May 7, 2019
The deployment of the National Guard throughout the country, ordered by López Obrador, has as its principle objective assuring the imposition of megaprojects and the subjection of the peoples that resist, points out the spokeswoman of the Indigenous Government Council, María de Jesús Patricio. The peoples will give their lives, if necessary, but will not give up, she warns.
By: Zósimo Camacho
Abasolo, Guanajuato, Mexico
No president prior to Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordered a military deployment throughout the country like the one that has now been put into effect. The nations, tribes, peoples and communities glued together in the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI) are clear. They consider that the new government acquired compromises with big capital that it cannot avoid, among them the Maya Train, the Trans-Isthmus Corridor and the Morelos Integral Plan. The new administration will be obliged to impose these “deadly megaprojects” at any cost.
María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, a traditional Nahua doctor, a native of the Tuxpan, Jalisco community, is the spokeswoman for the Indigenous Government Council (Consejo Indígena de Gobierno, CIG), an initiative of the CNI to construct a government for Mexico, “from below and to the left.”
While the arrival of a supposed leftist to the Presidency of the Republic, with Andrés Manuel López Obrador, “confused many indigenous brothers” –as María de Jesús recognizes–, it’s also true that the CNI grew like it never had before. Today it has a presence in 25 states of the Republic, in 60 peoples, tribes and nations and in 89 indigenous regions with hundreds of communities.
The CNI, openly anticapitalist, is one of the frontal oppositions against the new government from the left. In a prominent way, the support base communities of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) are founding members of the organization.
The voice of the Indigenous Government Council is heard sweet, slow, clear and simple. There is no stridency, affectation of tone or pompousness. But she is clear, coherent and unequivocal. She receives Contralínea in a pause in the awe-inspiring tour that she makes through the communities most separated from the country’s metropolis. A tour without cameras, microphones or communications media, which has not stopped since she was named spokeswoman and candidate of the indigenous peoples to the Presidency of the Republic for the last electoral process.
The indigenous peoples “don’t see the change that was announced,” María de Jesús points out, who her compañeros of struggle affectionately call Marichuy and, her closest circle, simply Chuy.
“We see that it is the same thing that previous governments have left. Everything that was announced that was going to be changed, like first the poor and then the rich, is not true. We are seeing that everything is a simulation; that there are agreements that [López Obrador] has to continue.”
Small, with skin the color of the earth and 55 years of age, she considers that the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador is not a rupture with the Mexican political system, but rather one of continuity. She reproaches the misrepresentation that the new government employs with some of the principles of the indigenous and Zapatista struggle and, especially, the simulation of indigenous consultations for imposing a decision previously made.
María de Jesús refers to the “approval” of three projects: the Maya Train, the Trans-Isthmus Corridor and the Morelos Integral Plan. Referendums (“consultas”) are organized for those three that don’t even have the characteristics of Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which obliges governments to hold free and informed consultations, prior to making any decision that would involve the territories of the original communities and that attempt against their cultures.
“Then we don’t see change. We are seeing continuity. We are seeing that it is the same and, perhaps, a little worse because the forms that they are using are some forms that we have use, and that they are using against our peoples.”
—Like which ones?
—Some comments that talk about “to govern by obeying” or about that we are going to consult the communities. And it’s not true. They are spurious consultations. They are deceiving people, people who dreamed that a change was coming and that maybe now there would actually be a reality that would take the peoples into account, because we see that it doesn’t no. We have analyzed it in this [CNI] assembly and we feel that this situation is the same. It is disguised now as “the left,” but it is the same one that has already been working.
Faced with the López Obrador government, the response of the indigenous peoples “is clear,” says María de Jesús: “The peoples who have walked in the National Indigenous Congress are going to continue organizing. We are going to continue resisting. We are going to continue preventing them from ending life, with the existence of our communities, from continuing to finish off our territory, from continuing to killing off the forests, with our own forms of organizing. And then, well, the Resistencia will follow.”
But also, she assures, they see clearly the government’s “response” to this resistance. She cites the assassination of “our compañero Samir [Flores],” which occurred last February 20 after he stated his community’s opposition to the Morelos Integral Plan, now promoted by the López Obrador administration.
Another two murders would occur after the interview: those of the Nahua councilor from the Indigenous Government Council, José Lucio Bartolo Faustino, and the CNI delegate Modesto Verales Sebastián. Both are from indigenous communities in Guerrero.
But, “the communities are going to continue organizing –María de Jesús reiterates–; they are going to continue resisting, our brothers of the Ejército Zapatista National Liberation Army were clear. They are part of the National Indigenous Congress. And they were clear and said: the Maya Train is not going to pass through here.”
And given the efforts of the federal government and the state governments, “there is nothing left than to resist, to continue opposing these megaprojects that are death projects and that only benefit the one that has money, capital. It’s only going to bring the communities destruction, dispossession, poisoning of lands, more poverty, division and confrontation. And maybe that’s why the militarization is coming into the communities: to impose those megaprojects.”
—Is there the capacity to resist? –the reporter asks her–. López Obrador always wields that he won with 30 million votes. And, according to the polls, he maintains very high approval ratings, above 70 percent.
—The capacity is clear. It’s been more than 500 years and the peoples are still resisting, despite the fact that throughout that time they have been massacred, divided, all the evil that comes from above… But the peoples continue existing. It is a sign, then, that in the communities there is that ability. Why? It’s because it is something collective. It is not about a person, they are complete communities where they decide what is done with the community. They are the guardians of that sacred territory, which is given sacred value, not a peso value. So, there are the communities. Yes there is capacity because they are complete communities and they are going to continue resisting until the ultimate consequences.
As the most urgent matters for the CNI’s attention, she points to four megaprojects that the federal government promotes at this time and that, upon concretion, would imply the amputation of indigenous territories: the Maya Train (in the five states of the Yucatán Peninsula), the Trans-Isthmus Corridor (from the Oaxacan coast to the coast of Veracruz); the installation of wind farms and hydroelectric dams in Oaxaca and Puebla, and the Morelos Integral Plan, which implies the installation of a thermoelectric plant in that state and gas pipelines and other affectations also in Puebla and Tlaxcala.
“We see it as a danger and a form of direct aggression against the peoples who are going to be affected by the implementation of these megaprojects.”
—With the National Guard there will be a military deployment like never before seen in the country. Is there a risk of some kind of confrontation with the indigenous communities?
—There has always been that protest of the communities [with militarization]. It’s because what the soldiers have done in the communities is simply to arrive and repress; they rape the women, they rob… It has not brought benefits. So, what is expected with this National Guard, which is the militarization of all the communities, is that they will work to implement the megaprojects. What these [soldiers] are going to do is serve the master; they are not going to serve the community. It’s clear. We have seen it. We have experienced it. Since he arrives [the president] we are seeing that the word that he said and pledged is not being fulfilled, which is expected with what he wants to develop through the Guard. What we believe is that he is going to militarize in order to ensure the dispossession of the communities.
—After having taken possession in the National Palace, López Obrador made a supposed indigenous ceremony in which he received a staff of command. Was division generated in the communities or within the National Indigenous Congress?
—There was a confusion of some communities, or members, of some indigenous brothers that considered: “Well, perhaps there’s really going to be that change that they are telling us.” Yes there were some who left with the idea that the change already took place: “What are we doing here, let’s go there.” Others, well, grabbed the leaders, which is the way the government has been acting: to grab some leaders who perhaps may not be very clear and who don’t know what this brings. Then, well it’s normal. Always in these processes, in this journey of an organization from below, there are always going to be people who leave with the idea that help will come from the power. And it’s not true, because already being there, well you already have a boss and now they are going to give you orders about what you must do. Then yes, it affected a few, but we believe that those of us who are and continue, we are the ones who have clarity that only organization and being firm in our communities, about what we want, is what will make us move forward.
But, on the other hand, since the beginning of the tour through the indigenous communities more communities have been adding themselves to the CNI. María de Jesús Patricio points out that it was always clear that: “this journey was a call.” It never had collecting votes for the last electoral process as its main objective. “A principle was to denounce all the la problems that exist in the villages. And that’s why our idea was to arrive in all the communities, especially the most distant ones and those that had not been in the National Indigenous Congress.”
She points out that the purpose was always to listen to them and to make them aware of what the CNI consists: “Inviting them to the fact that we had to get organized in the face of all that: the dispossession that is taking place; and that we must unite to, together, stop precisely all this dispossession that capitalism is causing.”
Marichuy visited 29 states on that first tour. She went to towns that were mostly indigenous and that had no relationship to the CNI. That tour was interrupted after an accident in Baja California, in which she was injured together with other indigenous councilors and in which the activist Eloísa Vega died. Days before, in Michoacán, an armed group had intercepted and intimidated the caravan in which she was traveling. In addition, the collection of signatures required by the National Electoral Institute (INE, its initials in Spanish) so that the spokeswoman of the Indigenous Government Council could appear on the electoral ballot advanced slowly. The foregoing because in the majority of the indigenous communities visited there were no voting credentials or smart phones or Internet coverage for “capturing” the signatures.
It was not a defeat at all, María de Jesús points out. “It was a win for us to have visited sister communities that we would never have visited if we didn’t take that initiative, to go and tour the country with this proposal, which was clear to us: not so much about looking above but rather about listening to the people below, making that problem visible and to invite that we have to organize because it is the only thing that can stop all this dispossession.”
—In all of the country’s history the CNI is the organization that has assembled the largest number of indigenous communities. Which peoples lack incorporating?
—Well it has always taken us a little more work with the indigenous brothers that are in Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí and Veracruz, who we consider are important peoples. All that part, which is where they are generally more repressed, dispossessed and which we consider it important that they walk together with us. A few have come close and we believe that it is a first initiative of walking. The most important thing is that they are the engine over there in those regions so that they can join and walk together with us, because our struggle is at the national level, it is not for just a few, but rather for everyone: as our Chiapas brothers have said. We believe that that is our struggle: to integrate the majority of our peoples of Mexico. Let’s walk, because only together will we stop this. We are brothers although we are in different regions. We are brothers and we have that commitment of caring for what our ancestors have left to us to be left to those who come after us.
—How far does the resistance reach? How far to say: no longer?
—No, our position is clear for me. To reach to where our ancestors give us life. That’s where we are going to reach. There is a big commitment, we have said, and we must follow it while we are alive. If we don’t fulfill what we say, we would also be just simulating. We are clear, convinced, that our struggle is going to be as long as we are alive. And those that come afterwards will see that example that they must follow, to where they must fight. Because this dispossession is not going to stop right now and we have to be prepared for whatever.
About the next steps that the CNI and the Indigenous Government Council will take, María de Jesús points out that both bodies will seek to incorporate more communities.
With respect to the Council: “the principal task is to take the word that we gave, that we committed and that we said that we were going to continue working on behalf of our peoples. So it is continuing in that, in the articulation of the other communities and to continue supporting each other to make us strong; to make us strong in order to stop all this dispossession and all the evil that is coming to our peoples.”
For its part, the CNI will continue: “integrating new indigenous brothers of other peoples and continue to strengthen these struggles in the regions where we see that there is more fear of being more repressed and even exterminated. That is our struggle. That is our work. It was said in the Assembly that we are going to continue strengthening this space as the house of everyone. There we are going to continue to strengthen it from the communities, from the regions and at the national level. In that way we would be strengthening the National Indigenous Congress.
—About the Indigenous Government Council, it had been commented that it would not be only indigenous or only national –it is asked.
—It is still being analyzed how to do this, because it’s not that the CNI decides or that the networks decide, but rather that it must be questioned and consulted, and among everyone see what the way is. Yes, of course, it is thought that it must not only be the Indigenous Government Council, but rather that it has to have more forces, that it is broader, where it brings together other brothers who also struggle and who feel part of this struggle. That was clear after the collecting of signatures ended. We saw that there were many people who are willing to continue working and to continue strengthening from where they are. That’s why it is believed that the Indigenous Government Council could be expanded and more would fit there: other brothers that organize from the cities, from organizations and who also feel the need to be articulating those forces to jointly be able to make a face all this dispossession of the countryside and the city, because the workers are also suffering those dispossessions and I believe that way we would be congruent with what we said on that walk, that this struggle is a struggle of all the workers: of the countryside and of the city.
As spokeswoman for the Indigenous Government Council, María de Jesús Martínez Patricio has some words for the president of the Republic, Andrés Manuel López Obrador: “Respect the communities: their way of life! Stop imposing other external forms of protection for the capitalists. First, listen to the voice of two, three and of the entire communities, to everything they say. Don’t just listen to what’s convenient for you; don’t just listen to those who come to dispossess. Listen to those who have been in the communities for years, who are caring for them and who love the land.”
Marichuy points out that: “respecting those collectives, those communities, those territories, those waters, those forests, is respecting the life of everyone, because they don’t belong only to the communities, but rather they belong to everyone.”
She doesn’t hesitate, she barely stops to demand: “Respect for the communities! Stop plundering our territories, because the communities are going to continue resisting.”
Originally Published in Spanish by Contralinea
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee