Informational Bulletin 2: First Encounter Between the Zapatistas and the Peoples of the World
“We the Zapatistas are Free to Organize Ourselves, to Govern Ourselves, and to make our own Decisions without being Exploited...”
By Intergalactic Commission of the EZLN
January 6, 2007
The last day of the year started today at the Zapatista Caracol of Oventik, in Chiapas, with two morning workgroups during which the Zapatistas shared the everyday construction of their autonomy in the areas of education and health, in the context of the discussions of the First Encounter Between the Zapatistas and the Peoples of the World.
Thousands of community supporters of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and over 1,500 men and women from 40 countries around the world joined at 8:00 AM the two workgroups where autonomous education, the development of educational curricula in resistance, the Zapatistas’ health system, the challenges, obstacles, and small achievements of their work are being discussed.
Yesterday afternoon and evening representatives from each of the five zapatista Good Government Councils discussed the topic: Autonomy and the Other Government. During the session, 35 compañeros and compañeras from several countries also shared their experiences.
The compañeros Jesús and Roel, from the Good Government Council of the Caracol La Realidad, explained that “one of the most important challenges of the Other Government is the participation of women as authorities. When the Councils were created,” explained Roel, “there was only one woman, but after three and a half years of work we can now say that we are almost even, although there is still a long way to go.”
To “command by obeying,” they informed, “means that the people decide the direction and the ways in which we are to work.” And they explained that there are seven principles for the Other Government: to obey and not to command, to represent and not to substitute, to go down and not up, to convince and not to conquer, to construct and not to destroy, to propose and not to impose.
On the controversial issue of Zapatista justice, the speakers explained that there are different types of problems, to which “we look for solutions ourselves. The first thing we do is investigate the case, and then we bring together the parties in conflict. The authority remains neutral in order to be able to listen to the arguments of the parts and, based on that, to apply justice to the guilty, where the punishment is usually to do work for the benefit of the town, the municipality, or the zone. In the Other Government justice can’t be bought or negotiated. The power of money doesn’t have a say in Zapatista justice,” concluded the autonomous authority of one of the regions of the jungle.
In turn, Oventik’s Good Government Council pointed out that, for the Zapatistas, “autonomy is a universal right that allows us to live in a humane way, with freedom, justice, democracy, and our own laws anywhere in the world. Autonomy can’t be understood with one word; instead, we need to speak of the different aspects and rights: the right to life, to politics, to justice, to freedom, to democracy, to health, to education, to the territory, etc.”
Oventik’s autonomous representatives, frustrated at a 13 years of governmental oppression, feel that “the bad government has betrayed us, has tried to annihilate us to do away with our just struggle. Many compañeros and compañeras have been assassinated by the military and by paramilitary groups, and there are still thousands of people displaced by the war.”
Currently, they explained, there is no single law or judicial system to apply justice. Rather, each municipality develops its own internal rules. Because of that, “we see the need to develop general norms that can guide us in all municipalities in the region.”
Representing the Good Government Council of the Morelia Caracol, the compañera Ofelia and the compañero Beto pointed out that in that region “the autonomous educational and health systems are being developed in an equitable way.” In this context, they explained, one of its responsibilities is “to promote, develop, and improve autonomy in the towns and municipalities.” Another of its functions, said Ofelia, is “to distribute equitably the economic resources that, thanks to the solidarity of men, women, children, and older people of Mexico and the world, reach us directly or through other means.”
On the topic of justice, Beto said that “our role is to search for and build a common agreement, not to apply the law. As authorities of the Good Government Council we are a bridge, we build a dialog and not a negotiation, and through this dialog we reach an agreement. Even though,” he admitted, “it’s not always easy.”
Josefina and Miguel, representing the autonomous authorities of the Roberto Barrios Caracol, said that “now, we the zapatistas are rescuing our culture… As indigenous peoples, we must organize ourselves again. We are capable of governing ourselves, of serving the people, of making our own decisions and agreements, of making proposals, and of having our own thoughts.”
They explained that the zapatista authorities do not receive a salary for their work. “We the zapatistas are free to organize ourselves, to govern ourselves, and to make our own decisions without being exploited by capitalist ideas. Because of that we had the idea to build a new society and a new struggle, the idea to build unity as indigenous peoples of the world…”
As residents of one of the regions with the greatest paramilitary presence, the representatives from Roberto Barrios denounced that “the harassment by the paramilitaries in the region and in the autonomous municipalities continues, as well as the bad government’s programs, which are based on capitalist ideas and are designed to divide or discourage the people, because this is a low intensity war against the people.”
Representing the Caracol of La Garrucha, Elías, Estefanía, Joaquín, and Isabel stated that “indigenous peoples have the right to autonomy within the Mexican state,” and they reaffirmed “our way of being and working collectively, our language, and our ideas, which are different.”
“We, as peoples, have been practicing autonomy in our everyday acts, so what we are demanding is that what already exists be recognized. But the bad government doesn’t want to recognize our autonomy because, as we’ve already explained, they would not be able to take over and deprive us of our riches and natural resources. It would be hard for them to apply their economic plans to exploit our resources for their own benefit,” said the autonomous authorities.
They explained that “the autonomy we want and for which we struggle isn’t against the country’s sovereignty. We don’t want to separate ourselves from the country to form a different nation. That’s the excuse used by the enemies of indigenous peoples to deny us the right to autonomy that we demand as peoples. What we are definitely sure of is that autonomy strengthens democracy in our country.”
The talks by the representatives of the Good Government Councils were followed by a question and answer session where zapatista autonomy was further discussed. Afterwards, compañeros and compañeras from other countries of the world shared their experiences and struggles, in particular in defense of political prisoners.
Today, in addition to the workgroups on the Other Health and the Other Education, a workgroup is scheduled this afternoon to discuss the issue of women, their challenges and horizons. And, in the evening, the zapatistas and the peoples of the world gathered together today in Oventik will celebrate, with music, dance, and cultural activities, the thirteenth anniversary of the armed uprising that surprised the world on January 1, 1994.
Comision Intergalactica del EZLN
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