20 Years After Signing of San Andrés Accords, Situation of Indigenous Peoples is Worse
La Jornada: Matilde Pérez U.
Twenty years after signing the San Andrés Accords, groups such as the Consultative Council of Indigenous and Afro-Mexican Peoples of Oaxaca pointed out that the situation for indigenous peoples "has worsened", and they face a systematic plundering of their natural resources, cultural heritage and knowledge.
Two former aides of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), Mixtec lawyer Francisco López Bárcenas and economist Julio Moguel, presented different views.
For lawyer López Barcenas, these agreements have definitely had an impact on legal matters, since in addition to reforming the Constitution, the government signed international treaties that are a tool for defending indigenous peoples. Economist Moguel, a specialist in rural issues, said that legislative progress is relative, because it continues denying that indigenous peoples are subjects of the law.
The Consultative Council of Indigenous and Afro-Mexican Peoples of Oaxaca pointed out that two decades after signing the agreements on indigenous rights and culture, residents of the native pueblos remain in a peaceful struggle in the context of becoming institutionalized in defence of their social and cultural heritage. Additionally, they defend the indigenous and community radio stations, which they have managed to maintain despite the harassment to which they are subjected.
The group demanded that Oaxaca’s lawmakers keep their word and hold to their commitment to approve a constitutional reform on indigenous matters, for a relationship of justice with the peoples and communities. They warned that they will approach judicial bodies in the country’s capital and internationally in order to end the "serious legislative neglect".
López Bárcenas commented that many pueblos have turned to the San Andrés Accords to build arguments to defend their natural resources against megaprojects.
"They [Accords] are not forgotten. After 20 years, they are a useful tool. Historically, they have a very strong symbolism. Those who brandish them are taken into account in accordance with the strength they [Accords] have for getting progress on their cases."
Taking stock, López Bárcenas said that there is regression in the indigenous movement if it is compared with that generated by the San Andrés Accords:
"Twenty years ago, entire pueblos were steadfast, leaders of organizations, indigenous advisers and no one faltered; it was amazing.
"Today we don’t have this movement, but we definitely have a more politicized society. There is an awareness that they [indigenous] have rights and a strong indigenous intelligentsia. Communities and pueblos are pondering."
Julio Moguel observed that the social and economic situation is worse for indigenous peoples than it was 20 years ago. Mexico City acknowledges the existence of only 40 pueblos in addition, because they are not fully recognized as indigenous entities their residents cannot access social programmes run by the city government.
Moguel pointed out that the San Andrés Accords embody the minimum required to establish the laws, and he considered that members of the Constituent Assembly will have to address the issue and recognize the
- 150 original pueblos and barrios and 50 communities of indigenous residents;
- Acknowledge them as subjects of the law, the legal system; and
- Give them access to free and informed prior consultation regarding infrastructure Moguel declared:
"They cannot be regarded as other citizens are, and the number of members making up their pueblos define whether or not they get local representation. They should have a specific presence, precisely defined."
The Constitution for Mexico City, he pointed out, must become the turning point for ending the political, social and economic exclusion that has been the status of the country’s indigenous peoples. It must be the basis for initiating reforms in state legislatures and in the country’s Constitution.
Translated by Jane Brundage
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