant than the Zapatistas and their uncompromising, decades-long struggle for autonomy and self-determination. Stay tuned.
In related news, a member of the CNI from the autonomous Tzeltal community of San Sebastián Bachajón was detained and severely beaten by a group led by a local government official. Two days later, on October 19, 800 police and 400 paramilitaries positioned themselves on the outskirts of that community. Fearing a raid, the alarm was sounded, but it appeared to just be an intimidation tactic. For other Chiapas news, be sure to check out Dorset Chiapas Solidarity’s Zapatista news summaries for September and October.