Autonomy against all odds

By: Magdalena Gómez

On August 9, 2003, in Oventic, Chiapas, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN, Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) announced the creation of the caracoles and the good government juntas, in substitution pf the Zapatista rebel autonomous municipalities (MAREZ), whose functions would continue. An authentic second body for the mediation and resolution of conflicts was proposed through the Juntas to “deal with denunciations against the autonomous councils for human rights violations, investigate their veracity, order the autonomous councils to correct these errors and to monitor their compliance.”

Thus, they constituted an organization unprecedented in Latin America. With this, their congruence in terms of respect for indigenous peoples was reaffirmed against the grain of avant-garde positions. The word of the then Subcomandante Marcos, today Galeano, shared strategic reflections. I highlight two of them: the decision to place the military organization at the level of defense and to demarcate this component from the functions of fully civilian government, speak to us of the reiteration of the position of not supplanting the peoples and, ultimately, of not “militarizing” their culture. On the other hand, the categorical demarcation in the face of the “separatist ghost” (official defensive discourse), said: “Autonomy is not fragmentation of the country or separatism, but the exercise of the right to govern and govern ourselves as established in article 39 of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States. “

A decade later, at the end of 2013 and January 2014, the EZLN insisted on systematizing and sharing its experience through the Zapatista school, a great effort, with the desire to bring the mirror closer and give support to its constant call to organization in the country and outside it. By the way, the Journey for Life, Europe chapter, held in 2021, continues with the conviction of learning and sharing to strengthen the global the anti-capitalist struggle.

This anniversary of the caracoles and the good governance juntas has nothing to do with a mere festive event. The process has been complex and its development has occurred in a problematic environment such as lack of resources, militarization, para-militarization, counterinsurgency campaigns, harassment from criminals and drug trafficking, among other factors that frame their challenge to the Mexican State to build autonomy in fact and recreate their right to their own law. It is a land of chiaroscuros.

“You are in Zapatista Rebel Territory, New Town San Gregorio. MAREZ: Lucio Cabañas, Caracol 10 Flowering the Rebel Seed, Where the People Command and the Government Obeys.”

With a significant jump, the EZLN reported on August 17, 2019 that “we have already broken the siege,” created seven new caracoles or centers of autonomous resistance and Zapatista rebellion (Crarez) – most would be the seat of (good government juntas (JBG, juntas de buen gobierno) – in addition to the five it already had, the original five caracoles (Oventic, La Realidad, La Garrucha, Roberto Barrios and Morelia and four new autonomous Zapatista rebel municipalities in Chiapas. And yet, both the Zapatista territories and the rest of the municipalities in Chiapas live under siege and violence, marked by impunity and omission or action from the three levels of government. A serious situation and unfortunately also present in other regions of the country. An example of this is the pronouncement issued on July 28 by the Ajmaq Network of Resistances and Rebellions, the Anticapitalist University Network (Mexico City), Mujeres y la Sexta, Abya Yala, Resistencias Vinculando Dignidad-Movimiento y Corazón Zapatista (Red MyC Zapatista) with the adhesion of numerous people and organizations from Mexico and other countries,  denouncing the aggressions against communities of Caracol 10 Flowering the Rebel Seed, of the Good Government Junta New Dawn in Resistance and Rebellion for Life and Humanity of the EZLN: burning their houses, risk of their crops causing their forced displacement.

Who is in charge of stopping violence and dispossession? An axis of the dispute against the Zapatistas is in the territories recovered since 1994 and in the groups that were out of all control or with alliances in political sectors. Such a panorama leads us to suppose that the EZLN is not for celebrations no matter how significant they may be, and in this case, it obviously is. We do not know the specific situation of all the caracoles, they are the ones who decide when and how they issue statements regarding aggressions such as the one denounced against the Caracol 10, which is not the only one. The atmosphere of provocation is active and directed at various sectors of the social movement and indigenous peoples in the state of Chiapas. While this situation is experienced in Chiapas and other states and peoples, it does not surprise us that, next August 9 also being International Indigenous Peoples Day, on the official side dressed not only with a mask, but with a blindfold, the rhetoric of self-complacent celebration is deployed.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Tuesday, August 2, 2022, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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