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What Americans Can Learn from Mexico's Indigenous Democracy Movement

December 3, 2017

When a national government betrays the trust of its people and the democratic process becomes hopelessly broken, it is up to the people to form a new government.

Such is the case in Mexico where the government is immensely corrupt and represents the interests of only a small percentage of the population. 

In Mexico there is an organization of communities, na­tions, towns, neighbourhoods and indigenous tribes call the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Na­cional Indígena, CNI). In its own words, the CNI is "... a space of unity, reflection and organization of the indig­enous peoples of Mexico, promoting the integral re­constitution of the original peoples and the construc­tion of a society in which all cultures, all the colors, all the towns that we are Mexico."

Its roots go back to 1994 when the the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) emerged in the Mexican state of Chiapas in response to years of organizing against government oppression.

In 1996 the National Indigenous Congress was formed in Mexico City to promote resistance to state oppres­sion and support for indigenous rights. Since then it has grown steadily and evolved beyond the Zapatis­ta's initial socialist and anarchist platform to one that is more pragmatic, realistic and effective. In some re­gions it is already functioning as a local government.

In 2017 the CNI started forming an Indigenous Gov­erning Council that will ultimately form a new govern­ment for at least parts of Mexico.

The 'Indigenous Council Government' for Mexico is guided by the seven principles to 'lead by obeying' (Mandar Obedeciendo)

  1. Lead by obeying
  2. Represent, don’t replace
  3. Serve, don't serve oneself
  4. Convince, don’t defeat
  5. From below, not from above
  6. Propose, don't impose
  7. Build, don't destroy

While the U.S. has not reached the level of Mexico, it is well on its way as large criminal corporations expand their control over the federal and state governments and suspend vital environmental protections, attempt to steal public lands, eliminate public services paid for by taxpayers and transfer the money to the wealthiest Americans.

The struggle of Mexico's 99% is not so much different than the struggle of America's 99%. What is different is that Mexico's indigenous peoples are doing some­thing to take back control of their country.

Following is a declaration of the CNI from earlier this year.

María de Jesús Patricio Martínez (Marichuy), the presidential candidate of the National Indigenous Congress for the 2018 presidential election. Photo by Mayitayita, CC

The Time Has Come

To the People of Mexico,

To the Peoples of the World,

To the Media,

To the National and International Sixth,

We send our urgent word to the world from the Consti­tutive Assembly for the Indigenous Governing Council, where we met as peoples, communities, nations, and tribes of the National Indigenous Congress: Apache, Amuzgo, Chatino, Chichimeca, Chinanteco, Chol, Chontal of Oaxaca, Chontal of Tabasco, Coca, Cui­cateco, Mestizo, Hñähñü, Ñathö, Ñuhhü, Ikoots, Kumi­ai, Lakota, Mam, Matlazinca, Maya, Mayo, Mazahua, Mazateco, Me`phaa, Mixe, Mixe-Popoluca, Mixteco, Mochó, Nahua or Mexicano, Nayeri, Popoluca, Purépe­cha, Q´anjob´al, Rarámuri, Tének, Tepehua, Tlahuica, Tohono Odham, Tojolabal, Totonaco, Triqui, Tseltal, Tsotsil, Wixárika, Xi´iuy, Yaqui, Binniza, Zoque, Akimel O´otham, and Comkaac.

THE WAR THAT WE LIVE AND CONFRONT

We find ourselves in a very serious moment of vio­lence, fear, mourning, and rage due to the intensifica­tion of the capitalist war against everyone, everywhere throughout the national territory. We see the murder of women for being women, of children for being chil­dren, of whole peoples for being peoples.

The political class has dedicated itself to turning the State into a corporation that sells off the land of the originary peoples, campesinos, and city dwellers, that sells people as if they were just another commodity to kill and bury like raw material for the drug cartels, that sells people to capitalist businesses that exploit them until they are sick or dead, or that sells them off in parts to the illegal organ market.

Then there is the pain of the families of the disap­peared and their decision to find their loved ones de­spite the fact that the government is determined for them not to, because there they will also find the rot that rules this country.

This is the destiny that those above have built for us, bent on the destruction of the social fabric—what al­lows us to recognize ourselves as peoples, nations, tribes, barrios, neighborhoods, and families—in order to keep us isolated and alone in our desolation as they consolidate the appropriation of entire territories in the mountains, valleys, coasts, and cities.

This is the destruction that we have not only de­nounced but confronted for the past 20 years and which in a large part of the country is evolving into open war carried out by criminal corporations which act in shameless complicity with all branches of the bad government and with all of the political parties and institutions. Together they constitute the power of above and provoke revulsion in millions of Mexi­cans in the countryside and the city.

In the midst of this revulsion they continue to tell us to vote for them, to believe in the power from above, to let them continue to design and impose our destiny.

On that path we see only an expanding war, a horizon of death and destruction for our lands, our families, and our lives, and the absolute certainty that this will only get worse—much worse—for everyone.

OUR WAGER

We reiterate that only through resistance and rebel­lion have we found possible paths by which we can continue to live and through which we find not only a way to survive the war of money against humanity and against our Mother Earth, but also the path to our rebirth along with that of every seed we sow and every dream and every hope that now materializes across large regions in autonomous forms of security, com­munication, and self-government for the protection and defense of our territories. In this regard there is no other path than the one walked below. Above we have no path; that path is theirs and we are mere obstacles.

These sole alternative paths, born in the struggle of our peoples, are found in the indigenous geographies throughout all of our Mexico and which together make up the National Indigenous Congress. We have decid­ed not to wait for the inevitable disaster brought by the capitalist hitmen that govern us, but to go on the offensive and convert our hope into an Indigenous Governing Council for Mexico which stakes its claim on life from below and to the anticapitalist left, which is secular, and which responds to the seven principles of Rule by Obeying as our moral pledge.

No demand of our peoples, no determination and exer­cise of autonomy, no hope made into reality has ever corresponded to the electoral ways and times that the powerful call “democracy”. Given that, we intend not only to wrest back from them our destiny which they have stolen and spoiled, but also to dismantle the rot­ten power that is killing our peoples and our mother earth. For that task, the only cracks we have found that have liberated consciences and territories, giving comfort and hope, are resistance and rebellion.

By agreement of this constitutive assembly of the In­digenous Governing Council [CIG when abbreviated in Spanish], we have decided to name as spokesperson our compañera María de Jesús Patricio Martínez of the Nahuatl people, whose name we will seek to place on the electoral ballot for the Mexican presidency in 2018 and who will be the carrier of the word of the peoples who make up the CIG, which in turn is high­ly representative of the indigenous geography of our country.

So then, we do not seek to administer power; we want to dismantle it from within the cracks from which we know we are able.

OUR CALL

We trust in the dignity and honesty of those who struggle: teachers, students, campesinos, workers, and day laborers, and we want to deepen the cracks that each of them has forged, dismantling power from above from the smallest level to the largest. We want to make so many cracks that they become our honest and anticapitalist government.

We call on the thousands of Mexicans who have stopped counting their dead and disappeared and who, with grief and suffering, have raised their fists and risked their own lives to charge forward without fear of the size of the enemy, and have seen that there are indeed paths but that they have been hidden by corruption, repression, disrespect, and exploitation.

We call on those who believe in themselves, who be­lieve in the compañero at their side, who believe in their history and their future: we call on them to not be afraid to do something new, as this is the only path that gives us certainty in the steps we take.

Our call is to organize ourselves in every corner of the country, to gather the necessary elements for the In­digenous Governing Council and our spokeswoman to be registered as an independent candidate for the presidency of this country and, yes, to crash the party of those above which is based on our death and make it our own, based on dignity, organization, and the con­struction of a new country and a new world.

We convoke all sectors of society to be attentive to the steps decided and defined by the Indigenous Gov­erning Council, through our spokeswoman, to not give in, to not sell out, and to neither stray nor tire from the task of carving the arrow that will carry the offensive of all of the indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, organized or not, straight toward the true enemy.

From CIDECI-UNITIERRA, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas

For the Full Reconstitution of Our Peoples, Never Again a Mexico Without Us, National Indigenous Congress, Zapatista Army for National Liberation

May 28, 2017