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Resurgence of the National Indigenous Congress in Mexico

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By Zosimo Camacho (translated from Spanish by Daniel Edgar)

The sad spectacle of the presidential campaigns – with the grotesque squandering of resources, the lack of ideas amongst the presidential candidates and the absence of clear postures with regard to the real problems of the country – have saturated the agenda of the mass media, as is always the case.

Certain topics, such as the Indigenous communities, tribes and nations of Mexico, are automatically vetoed by the majority of the mass media. None of the aspirants to the presidential palace have referred to the original peoples of Mexico with sincerity. Generally they are mentioned in the context of the theme: ‘vulnerable groups’. And they do so from a position that is paternalistic, injurious, authoritarian, insulting, and based on total ignorance. The Indigenous people don’t matter to them. They make superficial gestures and statements to try and hide their racism and contempt.

The Indian communities in this country are experiencing the worst assault against them since the age of the Spanish conquest. Would the presidential candidates and their ostentatious teams of advisors, real apprentices of witchcraft, know how many red zones are burning in the Indigenous territories? Would they know how many mines, dams, roads, tourist development projects, wind farms, have caused many other communities to rise up in rebellion? Would they care how many invasions and forced displacements are taking place?

Beyond the electoral show that is being waged – with all of its associated antics, disguises and machinations – and beyond the tempest that is ravaging the country, there are also efforts, projects and achievements that bring hope. In one of the sessions of the forum “Perspectives, Sounds, Words: Thinking is prohibited?” organised by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional – EZLN) and the Council of Indigenous Government, the participants discussed the resurgence of the National Indigenous Congress. This resurgence involves rapid growth, it was estimated, both quantitative as well as qualitative.

It is clear that the Council of Indigenous Government did not manage to obtain the number of signatures necessary to ensure that the name of their spokesperson, Maria de Jesus Patricio Martinez (‘Marichuy’), would appear on the electoral ballot. Both the National Indigenous Congress and the EZLN, as well as the collective organisations and other people that supported the collection of signatures, are analysing, critiquing, discussing the results of their efforts.

They are not condescending. They have clearly stated that they did not achieve the objective. They already knew that they would have an entire system against them, to impede the possibility that any initiative of the Indigenous peoples would have a genuine opportunity to compete.

Marichuy and the councillors of the Council of Indigenous Government didn’t defraud anyone. To the contrary, everyone who supported the campaign can feel proud that there was not a single falsification or purchase of signatures. The most honest, austere, dignified campaign was the one that in the end won’t appear on the ballot. The Indigenous people played fair – it couldn’t have been any other way – on an uneven playing field, against opponents disposed to violate all the rules and with whom the referees are accomplices. A broader evaluation of having participated in these conditions will be available soon.

We said that not all of the panorama is painted black. Among the positive developments is the very return of the National Indigenous Congress. This result alone of the work carried out by Marichuy and the Council of Indigenous Government would be sufficient to consider that the task was worth the effort, as sub-Commander Galeano asked of the councillors.

Carlos Gonzalez, a member of the Coordination Committee of the Council of Indigenous Government, stated that while last May there were 38 councils, now there are more than 170 allied communities located in almost all of the States of the Republic. With this surge in membership and participation, not only the Council but also the National Indigenous Congress itself has been strengthened and can count on organizations and membership in places where it never had allies before. As things appear at the moment, not even the political campaign of sub-Commander Marcos (‘la Otra Campaña’ – the other campaign) in 2006 had such results in terms of forging alliances between Mexico’s Indigenous peoples.

As Carlos Gonzalez says, the National Indigenous Congress (NIC) is now living the third stage of its existence. Ready to embark on other actions.

It is considered that the first stage commenced on the 12th of October 1996 (when it was founded) and ended in 2001, after the betrayal of all of the political parties and of the three Powers of the Union. During this first stage, the NIC set as its objective that the San Andres Accords (signed by the federal Executive, representatives of both legislative chambers of the National Congress and the EZLN on the 16th of February 1996) be incorporated into the Constitution, thereby significantly transforming the Mexican State.

However, the three powers of the Mexican State resolved not to recognise what they had agreed with the EZLN in the peace dialogues. Moreover, that there would be no recognition of territorial rights nor that Indigenous communities would be considered entities capable of exercising public rights and powers.

“The NIC began to realise that maybe the fight had to take other forms”, Carlos Gonzalez says. In the Eighth Assembly which was held in November 2001 it was determined that autonomy must be attained by establishing facts on the ground rather than by requesting recognition from the Mexican State. In 2006 the Fourth National Indigenous Congress was held; the Congress approved the Sixth Declaration of Lacandona Jungle, with which it declared itself openly anti-capitalist and leftist in orientation. This was the start of the second stage.

“In the second stage, thanks to heavy repression by the State and the co-opting of key members in the structure of the organisation, it was significantly weakened”, Carlos Gonzalez recalls. The Congress only retained a permanent organisational presence in the Central-Western region of the country. In 2011 the repression intensified and the organisation declined even more.

The third stage commenced in 2013 and was consolidated in 2016 with the proposal to form a Council of Indigenous Government for Mexico.

“The National Indigenous Congress entered this third stage with an interminable list of political prisoners, people that have been forcibly disappeared, assassinations, territories invaded and plundered by mining and energy projects, airports, roads and other infrastructure, tourist development projects, decimating our communities”, Carlos Gonzalez states.

The war against the Indigenous peoples in Mexico is growing exponentially. Their very survival is at stake, as is the future of Mexico. This third stage is witnessing a renewed determination to continue the fight for their existence. Of the more than 170 councillors, 43 are from Chiapas. But now the organisation has affiliates and allies where it had never before been able to establish a presence, such as in Nayarit, Sinaloa, Durango, Baja California Sur, Tlaxcala and Quintana Roo.

This weekend the Council of Indigenous Government will arrive at conclusions over the steps that will be taken in the immediate future. They have already ruled out that they will become a political party or that they will support any of the presidential candidates.

 

***

PUBLIC STATEMENT OF THE COUNCIL OF INDIGENOUS GOVERNMENT

WHAT IS LACKING IS STILL WHAT IS LACKING

April 2018

 

To the Support Networks of the Council of Indigenous Government and Marichuy’s Presidential Campaign:

To everyone who participated in the Civil Association “The hour has arrived for the flourishing of the people”:

To the Sixth Commission of the EZLN:

To the people of Mexico:

To the free, autonomous, alternative, independent means of communication:

To the national and international press:

Confronted with the intensification of the war, the wanton plundering and the repression that are invading our territories and people, and following the continuation of the electoral process and the tour of our spokesperson Marichuy around the many landscapes of the country together with members of the Council, we respectfully address the Mexican people to say:

We hear the pain of all the colours that make up the Mexico of below

With the pretext of the period for the collection of signatures, we travelled throughout the Indigenous territories of our country where, together, we cultivated and refined our political platform from below, and revealed the until now invisible fight being waged by many of the country’s original people, their problems and their proposals.

With our participation in the electoral process, we reiterate to the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Mexico that we will not remain quiet while they usurp and destroy our land, the land that we inherited from our grandparents and that we owe to our grandchildren, while they contaminate the rivers and perforate the hills to extract minerals. We will not remain quiet while they convert the peace and the lives that we have been constructing daily into war and death by means of the armed groups that protect their interests. Have no doubt, our response will be organised resistance and rebellion in order to cleanse and heal the country.

With the great mobilisation of thousands and thousands of companions from our support networks throughout the country, we realised and made it absolutely apparent to others that in order to appear on the electoral ballot one has to be the same as or worse than the ruling elite, that if we present signatures in support of the nomination of our presidential candidate Marichuy they must be false or worthless, if we spend money it must be of obscure provenance, that if we say something it must be a lie, that if we commit ourselves to a serious pact it must be with the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, with the extractive companies, with the bankers, with the drug cartels. But never, ever with the people of Mexico.

Appearing on the electoral ballot is only for those who seek to administer power from above and oppress those who are below, because the power that they seek is rotten in all of its parts.

Consequently, it is a competition that can only be won with deception, money and power, as the merchandise that the elections of the political class have become does not nor will it have a place for the words of those from below, of the people who being Indigenous or others who are not of the original people of Mexico, despise the accumulation of power and prefer to construct democracy by taking collective decisions, which are then transformed into governance in a street, in a neighbourhood, in a community, a gathering, a collective, a city or a state.

The electoral process is a grand pork-barrel in which the contenders are those that can falsify thousands of signatures and have billions of pesos that enable them to co-opt and buy their votes, while the majority of Mexicans debate between poverty and misery.

For this reason our proposals are not equal, for this reason we are not going to continue our political campaign for the presidency, for this reason we did not resort to falsifying signatures, nor to seeking and spending money that the people of Mexico need to attend to their vital necessities, for this reason we are not going to try to win any election nor to enter into revolving agreements with the political class. To the contrary, it is the power from below that we are seeking to build, that emerges from the pain borne by all of the colours that together are the people of Mexico, because that is where the hope is that a good government will be created that governs obediently and that can only emerge from dignified organization.

It is not only the racism of the political structure that prevented our political platform from figuring on the electoral ballot; it doesn’t matter whether those that oppose the capitalist destruction that is ravaging the country have blue, red or almond-shaped eyes, public politics and our supposed democracy will be made to exclude them. The original people and others who travel below and to the left do not fit within their game; not because of our colour, our race, our age, our culture, our gender, our thought, our heart, but because we are one with the mother Earth and we are fighting so that everything doesn’t become nothing more than merchandise, as that would mean the destruction of everything starting with us as Indigenous peoples.

That is why we are fighting, that is why we are organising, that is why not only we don’t fit in the structure of the capitalist State, but every day we feel more repugnance for the power from above which makes more notorious its profound contempt towards all Mexicans with every day that passes. The perilous situation that our people are experiencing and which has become even more extreme in recent times due to the repression and raids that have been unleashed against us, has only merited the complicit silence of all of the presidential candidates.

Consequently, in accordance with an agreement reached in the second session of the Council of Indigenous Government (CIG) during the 28th and 29th of April in Mexico City, neither the CIG nor our spokesperson will seek nor accept an alliance with other political parties or candidates, nor will we call to others to vote or to abstain from voting; rather, we will continue searching for all of the people from below in order to dismantle the pestilent power from above. Whether you vote or not, organise!

We will walk together constructing the keys for healing the world

Among the original peoples of this country, where the Council of Indigenous Government was created and where our spokesperson together with members of the general assembly of the National Indigenous Congress travelled forging and renewing relationships, is where the resistance and the rebellions that have given form and substance to our proposal for the entire nation are located. For that reason, together with the councillors of each region and each state we toured their geography, where the wars and invasions perpetrated by a monstrous capitalism are lived every day. Where the land is being plundered so that it no longer serves a collective function but rather the whims of the wealthy, so that the territories are occupied and destroyed by mining companies, the aquifers devastated by the extraction of hydrocarbons, the rivers contaminated, the water privatised in dams and aqueducts, the sea and the wind privatised by wind farms and aviation, the native seeds contaminated by genetically modified plants and toxic chemicals, the living cultures turned into static folklore, the territories reconfigured for the purposes of international drug trafficking, expressions of organisation from below subjected to the terrorist violence of the paramilitary drug trafficking groups that serve the odious governments.

On the paths we travelled we also witnessed the illumination of the worlds that protect their culture, when they develop the proposal and the word of the other Indigenous peoples and communities, and from their own struggles and from their own languages the fundamentals surge forth that are the reason for being of the Council of Indigenous Government.

That is where the hope shines that we went out in search of, as well as the civil society organisations with the Sixth Commission in the cities, with the groups and support networks of the CIG that not only came out to show their solidarity and elaborate an agenda in the whole country, but that also came out to construct a better country and a better world from below from the ashes of the capitalist ruins. We express our admiration and respect to all of them.

We call on everyone who is of the Mexican people, to our companions from the support networks of the Council of Indigenous Government in all of the states throughout the country, to our companions that make up the Civil Association. The hour has arrived for the Flourishing of the People to continue consulting and evaluating, measuring progress, encountering and travelling the new paths that we decide upon together, always organising, whether we vote for a particular presidential candidate or not. Your words, opinions and proposals matter to us.

We will continue constructing bridges based on respect with all those who live and fight to defend their lives so that together we can nurture the collective word that helps us to resist injustice, destruction, death and wanton plundering, in order to reconstruct the social fabric of the country with the awareness of what the people from below aspire to and how they are construing and elaborating their acts of rebellion and resistance based on their own geographies, cultures and modalities.

Our word that we direct to the world is nurtured in this collective proposal, henceforth we will continue travelling with those from below, towards the Indigenous communities, nations and tribes that we are. For this reason we are calling for the convocation of the General Assembly of the National Indigenous Congress in the month of October, in order to share the results of the evaluations of the numerous groups of original peoples that make up the Congress and prepare to take the following steps.

Brothers and sisters of the Mexican people and of the world, let us advance together given that what is lacking is still what is lacking.

For the integral reconstitution of Our Peoples

Never again a Mexico without Us

National Indigenous Congress

Council of Indigenous Government

Sixth Commission of the EZLN

The original version of the public statement “FALTA LO QUE FALTA” is available online at: www.consgresonacionalindigena.org and www.enlacezapatista.org.

The Spanish version of the article by Zosimo Camacho is available at the Contralinea internet site:

https://www.contralinea.com.mx/archivo-revista/2018/04/27/resurgimiento-del-congreso-nacional-indigena/

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