Why we reject the government proposal on San Andres reforms

To the people of Mexico;
To the people and governments of the world;

Brothers and sisters;

The opinion of the EZLN in regards to the document presented by the Federal Executive is as follows. An unacceptable document.

General Considerations

The so-called "Government proposal for constitutional reforms in reference to the rights of indigenous people" presents a grave negation of the spirit and letter of the agreements of San Andres. It contains unconstitutional elements and attempts to unleash alleged "phantoms"' such as; the "balkanization" of the country, the establishment of reservations and the isolation of indigenous peoples. It presupposes a grave risk for national unity. It is based upon an ethnocentric, discriminatory and racist conception. Each right of indigenous peoples that it claims to recognize is immediately restrained and subordinated within the same constitutional text to secondary laws, with serious legal deficiencies with a clear political significance. It reduces indigenous people to secondary status. It is similar to the Agrarian Law of January 6, 1915. Just as Carranza betrayed the basis of the laws of Zapata, the government with its proposal attempts to grant laws which it expressly denies.

The obsession for establishing limitations for these laws produced a text which is greatly confused, subject to underlying and somewhat absurd interpretations which debilitate constitutional reforms on legal, political and symbolic terms, reducing the autonomy which is now exerted by indigenous peoples.

In addition to this, it repeatedly affirms the absolute discretion of the authorities, annulling the principle of participation of Indian peoples agreed to in San Andres and affirmed in the proposal of the Cocopa. Particular Considerations

In Article 4, three central aspects of autonomy are nullified
1) the capacity of the peoples for self-government
2) the capacity to apply internal normative systems
3) the collective access to the use and enjoyment of natural resources on their lands and territories.

SECTION 1 - Lacks legal congruence . It points out that indigenous people will exercise their autonomy in order to "apply their norms and solutions to internal conflicts" and subsequently states that "local laws will prevent the recognition of those instances and procedures utilized for this and will establish the norms so that their judgments and resolution are homogenized by jurisdictional authorities." The first part recognizes a right and the second annuls its. It also subordinates the constitutional text to secondary laws, a proposal which violates the most basic legal principle which grants supremacy to Constitutional law. Upon changing the word "confirmation" as used by the Cocopa, to the word "homogenous" , the meaning is completely altered. The internal normative systems and the Mexican legal process are not "homogenous".

The Cocopa, according to the agreements of San Andres, recognize the "normative" internal systems, the government proposal disregards them and creates confusion. It regresses as well in the actual writing of Article 4 which recognizes the "practices and legal customs in agrarian procedures" which should be extended to other arenas.

SECTION II.- Under the zeal of protecting the monopoly of political parties, the proposal completely negates the self-government of Indian peoples placing itself behind that which is stipulated by legislation in the state of Oaxaca. But it "generously" concedes the rights to indigenous people to "elect their municipal authorities." Perhaps the advantage of this formulation lies in the first-time recognition of the fact that indigenous peoples have never had the right that all Mexicans now already enjoy.

SECTION IV.- The government proposal eliminates the recognition of the territories of Indian peoples, according to the definition of the OIT, which was fundamental and explicit in San Andres, as well as the access to lands and territories held "in a collective manner", elements affirmed by the Cocopa. To formulate the access to land on terms of "the forms, modalities and limitations established by the Constitution and its laws" demonstrates a great ignorance about the relationship of Indian peoples with their land, which is not reduced to a form of property. In this way, this paragraph follows the tail of the Salinista regressive agrarian reform.

SECTION VI.-Since the government always views the rights of Indian peoples as a violation of private rights it subsequently included the protection of foreign States in its proposal for protection of indigenous migrants. This subordinates the Mexican Constitution to the "norms of international rights" which contradicts Article 133, which establishes their observance only if Mexico should subscribe to respective international treaties.

SECTION IX OF ARTICLE 115.-Cocopa's proposal recognizes the community as an entity with public rights, as agreed in San Andres. The government proposal, however, considers it a matter of "public interest". Far from recognizing the legal character of the communities, within a relationship with autonomy and with the structure of the State, it exposes the relationship to forms of government regulation similar to that employed with the flour and tortilla industry; considered a "public interest".

In the spirit of limiting the association of municipalities and indigenous communities the government proposal eliminates the possibility that one or more indigenous community may incorporate. With this the multi-ethnic dimension of autonomy is restricted. This opens the possibility of the creation of reservations where ethnicity or the "purity of blood" is privileged instead of opening the door to the creation of a culture of tolerance and respect for diversity. This mono-ethnic position will only provoke internal conflicts among the different Indian communities which share territory.

When the government proposal limits the incorporation of municipalities in order to respect "the administrative-political division in each federal entity", it reveals the ignorance of its writers, who ignore the fact that the establishment of Indian communities and their incorporation occurred long before the definition of the actual borders of the states. This promotes the isolation of the communities because now the authorities can arbitrarily decide which municipalities or communities are "illegal".

Additionally, the proposal of the Cocopa in adherence with the agreementds of San Andres and the 169th Covenant of the OIT, accepted the self-description of an indigenous village as a decisive criteria for its autonomy. The government proposal replaces it with a vague criteria of quantitative predominance, in such a way that the fundamental definition of the village falls into the hands of a discretionary judgment and the application of dubious technical indicators.This formulation seriously affects the ability of indigenous peoples to have their autonomous processes for re-organization recognized.

SECTION X- Upon regulating the right of self-government of the Indian peoples, it is proposed that they could elect " internal authorities or representatives" in accordance with their traditional political practices. The term "internal" implies the establishment of a fourth level to the governmental bureaucracy in Mexico. That which the government representatives fought so hard in San Andres, app ears to have slipped in the back door, brought in by their specialists. Finally, this confusion does not make it clear whether municipal presidents are external or internal authorities.

The Cocopa had foreseen that each municipality would establish mechanisms for citizen participation. The government proposal shifts this right to local laws, thereby subjecting participation to uniform regulation, counteracting the autonomy and cultural specificity of each community.

The re-organization of municipalities proposed by the Cocopa basically acknowledged indigenous villages. It is now substituted by a confused proposal which opens the possibility of fragmentation to absurd levels. Its vagueness and imprecision creates the possibility of any village or community becoming a municipality; such that the nahua people, who now live over 6 federal entities, as a small " settlement" could now become a set of municipalities. The confusion increases through the arbitrary use of capitals and small letters which leads one to believe that for example, the Mixtecos of New York or Los Angeles could become municipalities. Conclusion

The Cocopa's proposal was the product of a prolonged collective effort, based on a solid knowledge of the reality to be legislated, written within the necessary technical range for translating agreements into constitutional norms. In contrast, the government proposal based on consultation with alleged experts, reveals clearly an ignorance of indigenous peoples, of legal techniques, of the Constitution and of Mexican laws.

President Zedillo remits Cocopa's proposal to experts in order not to violate the national unity or defy legal precedents. He accomplished exactly the opposite. The proposal clearly opens the danger of division among Mexicans and contains errors of legal interpretation so serious that it becomes impossible, incongruous, and aberrant to apply these new norms. Apparently, Mister Zedillo believes that cultural plurality already recognized by the Constitution is an attack upon national unity because he attempts to convert the acknowledgment of plurality to uniform homology.

Because of its form as well as its content we completely reject this proposal. It not only ignores the agreements of San Andres, it reduces legitimate rights and actual practices of Indian people. It attacks national unity. It violates sovereignty and the Constitution. It converts a social gain, one which would finally recognize the Indian peoples of Mexico and establish a solid basis for harmonic co-existence among Mexicans into a legal, ahistoric, and moral aberration.

That is all.


From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee General Command
Zapatista Army of National Liberation Mexico,
January of 1997.

Translated by Cecilia Rodriguez; EZLN representative, USA.

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