Fulfill the San Andrés Accords?

Art from the Zapatista communities.

By: Gilberto López y Rivas

It has become commonplace in the discourse of the political class, when talking about the original peoples, to repeat like a magic spell: “Fulfill the San Andrés Accords!” If this were truly one of the objectives of the next government, what would such a step mean, beyond the rhetoric that omits historical contexts and structural realities, or is it limited to inconsequential legal formalisms?

Specifically, on the legislative plain, the constitutional reforms that have permitted the re-colonization of the original peoples’ territories would have to be annulled, conceived as the geographic-symbolic spaces of their reproduction as collective socio-ethnic entities, obviously starting with the Salinas reform to Constitutional Article 27, which was one of the causes of the rebellion of the Zapatista Mayas in 1994, and which authorized the privatization of ejido lands.

That would also oblige overthrowing various laws derived from “structural reforms;” in particular, the devastating mining law, which, in its Article 6, grants a preferential character to mining exploration and exploitation, “over any other land use,” without mentioning those that have permitted the privatization of water and environmental deregulation, among others.

Similarly, the second constitutional article, the bad workmanship of the betrayal of all the political parties and the three powers of the Union, would have to be totally re-elaborated, given that the constitutional reform enacted in April 2001 contains legal impediments that go against the spirit and letter of the San Andrés Accords: to every right recognized or conceded is placed a note of caution that sets boundaries, limits and precludes the full application of the laws and the effective exercise of those rights, by unjustifiably referring them to other articles of the same Constitution, or to secondary laws that have been the legal instruments of neoliberal looting.

At the same time, in Section B of the current second article, they institute welfare and client programs that express a contradiction with the essence of the autonomies formally recognized in Section A of that Article, since they condemn the original people to a passive role in State decision making; deny the communities the status of entities of public right and, to the contrary, define them as entities of “public interest,” or protected entities of state policy; they fail to recognize the scope of the autonomies in the municipal and regional spheres in which the indigenous peoples assert them, established in San Andrés and, with that, the possibility of their reconstitution. This reform leaves the recognition of the indigenous peoples and the characteristics of autonomy to local laws, which is not favorable, given the correlation of forces in those spheres and the existence of powerful chiefdoms in ethnic regions, and, now, the brutal impact of organized crime as a clandestine armed wing of the transnational State.

Specifically, the 2001 reform violated the San Andrés Accords and became a virtual counter-reform upon establishing the following: a) substituting the notion of “places” for land and territories, which de-territorializes the indigenous peoples, subtracts them from their material base of reproduction, and even constitutes a setback with respect to Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization; b) changing the concept of “peoples” to “communities,” thus altering the subject of the law recognized in San Andrés and in the very same Convention 169, and limiting local and regional jurisdiction of these legal-political entities; c) introducing outside of the agreement between the parties in the armed conflict, the EZLN and the federal government, the neoliberal counter-reform to constitutional article 27; d) limiting the possibility that the indigenous peoples develop and strengthen their own communications media, which has suffered constant attack from the State in recent years; and e) not specifying the right to prior, free, informed and, above all, binding consultation.

In sum, the 2001 constitutional reform in matters of indigenous rights was not satisfactory to the State’s independent organizations of original peoples, so the peoples set out on the path of constructing autonomy by means of deeds, de facto autonomy, the paradigmatic case being that of the Zapatista Mayas in Chiapas, grouped together in the EZLN, immersed in an autonomous process of historical reaches in the planetary sphere.

The new development plans AMLO announced are another matter; they would be profoundly antithetical to the “fulfillment of the San Andrés Accords.” These Accords continue to constitute the programmatic platform for autonomic processes and a necessary referent for the resistance struggle against capitalism.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, September 7, 2018


Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



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