Oxchuc elects its municipal president through uses and customs

Residents of Oxchuc municipality elect their authorities

Without parties or ballot boxes

 By: Isaín Mandujano

This Saturday, indigenous Tseltals of Oxchuc, elected their new mayor for the next three years under the regimen of a new normative system of uses and customs, by raised hand, after four years of struggle and of having expelled political parties from that municipality.

In “an unprecedented historical process,” as electoral observers present at the event classified it, some 11, 900 leaders, representatives and residents from 115 of the 120 communities and 24 neighborhoods of the municipality met on Saturday, April 13, in the central plaza of Oxchuc and elected Alfredo Santiz Gómez, 42, as the new municipal president.

The bilingual indigenous teacher is a native of Las Palmas community, but now resides in the Televisa neighborhood of the municipal capital of Oxchuc. Hugo Gómez Sántiz, del Barrio San Cristóbalito, came in second.

Of the 10 candidates proposed to occupy the position of mayor, five were men and five were women. At the last minute, one of the male candidates, Feliciano Sántiz Gómez del Barrio Cruziljá, renounced aspiring to that position.

First, the five women were called one-by-one to be voted on with a show of hands but the vote didn’t favor any of them. Most of those present in the plaza were, of course, men.

Although a crowd present in the plaza gave Hugo Gómez Sántiz an ovation, the majority raised their hand so that Alfredo Sántiz Gómez would be the next mayor, the one who substitutes for the current president of the Municipal Government Council, Oscar Gómez López.

The new mayor of Oxchuc, Alfredo Sántiz Gómez.

As soon as he was elected, he proceeded to elect his trustee and the six council members and the alternate for each one of them, and that’s where several women won positions, beginning with the trustee, Rufina Gómez López and her alternate, Carmelina Gómez López.

Each one of the candidates were presented to the crowd three times to ratify or not its support for them.

Electoral observers were present there, as well as officials from the Institute of Elections and Citizen Participation (IEPC), and the National Electoral Institute (INE), representatives of other original peoples from other states in the country that have struggled or are struggling to elect their authorities through the system of uses and customs like the original peoples did before, without the presence of any political party.

The Tzeltal town of Oxchuc began to fight for electing their municipal authorities by raising hands and without (political) parties after Mayor María Gloria Sánchez won in July 2015, who together with her husband, Norberto Sántiz, established a political boss system for more than 15 years in that municipality.

They did not allow María Gloria to take the office of municipal president for a second time. Her husband had also governed twice, and they expected that their successor in 2018 would be their son.

But since 2015, the residents of Oxchuc rebelled; they burned the homes of María Gloria Sánchez and Norberto Sántiz, as well as the homes of their closest collaborators, and expelled them and all the political parties from that municipality. [1]

They blocked the highway and marched to the state capital, and they confronted the state police in January 2018. Civilian armed groups also attacked them, which caused the deaths of Ovidio López, Víctor Sánchez and Francisco Méndez.

They pointed out that a civilian armed group that operated under the command of María Gloria Sánchez and Norberto Sántiz riddled the dead with bullets.

At the same time they initiated a long legal process before the electoral bodies and electoral tribunals, to assert their right as an original people of electing their municipal authorities through the normative system of uses and customs, by raising hands.

This struggle lasted four long years, said Juan Gabriel Méndez López, community lawyer who took the case to the judicial bodies, and who also suffered a bullet wound from an armed group in the attack when three of his compañeros died.

He said that blood had to run and pay for this struggle with their deaths so that the government authorities, the electoral authorities and the electoral tribunals would listen to the demand of the Tseltal people of Oxchuc.

The new mayor, a teacher and father of five children, resident of a neighborhood in the municipal capital, Alfredo Sántiz Gómez, said that his priority is to achieve unity of all the people, achieve peace and harmony, look for all the dissident groups and extend a hand to walk together: “because if there is no unity we will not all be able to work together. That is necessary, he urges the people of Oxchuc.”

He indicated that then he will attend one of the main problems of Oxchuc, which is the lack of water for all of its residents, and he said that his government would be a municipal presidency with open doors for attending to each and every one of his constituents.

The new mayor-elect will take the oath of office in an indigenous ritual on April 21, and it will be the State Congress that officially certifies him as the new municipal president in a solemn session on April 23. [3]

Oxchuc is the first indigenous municipality in Chiapas to elect their municipal authorities this way; the municipalities of Sitalá and Chilón are in the process.


[1] https://chiapas-support.org/2016/01/13/66-police-injured-in-oxchuc-chiapas-confrontation/

[2] https://chiapas-support.org/2018/01/30/3-dead-in-oxchuc-chiapas-violence/

[3] Both of these requirements were met and Alfredo Santiz Gómez is now officially the mayor of Oxchuc municipality (county).


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Sunday, April 14, 2019


Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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