Beyond Chenalhó

Las Abejas of Acteal December 22, 2014.

Members of Las Abejas of Acteal, December 22, 2014.

By: Rafael Landerreche*

What’s happening in Chenalhó (I use the present because the fire has not been put out) must be examined beyond the obvious dimension of post-electoral conflicts or of the undeniable but partial component of gender. But to get to the bottom of the issue it’s necessary to go back in history to something that’s not about this moment nor exclusive to Chiapas, but that, nevertheless, is the deep root of what happens here and now.

The big lesson of the last century for the Mexican political class was that in order to maintain themselves in power it was necessary to make concessions to the people; not isolated and circumstantial, but rather, so to speak, of a permanent and structural character. That was the social policy of the “governments that emanated from the revolution,” which permitted the PRI to stay in power for 70 uninterrupted years of relative social stability. We all know of course the vices that accompanied and corrupted this social policy: a lack of democracy, paternalism, corporatism, electoral patronage, application of an economic model that was incompatible with those demands, corruption, etcetera. The system had its clear limits and anyone who would attempt to exceed them would abide the worst consequences (Tlatelolco is not forgotten). However, that social dimension was real and one of the proofs of that is the void that appears now that it’s dismantling.

The new generations of the political class formed in the rarified heights of neoliberalism, didn’t know or didn’t want to see the difference between social policy and the vices that were parasitic to it. They placed everything indistinctly into the same bag, put the ambiguous label of “populism” on it and threw it in the trash. It’s like the saying that they threw the baby out with the bathwater, but we could modify the image saying that in this case they threw out the baby and were left with the dirty water, because the social and nationalist policies have gone away, but the corruption, vote buying and lack of democracy continue. For a sample, the button of the SNTE: what has been fought is every attempt at political independence –including its independence from the teacher Elba Esther– what has been maintained is the absolute political, bureaucratic and electoral manipulation.

Upon disavowing the great lesson of the 20th Century, to which it owed its stay in power, the new political class was sustained by just three props, rigid but not solid: media manipulation, colossal vote buying but in drips (in the end, vote buying on scales that reduce to insignificance the old practice of a sandwich and a soft drink) and brute force, as a last resort, the Army. In places like Chiapas, with high social marginalization and very incipient political awareness (lights that aim in the opposite direction like the work of the Diocese of San Cristóbal and the lightening of Zapatismo should not impede seeing this sad generalized reality), the media manipulation assumes tragic-comical characteristics of the daily exaltation of a governor in a permanent campaign, the vote buying with government supports and programs has the subtle efficiency of a steamroller and the Army and other forms of repression are always around the corner.

One must add to this a fact that is more specific to Chiapas. It turns out that the governor and a sector of the political class that accompanies him, with an incredible blindness, the product of unmeasured ambition for power (that hubris about which Javier Sicilia speaks so much, which inevitably brings about its nemesis) decided to throw over the edge not only the social policies of the old PRI, but even the very cover and party name, ignoring that, if there was anywhere it had taken root and they had to thank for their stay in power it was among the indigenous communities of Chiapas. They shook the hand of the Green Party, which was born to be on the stage with others, and they converted it into the center of their political project. So, nothing else than their pistols imposed the Green candidates on communities of the old PRI roots. Chenalhó it nothing else that the last of a long list: Chamula, San Andrés, Oxchuc, Chanal, Altamirano and many more. Practically all the post-electoral conflicts that have devastated Chiapas since last year’s elections are like that, the creation and exclusive responsibility of those that now suffer their consequences. In the case of Chenalhó it is complicated by a combination with the survival of the paramilitaries responsible for the Acteal Massacre, but that merits a separate analysis.

Division in the communities and destruction of the social fabric is now, unfortunately, an old and sad story in Chiapas, the fruit in good measure (although not exclusively) of the counterinsurgency plans for confronting the Zapatista insurgency. But with these actions, the political class has taken division to the interior of its own support bases and has given a new twist to the destruction of the social fabric. The confrontation in Chenalhó has nothing to do with independent forces in the municipio, the Zapatistas, Las Abejas, not even with the relative of so-called opposition parties. They are simply the old governing sectors, arbitrarily divided by their own state bosses into PRIístas and Greens, who dispute the municipal budget booty, period. But they are taking the whole municipio between the legs (not to speak of the old Secretary of Government and now leader of the Congress). Las Abejas members of the Colonia Puebla are now displaced from their community again (for the third time since 1997) and two people, including a female minor, died there in the crossfire between PRIístas and Greens (for sure, neither the deaths or the displaced angered the authorities as much as the teachers haircuts). Even the Zapatista communities, clearly foreign to all the party fights, feel worried about a violence that could be directed against them at any moment.

At first blush this situation is a product of the blindness and incredible political insensitivity of the ruling class, more than of a deliberate plan to create greater destabilization; the fate run by the leader of the (Chiapas) Congress, would seem to corroborate it: they have not even been capable of protecting themselves. But, who knows? Chiapas is the site and destination of important megaprojects and we know about the increasing pressures throughout Latin America to bring about transnational projects, cost what it may. A churning river is an advantage for fishermen. And the third prop; will it be the Army like they claimed with Ayotzinapa, right there, watching?

*Advisor to alternative education projects on Chenalhó.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



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