“In Mexico, in parallel to the contemporary authoritarianisms that took the lives of thousands in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, the “Dirty War” of the 60s and 70s saw the full repressive power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) directed against leftists, youth, organizers, and the landless peasantry in the wake of the Tlatelolco massacre of October 2, 1968. The State murdered hundreds of students in Mexico City that day, and the PRI forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed thousands more as part of its counter-insurgent strategy to suppress the generalized societal outrage provoked by the same. The EZLN itself was founded in 1983 as a union between landless indigenous Chiapanecxs and urban-based mestizo and European-descended militants from the Fuerzas de Liberación Nacional (FLN), which had been created in 1969—much as the ten-year Colombian civil war known as La Violencia that claimed thousands of lives catalyzed the founding in 1964 of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the ELN (National Liberation Army). The neo-Zapatista insurrection on January 1, 1994, proclaimed a radical halt to the ceaseless ethnocide targeting indigenous peoples since the Spanish conquest. The rapid response of domestic and international civil society to the uprising limited the intensity of direct repression by the Mexican Army, resulting paradoxically in the PRI’s resorting instead to employing paramilitary terror against Zapatista support-bases and Zapatista-sympathizing communities in Chiapas—a strategy that continues to this day. Following the inevitable breakdown of negotiations with a racist State failing to observe the San Andrés Accords (1996), the EZLN focused intensely on furthering communal autonomy by strengthening the participatory alternate institutions that comprise the movement which exists alongside the military structures, including cooperatives, autonomous education, the public health sector, and popular assemblies. This project of autonomy advanced importantly in 2003 with the announcement of the Good-Government Councils (JBG’s), comprised of delegates, sometimes as young as adolescents, who rotate in the administration of the five regions of Chiapas in which the EZLN has a presence.
Hence, while it is true that the EZLN’s initial uprising sought to inspire a regional- or country-wide revolution to take over the State—with the Zapatistas hoping to march on Mexico City and liberate it once again—the neo-Zapatista movement has distinguished itself from other Latin American guerrilla struggles by the anti-electoralism and anti-statism that has defined the development of its autonomy. A decade ago, the EZLN launched La Otra Campaña as an effort to unite a nation-wide anti-authoritarian left alternative to political parties and the State amidst the ongoing battle for power between the right-wing National Action Party (PAN) and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the social-democrat candidate, in the 2006 elections. In parallel, la Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona (Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle ) proudly declared the movement’s autonomy in search of a new constitution that would meet its original thirteen demands. Yet now, after having championed autonomous social organization as a viable alternative for over a decade, the EZLN joins its comrade-representatives from the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) in endorsing the proposal for an Indigenous Government Council (CIG) and in presenting the Nahua traditional healer María de Jesús “Marichuy” Patricio Martínez as CIG spokesperson, councilor, and candidate for the 2018 presidential elections. The CNI describes this move as “going on the offensive,” and it paradoxically claims not to want to administer power but rather to dismantle it. Since the announcement, Marichuy and comrades have stressed that the focus is not on the ballot but rather favoring “organization, life, and the defense of territory.” Yet the conclusion of the Fifth CNI in early 2017 is clear: the CIG is meant to “govern this country.” It remains to be seen how this move will play out, and how it will affect the Zapatista movement and autonomous indigenous movements elsewhere in Mexico and Latin America. We imagine that this shift toward electoralism is being met with a degree of resistance within Zapatista ranks, particularly among the youth who have been raised with the JBG’s and la Sexta.”