Obstacles to Indigenous Autonomy


In memory of the 43 disappeared

In memory of the 43 disappeared

By: Gilberto López y Rivas

The autonomic processes that the indigenous peoples champion confront arduous obstacles and challenges, essential among them, the neoliberal capitalist State’s lack of will to open spaces for effective recognition, even inside of the limited rights formally recognized in the Constitution, principally in Article 2, and of those established within international legal frameworks, like Convention 169 of the la International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Universal Declaration on Indigenous Rights of the United Nations Organization.

The constitutional reform on the matter of indigenous rights, which was enacted in 2001, was not satisfactory to anyone within the ambit of the native organizations independent of the State, so that the indigenous peoples undertook the path of constructing autonomy by means of deeds, de facto autonomy, the most consistent case being that of the indigenous Zapatistas-Mayas in Chiapas, which vindicates not having any relationship with the state and federal governments, although in the daily life of the territories, the municipal authorities of partisan origin frequently go to the Zapatista Good Government Juntas to resolve all kinds of problems.

For its part, the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities-Community Police (CRAC-PC, its initials in Spanish), in Guerrero, the Purépecha municipality of Cherán, Michoacán, and other peoples and organizations that resist silently, maintain a relationship with the State. The CRAC-PC is permanently conflictive, and Cherán is equally confronted but legalized due to the victory obtained in their complaint before the State Electoral Institute, which recognized the ability of its residents to name their authorities and to govern themselves according to their own organizational structures. This is a notable difference with respect to the Zapatistas and the CRAC-PC, and also in relation to other experiences of municipal capitals that remain dominated by mestizos, as among the Wixáritari (Huicholes) of the state of Jalisco, where in several of them, a majority of the indigenous population is socially and geographically segregated and is also subordinated to this sort of mestizo domination on the political level.

Thus, de facto autonomies predominate in the indigenous self-governments with different gradations with respect to their relationship to the State, although always conflictive, contradictory and ambiguous, carrying the weight of a discriminatory perspective towards the indigenous world and a permanent policy of co-optation of processes underway, or if possible, of their eradication. These autonomies, for example among the Zapatista Mayas, are developed within the context of a counterinsurgency strategy or a war of exhaustion on the part of the Army (the anvil), and the para-militarization (the hammer) that characterizes it, permanent aggressions taking place from groups that come from various political organizations. They are paramilitaries and they do violence to the autonomous municipalities by means of invading the former finca (estate) lands recuperated by the indigenous Zapatistas in 1994.

So, all the autonomies, as much those protected in Constitutional Article 2 as the de facto ones, and also those that developed under more consistent local constitutional precepts, like in Oaxaca, live in a situation of permanent siege, of confrontation, whose origin is the State, the local oligarchic groups, the police and the Army, besides the corporations of capitalist extractivism in their frenetic search for resources and territorial dispossession.

Thus, the autonomies are enclosed by behind the scenes powers protected by the heavy hand of the State in different ways. In the last decade we must also add the repressive power that the State exercises through drug trafficking, and organized crime in general, which represents one more sector of the capitalist economy, and also, together with the “war against drug trafficking,” form multiple facets of the State’s strategy (and that of its United States mentors) to beat up on the indigenous and campesino world, and the group of regional and national oppositions. The Iguala Massacre and the enforced disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa teachers college students constitute the macabre culmination of this strategy of a criminal State.

Like the capitalist corporations of timber, mining, tourism, etcetera that seek to take possession of indigenous peoples’ resources, what is at the center of the “drug trafficking problem” is the effort to dispossess them of their territoriality, the material basis of their reproduction and the strategic space of their struggles. Their purpose is to expropriate from the indigenous peoples their lands-resources-labor, and the armed forces and police are accomplices of this subtraction beginning with their repressive and counterinsurgency actions carried out with the support of the paramilitary groups that operate like the clandestine arm of the dirty war. The militarization supposedly for “fighting crime” doesn’t bring a decrease of illegal activities, as the extensive zones of the Mexican Republic under virtual military occupation prove.

Organized crime is nothing more than the clandestine face of the neoliberal capitalist system, with its inherent unrestrained violence, psychopathic and without social and political mediation to control it. It is highly profitable economically; besides, starting with the fact that the United States is the principal provider of weapons for the drug trafficking groups. The Independent announced in 2004 that: “drug trafficking is now third globally in generating cash, after oil and arms trafficking” (February 29).

The only possibility of an effective defense in the face of this phenomenon in the indigenous world –as the Zapatista Good Government Juntas; Cherán, in Michoacán; the Community Police of Guerrero, or the Nasa in the Cauca of Colombian geography demonstrate– is the strengthening of the autonomies, starting with those that have achieved controlling –not without difficulties– the presence of organized crime in indigenous territories.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Friday, July 17, 2015

En español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2015/07/17/opinion/021a2pol



One Comment on “Obstacles to Indigenous Autonomy

  1. Pingback: Mexican Army Kills 3 and arrests Cemeí Verdía in Ostula | Compañero Manuel

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