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Indigenous Voices Centered on Institutional Reform Reenter Mexican Politics

Jolen Martinez - James A. Baker III Institute
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October 5, 2017

María de Jesús Patricio Martínez is the first indigenous woman running for the presidency of the country. This is a completely new step for Indigenous rights. (ZoominTV)

In October 2016, María de Jesús Patricio Martínez was nominated as the candidate of the National Indigenous Council (abbreviated CNI in Spanish) and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) for the upcoming 2018 presidential election in Mexico, marking the first time that the CNI has entered the political arena.

The EZLN was founded on November 17, 1983, as a guerilla rebel group formed by peasants and indigenous people. In 1994, it received worldwide media coverage when indigenous peasants occupied four towns in the state of Chiapas in an uprising named after Emiliano Zapata, a leading figure of the Mexican Revolution. This 1994 uprising sought better education, wages, infrastructure, land reform, and cultural recognition of indigenous people, and it coincided with the inauguration of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In the wake of the uprising, then-president Carlos Salinas - and subsequently Ernesto Zedillo in 1995 - entered into peace negotiations with the rebels.

The San Andrés Accords were signed in February 1996, which were a series of agreements between the EZLN and the Mexican government that would have initiated a program of land reform, indigenous autonomy, and cultural rights for the approximately 25 million indigenous people living in Mexico (21.5 percent of the total population). The accords, however, were disregarded by the Mexican government under President Ernesto Zedillo; in 1997, paramilitary groups proceeded to attack Zapatista communities in an attempt to weaken their position. The EZLN decided to walk away from the Mexican political process and moved away from militant action toward autonomous administration of their various municipalities.

In October 1996, the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) was formed, as a collective space for all indigenous peoples in Mexico.

‘Marichuy,’ as Patricio is commonly known, is a Nahua healer from southern Jalisco and advocates for indigenous representation. She is the first indigenous woman to seek candidacy in a Mexican presidential election. However, Patricio, the CNI, and the EZLN all claim that they are not interested in winning the 2018 election, or even in receiving votes. Instead, they seek to undermine Mexico’s dominant economic, political, and social orders via a campaign built from indigenous governance and communalism. The EZLN and CNI’s pillars of governance are designed to implement a new form of grassroots organizing to unite indigenous and impoverished peoples behind a movement against exploitation of people and resource extraction. Mexico, facing a reality of stark inequalities, should address the outcry of its indigenous people with comprehensive reform as a key part of the process of achieving and sustaining socioeconomic prosperity.

Patricio’s nomination marks the organization’s next step in its incursion into the Mexican political scene.

Read the rest at Chron

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