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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/11/17

Dismantling Power: The Zapatista Indigenous Presidential Candidate's Vision to Transform Mexico from Below

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Reprinted from towardfreedom.com

The Zapatistas and National Indigenous Congress (CNI) held an assembly in May in which they chose Mar-a de Jesús Patricio Mart-nez, a Nahua indigenous healer, as their spokesperson and presidential candidate for the 2018 elections in Mexico.

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Patricio's candidacy and radical vision for Mexico challenges conventional politics and marks a new phase for the Zapatista and indigenous struggle in the country.

The 57-year-old traditional Nahua indigenous doctor and mother of three from western Mexico is the first indigenous woman to run for the presidency in Mexico.

Patricio joined the struggles related to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in 1996, when she was involved in the formation of the CNI, a network of indigenous communities in the country. She began helping out sick members of her community with herbal remedies when she was 20-years-old. Her skills as a healer were passed down to her from elders in the community, and are based on a close relationship with the local ecosystem.

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"Back then, there was a shortage of doctors and medicine and the health department had no answers," Patricio told the Guardian. "But we have so many plants and so much knowledge from our elders. My grandmother would give us special teas to cure stress, coughs or diarrhea, and they worked. So I thought: why not give herbal remedies to those who can't afford medicine?" Her work as an herbalist has influenced her political views: "The political class only see the earth and our natural resources as means of making money, not things that benefit the community and need protecting."

As a presidential candidate chosen by the CNI and Zapatistas, she is not interested in winning votes, but in grassroots organizing and resisting the destruction that so many communities in Mexico are facing.

"Our participation is for life," she explained at a press conference in Chiapas. "It's to bring together our communities that have been hit hard for years and years and that, I think, right now need to look for a way to keep on existing." Her goal is for Mexicans to "to join forces to be able to destroy this system that is generally finishing us all off."

A Different Way of Doing Politics

Patricio's candidacy is based on a model of politics that is far removed from the dominant political parties in the country. Indeed, her position is part of a horizontal, communally-organized structure that relies on democratic decision-making and governance from the bottom-up.

Though seeking office, Patricio is less of a candidate and more of a spokesperson for the CNI and Zapatistas. She reflects and represents the democratic indigenous governing council, its consultations with communities, and local indigenous customs. One goal of her candidacy is to expand this network and governing model while rejecting the Mexican political system.

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This grassroots political structure was described in a communique released by the Zapatistas and CNI released in October of 2016, titled "May The Earth Tremble at its Core." The statement announced the groups' decision to participate in the elections with an indigenous woman candidate, and described the communal organization which forms the basis of their political vision, one carried out "collectively" and "from below and to the left."

We build rebellion from our small local assemblies that combine to form large communal assemblies, ejidal assemblies, Juntas de Buen Gobierno [Good Government Councils], and coalesce as agreements as peoples that unite us under one identity. In the process of sharing, learning, and constructing ourselves as the National Indigenous Congress, we see and feel our collective pain, discontent, and ancestral roots. In order to defend what we are, our path and learning process have been consolidated by strengthening our collective decision-making spaces, employing national and international juridical law as well as peaceful and civil resistance, and casting aside the political parties that have only brought death, corruption, and the buying off of dignity. We have made alliances with various sectors of civil society, creating our own resources in communication, community police and self-defense forces, assemblies and popular councils, and cooperatives; in the exercise and defense of traditional medicine; in the exercise and defense of traditional and ecological agriculture; in our own rituals and ceremonies to pay respect to mother earth and continue walking with and upon her, in the cultivation and defense of native seeds, and in political-cultural activities, forums, and information campaigns.

This is the power from below that has kept us alive. This is why commemorating resistance and rebellion also means ratifying our decision to continue to live, constructing hope for a future that is only possible upon the ruins of capitalism.

Considering this struggle, the CNI and Zapatistas decided to organize a process of consultation with their communities and choose an independent candidate for the presidency. "We confirm that our struggle is not for power, which we do not seek. Rather, we call on all of the originary peoples and civil society to organize to put a stop to this destruction and strengthen our resistances and rebellions, that is, the defense of the life of every person, family, collective, community, or barrio. We make a call to construct peace and justice by reweaving ourselves from below, from where we are what we are." They concluded, "This is the time of dignified rebellion, the time to construct a new nation by and for everyone, to strengthen power below and to the anti-capitalist left""

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Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America, covering social movements and politics in the region for over a decade. He is the author of the books Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, and The (more...)
 
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Dismantling Power: The Zapatista Indigenous Presidential Candidate's Vision to Transform Mexico from Below