National Indigenous Congress and Zapatistas Unite Against Plundering of Their Lands

Source: La Jornada

Practically every month meetings of popular organizations take place in the most remote corners of Mexico. At these meetings, they try to find ways to face the dispossession of their land, territories and natural resources, at the hands of oil, mining, wind, beverage, tourism and construction companies, as well as the local, state and federal governments.

The passage of the hydrocarbon laws and the “temporary occupation” of lands have multiplied the alarm signals in the rural world and the assemblies to face them. Added to the old plundering that communities and agrarian areas have suffered will be new wrongs, which will be justified in the name of the “energy modernization” of the country.

Those get-togethers and meetings are like the little bubbles that form when water is about to boil. They are an indicator of the growing unease among indigenous peoples and small farmers. These are moments when information is exchanged, responses are analysed and prevailing common sense is changed. These are places where what are believed to be particular problems are shown to be collective.

Many of these meetings are short-lived. As much as their promoters set out to make them last, the excitement has an expiration date. Others are actually watersheds of more long-lived organizational processes. However modest they may seem, they become the foundational elements of long-lasting convergences. That is the case of the first Sharing of Original Peoples of Mexico with Zapatistas, celebrated in La Realidad, Chiapas.

This first sharing brought together, in rebel territory, representatives from 28 indigenous nations, tribes, communities and organizations from almost the entire country and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). As well as expressing their unconditional solidarity with the Palestinian people, victims of the State of Israel’s aggression, a map was drawn of the resistance of the original peoples against the neoliberal plundering and devastation and there was a dramatic retelling of deaths and murders.

“That blood, those lives, those fights, that history are the essence of our resistance and our rebellion against those who kill us; in our people’s lives and struggles they live on”, the delegates noted.

Those who attended the sharing met with one main objective: to take on the plundering and pillaging of their lands, where they see their roots.

“The plundering of what we are as original peoples is the pain that brings us together in the spirit of the struggle”, they explained.

The first sharing picked up the momentum to reorganize the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), the largest and most representative organization of the ethnic groups in the country, which had its “starting flag” waved in August of last year, at the convocation Tata Juan Chávez Alonso [named after revered Purépecha leader who died in 2012, Tata is an honorific]. It is a reorganization that seals the alliance established more than 20 years ago between the Zapatistas and the national indigenous movement, and outlines one of the most relevant and consistent networks of resistance against plunder on a national scale.

Unlike other events, where the attendees prepare themselves for a fight that has yet to take place, all of the attendees at the sharing have been fighting for many years. This time they came together not to prepare to fight, but to move forward with the plan of doing so in a different way.

Their previous history of coherent and unwavering resistance gives this network consistency and a potential that other groups do not have. The combination of deep roots, true leadership and faithfully looking to their memories of affronts predict a new stage in the resistance to plundering. They themselves point out in their declaration:

“They have wanted to kill us time and again, kill us as peoples and as individuals. And with so much death, the people continue to be alive and collective”.

It is not a “sectarian” observation. Within the revival of the small farmer movement that has emerged from the agrarian reform and the opposition to the hydrocarbon laws there are leaders that are trying to take on, over against the State, a representation of the indigenous world that they do not have. Some of the organizations that make up this new convergence have also formally rejected the dispossession of lands and territories just to negotiate other demands in exchange. That is not going to happen with the network formalized at the sharing.

According to the CNI and the EZLN, the plundering is different and has just one name: capitalism. This plundering makes up part of a new neoliberal war of conquest declared against the original peoples. It is the new face of an old war of extermination that has already lasted 520 years.

“Those currently governing,” say the EZLN and the CNI in the second declaration of the sharing, “are giving up our territories and the goods that belong to the nation to the large national and foreign companies, asking for the death of all the original peoples of Mexico.”

“All of this”, they add, “while the bad governments are continuing to threaten to take away indigenous self-defence as a right, by jailing or killing the community leaders, which is a warning of destruction.”

As the second declaration from the sharing reminds us, in Mexico’s history there is a long tradition of rebellion and resistance to exploitation and plundering. In this history, the indigenous peoples have been at the front lines. There is no reason for it to be any different at this new stage.