The primary objective of President López Obrador’s plan to deploy the National Guard throughout Mexico is to impose the realization of megaprojects and the submission of resisting populations, claims María de Jesús Patricio, spokesperson of the Indigenous Council of Government. Indigenous people will give their life, if necessary, but will not give up, she warns.
Abasolo, Guanajuato. No president before Andrés Manuel López Obrador had ordered such a military deployment throughout the country as the one currently on-going. The nations, indigenous populations, tribal peoples and communities who are part of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI, for its acronym in Spanish) are aware of this. They sustain that the new government compromised with the great capitalists on the fulfillment of some megaprojects that cannot be avoided; the Mayan Train, the Trans-isthmus Corridor, the Morelos Integral Project- among others. The new administration will execute such ‘deathly megaprojects’ at any cost.
María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, coming from the Tuxpan community, is a traditional Nahua doctor and spokesperson for the Indigenous Council of Government, an initiative of the CNI to build a government for Mexico ‘from the bottom and to the left.’
Even though the advent of a supposed left to the Presidency of the Republic with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ‘confused many indigenous brothers,’ it is also real that the CNI grew as it had never done before, acknowledges Ms. María de Jesús. Nowadays, the CNI is present in 25 states of the Republic, 60 villages, tribes, and nations as well as 89 indigenous regions hosting hundreds of communities.
The CNI, openly anti-capitalist, is one of the most active oppositions of the left-wing to the new government. Notably, the support base communities of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN, for its Spanish acronym) are founding members of the organization.
The voice of the Indigenous Council of Government is heard sweet, deliberate, clear, and straightforward. There is no stridency, changes in the tone, nor grandiloquence. It is instead confident, coherent, and unambiguous. Ms. María de Jesús welcomed Contralínea during a break from the fast-paced tour that she is constantly carrying out throughout the most remote communities of the nation’s metropolises. A journey without cameras, microphones nor media that she has been carrying out restless since appointed as spokesperson and candidate of the indigenous people for the Presidency of the Republic during the last electoral process
The Indigenous people, ‘we do not see the change that they announced’, points out María de Jesús, affectionately named Marichuy by her fighting comrades and simply Chuy by her closest friends.
“We noticed that the current situation is a continuation of previous governments’ plans. That promising announcement that a change would take place, that first the poor and then the rich was just a lie. There are commitments that [López Obrador] has to finalize.’
Menuda, with her earth-colored skin and 55 years old of age, considers that the government of President López Obrador does not represent a rupture with the traditional Mexican political system, instead, its continuation. She blames the misrepresentation of some principles of the indigenous and Zapatista struggle employed by the new government and, above all, the simulation to carry out indigenous consultations to impose a decision previously taken.
María de Jesús alludes to the ‘approval’ of three projects: the Mayan Train, the Trans-isthmus Corridor, and the Morelos Integral Project. For all three of them, they organized some ‘consultations’ that did not meet the standards laid out in the Convention no. 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), requiring governments to hold free and informed consultations before any decision making regarding the territories of aboriginal communities and which may threaten their cultures.
‘Hence, we do not see any change but rather a continuity. We see that the situation is unchanged perhaps even slightly worse as the government is employing some methods that we employed as well, and they are using them against our indigenous peoples’.
—Some of their comments, such as ‘govern by obeying’ or ‘we are going to consult communities.’ And this is not true. They are rigged consultation. The government is deceiving people. The people who wished that a change was coming and that perhaps their moment to be taken into account had finally arrived, just realized that it is not happening. We analyzed this situation in this Assembly [of the CNI], and we feel that nothing has changed. The government has disguised itself as ‘left’, but it is just the same we were used to.
The response of the indigenous people before the government of President López Obrador ‘is clear’, claims Ms. María de Jesús: ‘We, the indigenous people – who joined the National Indigenous Congress- will keep on organizing. We will keep on resisting. We will keep on impeding that they finish with our lives, the existence of our communities. We will prevent them from going on with the destruction of our territories and woods, and our ways of organizing. The resistance will go on.’
Nonetheless, the answer to this ‘resistance’ also comes with clarity from the government, she ensures. She recalls the murder of ‘our brother Samir [Flores]’, occurred the past 20th of February, after remarking the opposition of his community to the Morelos Integral Project, currently fostered by the administration of President López Obrador.
Other two assassinations took place after an interview: the one of the Nahua councilor of the Indigenous Council of Government, José Lucio Bartolo Faustino, and the delegate of the CNI, Modesto Verales Sebastián. Both were belonging to the indigenous communities of Guerrero.
However, ‘the communities will continue to organize – reaffirms María de Jesús – they will keep on resisting. Our brothers of the Zapatista National Liberation Army were clear on that. They are part of the National Indigenous Congress. They were clear and said: the Mayan Train is not going to pass here.’
Before the commitment of the federal and state governments ‘there is nothing left but resist, keep on opposing to these mega projects that are deathly plans that only benefit wealthy people. Communities, instead, will be affected by destruction, dispossession, poisoning of their land, more poverty, division, and confrontation. And perhaps this is the reason why militaries come to the communities: to impose these megaprojects.
—Is there capacity to resist? – We asked her. President López Obrador always boasts that he won the elections with 30 million votes. Moreover, according to the survey, he maintains very high approval rates, higher than 70 percent.
—The capacity is clear. Indigenous peoples have been resisting for 500 years so far despite the massacres and the divisions they had to face as well as all the wrong decisions coming from the government. But these peoples still exist. It is proof that the communities have this capacity. Why? Because it is something collective. It is not only a person taking decisions, but it is a whole community deciding what to do with the community. They are the guardians of this holy territory, which for them has a sacred value rather than a monetary value. Hence, there is capacity because they are entire communities, and they will continue to resist until the last consequences.
Regarding the most urgent matters that the CNI is dealing with, she points out four megaprojects that the federal government is encouraging; in case they will be finalized, they will destroy the indigenous territories. These projects are namely: the Mayan Train (in the five states of the Yucatan Peninsula); the Trans- isthmus Corridor (from the coast of Oaxaca to the coast of Veracruz ); wind and hydroelectric installations in Oaxaca and Puebla, and the Morelos Integral Project (which foresees the installation of a thermoelectric plant in this state as well as some pipelines and other distressing plans also in Puebla and Tlaxcala).
‘We see this as a danger and a form of direct aggression to the populations who are going to be affected by the implementation of these megaprojects.’
—With the National Guard, there is going to be a military deployment never seen before within the country. Is there any confrontation with the indigenous community?
—The indigenous communities have always protested against this [militarization]. Because what the militaries did was arrive and repress the communities, rape women, steal. They did not bring any benefit. Hence, we expect that the National Guard, which is the militarization of the communities, is going to implement these mega projects. They [the militaries] will serve the master, not the communities. It is so evident. We saw it. We experienced it. If from the top [the President] we noticed that the promise is not being kept, we can already imagine what they want to achieve through the Guard. We believe that militarization aims to dispossess the communities.
—After taking up his office in the National Palace, President López Obrador made a supposed indigenous ceremony where he received the baton. Did this generate any division within the communities or within the National Indigenous Congress itself?
—There was an inevitable confusion of some communities, members, or some indigenous comrades who claimed: ‘Well, perhaps the change they are advocating is going to happen.’ Yes, some believed in the idea that a change had already taken place. ‘What are we doing here, let’s go there.’ Other people from the government co-opted the leaders. It is the way the government has been acting: they choose some leaders who may not be very clear and who do not acknowledge what their role brings. Then, it is normal. Every time a leader from the bottom comes into power, they believe that they can help the population. However, this is not true. Indeed, once took office, they are told what they must do. Hence, yes, it affected us a little, but I think that we, the ones who are still committed to the cause, have it clear that only the organization and standing firm in what we want is what will enable us to move forward.
However, on the other hand, since the beginning of the tour among the indigenous communities, more of them have been joining the CNI, said María de Jesús Patricio who has always had clear that this ‘pilgrimage’ was a call. She never used it to gain more votes during the past electoral process. ‘One principle was to report all the problems that these populations face. For this reason, our idea was to reach every community, especially the most isolated ones and those who were not part of the National Indigenous Congress.’
María de Jesús alleges that the aim was to listen to the communities and make them know what the CNI was about; ‘to convince them of the importance of being organized before the advent of the dispossession that is currently taking place; to invite them to unite to fight against all this dispossession that capitalism is causing’.
In this first journey, Marichuy visited 29 states and especially those indigenous populations who were not related to the CNI. That tour was interrupted due to an accident taking place in Baja California where two indigenous councilors and she got injured, while the activist Eloísa Vega died. Some days before, in the state of Michoacán, an armed group intercepted and intimidated the caravan with which she was traveling. Moreover, the signature collection – required by the Electoral National Institute (INE, for its Spanish acronym) so that the spokesperson of the Indigenous Council of Government appeared in the ballots – was progressing slowly. And this because the majority of the visited indigenous communities were not relying on voter identification cards, smartphones nor network coverage to ‘capture’ signatures.
It was not a defeat at all, claims María de Jesús. ‘For us, it was a guarantee to have visited sibling communities that we would have never visited if it was not for this initiative. The plan was to go throughout the country with this proposal that was so clear to us: not just to evaluate the needs of the upper classes, but also to listen to the less affluent, to raise awareness on this issue and make it clear that we need to get organized so that this dispossession may come to an end’.
—The CNI is a long-standing national organization that has brought together the major number of indigenous communities. Which are the populations that still need to be incorporated?
—We always had to make some extra efforts with the indigenous brothers from Hidalgo, San Luís Potosí and Veracruz, who we believe to be significant populations. All this area hosts those populations who are generally more subdued and dispossessed; we consider that it is essential that they walk along with us. They are moving closer to us, and we think it is the first step to walk together. The most important aspect is that the populations mentioned above are the engine of these regions. This way, they can unite, and we can walk together because our fight is at the national level. It is not confined just to some, but everyone, as our brother from Chiapas said. We believe that the integration of the majority of our Mexican populations into this project is our fight. Only if together, we can change the current situation. We are brothers, despite living in different regions. We are brothers, and we have this commitment to take care of what our predecessors achieved to leave it to our descendants.
—How far to go with the resistance? How far before saying ‘no longer’?
—No, according to me our position is clear: to go as far as our ancestors wish. We are going that far. We made a significant commitment, and we must keep on resisting until we die. If we don’t keep our word, then we would be pretending as well. We are convinced and sure that we will fight as long as we live so that our descendants – through our example – know how far to fight. Because this dispossession is not going to end anytime soon, and we need to get prepared for any eventuality.
On the next steps that the CNI and the Indigenous Council of the Government will make, María de Jesús points out that both instances will try to incorporate more communities.
About the Council, ‘its main task is to spread the word we gave, that we committed to and that we said that we would continue working for our people. In other words, the Council has to continue to perform this task, as well as organizing the other communities, and supporting us so that we can be stronger together. Be stronger to stop all this dispossession and all the bad things that are coming for our populations’.
For his part, the CNI will carry on ‘integrating other indigenous brothers from other towns and making the fight stronger in those regions where the fear of being suppressed or even exterminated is stronger. It is our fight. It is our job. In the Assembly, they said that we would go on making these areas stronger as it were everybody’s home. We will make it stronger from the communities, regions, and at the national level. This way, we will be strengthening the National Indigenous Congress.
—Concerning the Indigenous Council of Government, they said that it would not be any longer only indigenous nor only national, we inquired her.
—It is still under analysis how to achieve this since it is not the CNI or the indigenous communities who are going to take the decision, but rather it is a matter that needs to be discussed and consulted together. And among all, evaluate which is the best way to act. Yes, they believe that the Indigenous Council of Government needs to be more comprehensive, including more forces. In other words, it has to comprise the other brothers who fight and feel part of this struggle. It appeared clear after the signature collection ended. We noticed that many people are willing to continue working and strengthening from where they live. That is why, they believe that the Indigenous Council of Government could expand so that it could include more members: other brothers that get organized from cities or organizations and that also feel the need to prepare these forces to face, all together, this dispossession from the countryside and the city. Indeed, the workers are suffering all this dispossession as well, and I believe that, by including other members, we would be congruent with what we claimed. That is to say, this is every worker’s fight, both from the countryside and the city.
As the spokesperson for the Indigenous Council of Government, María de Jesús Martínez Patricio has something to say to the President of the Republic, Andrés Manuel López Obrador: ‘Respect the communities, their way of living. Stop imposing other external forms of protection to the capitalists. Listen first the voice of one, two, and finally to the entire communities. Listen to everything they say, not just what it is convenient for you. Do not only listen to those who come to dispossess. Also listen to the people who have been in these communities for years, who have been taking care and have loved their land’.
Marichuy claims that ‘respecting these groups, these communities, these territories, these waters, those woods means respect everybody’s life, because they do not only belong to the communities, but they are everyone’s heritage.’
She does not hesitate; she only stops to insist on this issue: ‘Regarding the communities. Stop to dispossess our territories because the communities will continue to resist’.
By Zósimo Camacho
(Translated by: Federica Antoniani)