The Zapatistas are dipping their toes into Mexican electoral politics. Last week, the near-mythical army of indigenous resistance released a communiqué summarizing the basic points of discussion that characterized the 5th National Indigenous Congress (CNI) in Chiapas, and it included a bombshell announcement.
After ticking off an infuriatingly long list of violations of indigenous rights and sovereignty across Mexico (with a shoutout to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests,) the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional announced that, together with the CNI, they will be creating an national indigenous governance council that will nominate an indigenous woman to represent their movement in the 2018 Mexican presidential elections.
The news signifies a massive shift in strategy for the radical leftist army, especially given that the EZLN has vehemently denounced institutional politics since they burst into the global consciousness 22 years ago with their unique mix of indigenous self-government, fervent anti-capitalism, and savvy public relations.
Yet, while the mysterious masked army captured the imagination of the international left and offered a beacon of hope to social movements across the world, very little has changed for indigenous people in Mexico since 1994. And though many still look to the EZLN as a symbol of ongoing resistance, the army has been slow to adapt its approach to Mexico’s ever-evolving and increasingly dismal political and economic landscape.
With this announcement, it seems the Zapatistas – together with the CNI – will be taking their horizontal, assembly-driven model of self-governance to Mexico’s broader indigenous movement and formalizing their united front through the country’s electoral system. But, unlike their counterparts in Mexico’s three-plus party system (sorry MORENA,) the EZLN made it abundantly clear that they’re not out for politics as usual:
“Our struggle is not for power; rather we are calling upon native peoples and civil society to organize to stop this destruction, to strengthen our resistance and rebellion in defense of the life of each person, each family, collective, community, and neighborhood.”
H/T Animal Político