The “new” war of conquest and defense of territory

By: Raúl Romero*

Oscar Eyraud Adams, of the Kumiai people, was murdered on September 24, 2020 in Baja California. Jesús Miguel Jerónimo and his son Jesús Miguel Junior, of the P’urhépecha People of Ichán, were murdered on July 23, 2020, in Michoacán. Josué Bernardo Marcial Santos, known as Tío Bad, a rapper and delegate of the Popoluca People to the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI), was found dead on December 16, 2019 in Veracruz. All of them had common elements: they were indigenous, defenders of the territory and they achieved opening dialogues and generating convergences, inside and outside their communities, around struggles against extractive projects and megaprojects of dispossession.

They are not the only ones murdered so far in this six-year term. There are also Samir Flores Soberanes (Nahua), Ignacio Pérez Girón (Tzotzil), Julián Cortés Flores (Mephaa) and twenty more stories.

The murder of territory defenders in Mexico, most of them Native peoples, is a systematic and recurring practice. The offensive is part of the war over territories that neoliberal capitalism has waged all over the world for several years.

At the end of the 1990s, the then spokesperson for the EZLN, Subcomandante Marcos, shared the analysis that the Zapatistas have about the issue. Two texts that seem pre-figurative today stand out: “The seven loose pieces of the world jigsaw puzzle” and “What are the fundamental characteristics of the Fourth World War?” In those analyses he characterized neoliberalism as “a new war for the conquest of territories,” a war in which there is a process of “destruction / depopulation and reconstruction / reordering,” a “total war,” in other words, it occurs “at any time, in any place, under any circumstance.” It’s a war against humanity in which “everything human that opposes the logic of the market is an enemy and must be destroyed.”

In that war against humanity, the peoples who inhabit the territories that capital seeks to conquer and reorder are the first enemies. They hinder the process of the financialization of nature and of the construction and integration of new commercial regions.

For those territories to have “value” in the market, they must first be destroyed and de-populated, either with paramilitaries, organized crime groups, or directly with state forces. The elimination also implies destroying worlds of life; in other words, erasing the ways of being of the peoples, above all, breaking their nexus with the land and their being a community. Simultaneously, ocurre the process of reordering and reconstruction of those territories occurs to make them functional to the logic of the market. Wherever there are towns and communities with their own ways of looking at and relating to the world, they begin to build cities that link to other cities, which they euphemistically call development poles or centers. Of course the former members of the peoples, now as consumers of merchandise or as cheap labor, will be able to integrate into capitalist modernity.

Even those who not long ago called themselves left and even revolutionaries, today defend these ecocidal and colonialist projects. They do so by dusting off their manuals: one must promote “development of productive forces,” “industrialize the country,” “proletarianize the indigenous.”

In the new war of conquest, organizations of Native peoples, like the CNI, are a constant target of attacks. The journalist Zósimo Camacho revealed that, with data from the Congress itself, he was able to document at least 117 murders and 11 disappearances of people since the founding of the CNI in 1996 up to June 2019. But the “real number is higher, because generally only those who had political and/or operational responsibilities appear on this tentative list. The list lacks the names of those who were killed and resisted from their milpas, their ceremonies, their daily jobs.

The same thing happens with the EZLN and its bases of support. A significant increase in hostilities against them has been recorded since December 2018. At least three lines of confrontation stand out: 1) the physical war, which includes military incursions, paramilitary attacks and the expansion of organized crime groups that operate with total impunity in Chiapas; 2) the media war, based on the publication of lies, rumors or conspiracy theories in the social networks and communications media, and 3) the political war, directed at coopting, dividing and confronting organizations and communities through individualized and paternalistic social programs that don’t modify the structural conditions.

The indigenous peoples articulated in the CNI and the EZLN are also, in Mexico, the principal resistance in this struggle in defense of life. Those peoples once again launch a call to all humanity: it’s the time for our “common dream,” it’s the time for freedom.



Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee


2 Comments on “The “new” war of conquest and defense of territory

  1. Pingback: Zapatista News & Analysis | Blog of Zapatista Support Group Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand

  2. Pingback: Zapatista News & Analysis, November 2020 – Transnational Solidarity Network

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