he EZNL and autonomous Zapatista movement – which have organised themselves upon principles that have practically made femicides non-existent in their territories – face a neoliberal militarised/paramilitarised/megadevelopment ‘Fourth Transformation’ onslaught under President AMLO and his MORENA party in Mexico that threatens their very existence.
The communiqué by the Revolutionary Indigenous Clandestine Committee – General Command (CCRI-CG) of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) calling “on the Europe of below and to the left, and on the National and International Sixth to demonstrate in front of the embassies and consulates of Mexico, and in the houses of the Chiapas state government” on 24 September “to demand that they stop right now with their provocations and abandon the cult of death that they preach” highlights the seriousness of the situation.
‘Drugs wars,’ ‘resource wars’ and mega-development ‘transformational’ initiatives in Mexico, as Parts one and two in this series have indicated, have been aggressively promoted within a neoliberal framework in Mexico over the past few decades. They have significantly contributed towards an increase in femicides, disappearances and other forms of killings within the country and continue to be promoted under the current presidency of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional – MORENA) party.
This article will focus on highlighting this alternative practical vision that is being offered and practically explored by the EZNL and the Zapatistas (in which femicides have virtually ended in the territories they mobilise in) and it will also detail the ‘neoliberal war’ that is being waged against them under the presidency of AMLO and his MORENA party.
The ‘Femicide Machine’ and Mexico’s neoliberal development/militarisation ‘experience’ vs the Zapatistas ‘emancipatory alternatives of a new kind’
Mexico continues, as it has done throughout the neoliberal period, to experience horrifically high levels of femicides, killings, disappearances, massacres and human rights violations that have impacted upon women, the poor and Indigenous peoples in the most extreme ways. Militarisation and paramilitarisation of society and the ‘War on Drugs/drug wars’ prosecuted during the neoliberal NAFTA and NAFTA 2.0 treaty phases have become normalised, and counter-insurgency against the Indigenous and self-organising autonomous ‘Other’ has been institutionalised.
Amnesty International, less than two weeks ago, in a report entitled ‘Justice on Trial: Failures in criminal investigations of femicides preceded by disappearance in the State of Mexico,’ concluded that “at least 10 women were killed every day in Mexico throughout 2020.”
The Mexican ‘War on Drugs,’ notes Hattie Houser in ‘Resisting Feminicide in Mexico through Policy, Performance, and Research,’ “has increased deaths in Mexico tenfold and is deeply intertwined with feminicide. This violence is staggering, and becomes even more atrocious when blended with asymmetrical patriarchal relationships. (…) Relationships between organised crime, corporations, and the Mexican government suggest that these bodies are more connected than state discourse and legislation would imply, allowing for phenomenally high levels of impunity.”
And “impunity,” she notes, “contributes to the landscape of feminicide by not only creating the conditions ‘for the murders of dozens and women and little girls, but developing the institutions that [guarantee] impunity for those crimes’ (Rodriguez, 2012). As Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez and other scholars have outlined it, capitalism, organised crime, and the militarisation of civilian groups work in coordination with high levels of corruption and impunity to produce an environment in which phenomena like feminicide thrive. (…) The evolution of neoliberal policy in Mexico has colluded with patriarchal hegemony, thus establishing the Femicide Machine.”
Houser asserts that “neoliberal policy is exacerbated by patriarchal hegemony, allowing contemporary violence in Mexico to disproportionately affect women. While casualty rates are at an all-time high among all genders, journalist Granados demonstrates that women in Mexico are murdered in far more cruel and brutal ways than men (Granados, 2018). (…)
“Women are three times more likely to be hung, drowned, strangled, choked, burned, etc. Asymmetrical violence and cruelty against women suggests that patriarchal power structures inform the violent landscape of Mexico, targeting women and intensifying the physical policing of their bodies. The exploitative capitalist work environment works with patriarchal norms and culture to develop a violent apparatus that proliferates feminicide.”
Rachel Sieder, Senior Research Professor at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropolog´ıa Social (CIESAS), in ‘Legal Pluralism and Indigenous Women’s Rights in Mexico: The Ambiguities of Recognition,’ also reports that – in the present neoliberal environment in Mexico – where there is “an ongoing human rights emergency, involving thousands of forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, femicide, torture, gross violations of human rights by the military, and systematic impunity” – the ‘rights’ of Indigenous peoples remains precarious: “The formal legal recognition of Indigenous autonomy and legal pluralism in Mexico is weak and ambiguous.
“As the discussion of the three cases [I have extensively] presented has demonstrated, state authorities intervene selectively against indigenous authorities to champion universal human rights when it is to their political advantage, yet policies of economic development and security promoted by the federal and state governments violate indigenous peoples’ fundamental rights and expose indigenous women to greater harm. The ambiguity of recognition means that indigenous women – and men – are increasingly subject to repression and criminalisation for exercising their nationally and internationally recognised rights to autonomy. These efforts frequently aim to protect their communities against the predations of organised crime, often in league with state authorities, and the injurious effects of a highly militarised and racist form of public power.”
Houser, drawing upon several academics’ findings, contends that, “as neoliberal policy interplays with patriarchal hegemony, women, particularly black and brown women, become ‘a form of industrial waste, at which point [they are] discarded and replaced’ (Wright, 2006). Feminicide is the direct representation of the disposability of these women. (…) In Mexico’s case, gendered phenomena have worked in tandem with militarisation and neoliberal policy to produce the violence against women that exists today. (…)
“Ultimately, feminicide exists as a machine-like structure devised by neoliberal policy, the state, organised crime, patriarchy, etc. Nevertheless, ‘this machinic integrity is complemented by the human (individual, group, or collective) element that devised it, keeps it running, and at some point, can destroy it’ (Rodriguez, 2006). (…) It is important to understand how historical acts of imperialism, violence, and neoliberalism have ushered us into the contemporary moment of violence in Mexico.”
The ‘War on Drugs’/‘drugs war’, in this neoliberal context, continues to take place, as Dawn Paley shows, despite President AMLO’s stated claim that it ended under his and his MORENA party’s governance. “It has become abundantly clear,” she notes, “that [AMLO’s] administration is staying the course of the war on drugs. Though the federal government’s discourse has technically changed (the ‘war on drugs’ was declared formally over in 2019), soldiers, marines, federal police and the National Guard continue” – despite their appalling human rights record – “to be at the centre of public security. Prohibited substances including marijuana are routinely intercepted, those who carry even the smallest amounts are jailed, and plantations continue to be sprayed and burned.”
“On any given day in Mexico,” she reports, “there are an estimated 150,000 armed forces deployed throughout the country, more than half of them devoted to pacification. Soldiers detained more people between September 2019 and September 2020 than in any year since the outset of the ‘war on drugs’ and the armed forces continue to confiscate cocaine, marijuana, and fentanyl.” State organs still, even under AMLO’s presidency, seem to be working hand-in-hand with narcotrafficking networks, if the accounts covered in Part 2 of this series are to be believed.
Drug cartels have also been emboldened in many ways during AMLO’s neoliberal ‘Fourth Transformation’ phase as their operational bases have continued to thrive wherever neoliberalised spaces have become available and ‘extractivist resource/drug wars’ have been unofficially promoted by state, US intelligence agency and corporate structures, agencies and circles to ‘facilitate’ megadevelopment and counter-insurgency programmes and ‘initiatives.’
Maria Guadalupe Ramos Ponce, coordinator of the Committee of Women’s Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean, concludes that “the drug war” – aggressively promoted within the context of Mexico’s neoliberal phase – “has normalised misogynistic violence.” Even as “the violence has resonated through the community as a whole, (…) the violence has grown more gruesome toward women as well, with torture and dismemberment more common, she said.” And according to Mark Stevenson, it needs to be appreciated that “most” of the disappeared in Mexico “are thought to have been killed by drug cartels, their bodies dumped into shallow graves or burned.”
Indigenous movements, mobilisations and initiatives in Mexico that have emerged that have sought to examine how society can practically rid itself of a ‘femicidal crisis’ by promoting an alternative anti-neoliberal, anti-militarisation, anti-patriarchal, anti-paramilitary societal framework are the object and target of AMLO’s and MORENA’s ‘neoliberal war.’
With neoliberalism enabling these types of transformations that have had an impact on the nature, form and level of femicides, as sociologist Raúl Romero has concluded, “as a result of the restructuring of the Mexican State, extractive economies and organised crime came to occupy key places, submerging our society in one of the most violent crises of contemporary Mexico.
“The thousands of people murdered and disappeared, as well as the dispossession and ecocide that currently characterise our country must be understood not as the result of [just] corruption, but rather as the direct effect of neoliberal capitalism. Is it possible that some of this will change in the short term? Sadly, no! The signals that the new administration gives point to neoliberal continuity, even though the president has decreed its end.”
Apart from promoting a ‘neoliberal war’ and megadevelopment programmes that, by their very nature, do not meaningfully seek to address critical factors that have led to the femicidal crisis in the country, AMLO’s and his MORENA party’s ‘Fourth Transformation’ initiatives have also sought to destroy the very existence of ‘decolonial feminism’ and anti-femicidal, anti-neoliberal, anti-patriarchal inspired Indigenous movements and mobilisations (such as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation – EZNL and the Zapatistas) in the country that have sought to centrally address femicidal concerns.
In other words, Indigenous movements, mobilisations and initiatives in Mexico that have emerged that have sought to examine how society can practically rid itself of a ‘femicidal crisis’ by promoting an alternative anti-neoliberal, anti-militarisation, anti-patriarchal, anti-paramilitary societal framework are the object and target of AMLO’s and MORENA’s ‘neoliberal war.’
These are femicide-linked issues of concern that we ignore at our peril, not only if we wish to radically lower the levels of femicide in Mexico but also if we wish to support alternative visions of society that, in ‘decolonial feminist’ fashion (as identified by Françoise Vergès in her book ‘A Decolonial Feminism’), engage in struggles against “racism, sexism, capitalism and imperialism” where “the fight against the policies of dispossession, colonisation, extractivism and the systematic destruction of the living” are seen as issues and inter-related concerns that cannot be ignored or dismissed.
“The stakes are high and the danger is dire,” Vergès notes, if one simply, in a wider structural sense, promotes “a [‘civilisational’] feminism that fights only for gender equality and refuses to see how integration [into the neoliberal system] leaves racialised women” – and Indigenous people – “at the mercy of brutality, violence, rape and murder.”‘Civilisational feminists,’ notes Vergès, have “made women’s rights into an ideology of assimilation and integration into the neoliberal order,” where “women’s revolutionary aspirations” are reduced to reformist acts whereby, “as active accomplices of the racial capitalist order, ‘civilisational feminists’ do not hesitate to support imperialist intervention policies.” But ‘when’ or ‘if’ such support extends to the promotion of NAFTA 2.0 and AMLO’s linked neoliberal highly militarised megaprojects, with all the femicidal-linked violence they structurally entail and which also by their very nature represent an assault on anti-femicidal, autonomous Indigenous mobilisations, concerns must, surely, be raised.
“In Rojava [in North and East Syria, under the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria – AANES] and in Zapatista Chiapas,” Raúl Romero observes that “emancipatory alternatives of a new kind are being built” that we need to support. In Rojava, there is – as in Chiapas – a necessary “questioning of capitalist modernity, of Nation-states, of hegemonic science, of patriarchy and of ecocide.”
At the current juncture, opposed to these anti-neoliberal, anti-patriarchal and anti-femicidal “emancipatory alternatives” are militarised neoliberal government promoted initiatives of the kind identified by Raúl Zibechi this April, which do nothing to substantially address key systemic issues that contribute to high levels of femicides, disappearances and other forms of structural violence. At least 10 women per day are reportedly still being murdered in Mexico.
The Zapatistas, who have been living in autonomous self-defence protected Indigenous territories in mobilised and self-organised contexts since the 1990’s, contesting the values and development outcomes of the neoliberal system, have achieved what many might not have believed possible.
Zibechi cautions that “militarisation comes hand in hand with the imposition of a model of society that we have called extractivism, a mode of capital accumulation by the 1% based on the theft and dispossession of the peoples, which entails a true military dictatorship in the areas and regions where it operates. Militarism is subordinated to this logic of accumulation through violence, for the simple reason that people’s goods cannot be stolen without pointing weapons at them.”
Militarism of this kind, he asserts, necessarily “comes with violence, forced disappearances, femicides and rapes. Besides that, it always encourages the birth of paramilitary groups, which always accompany large extractive works. And though they are considered illegal, the paramilitaries are trained and armed by the armed forces as we see in Mexico and Colombia. (…) We are facing a system that, to stretch its agony, needs to implement [situations] born in the twentieth century, which are the themes of Giorgio Agamben: the ‘state of exception’ as a form of government, the legal civil war against the ‘non-integratable’ and the open air concentration camps guarded by paramilitaries.”
Feminist and critical anthropologist, Hernández Castillo, in ‘Multiple InJustices,’ has observed that “colonialism, racism, and patriarchal violence have been fundamental elements for the reproduction of capitalism. (…) Only a social policy that offers economic alternatives based on distribution of wealth and a real recognition of cultural and political rights of indigenous peoples” – something the neoliberal development project is not offering – “can counter the damage of outside forces such as drug cartels on indigenous lands.”
The Zapatistas, who have been living in autonomous self-defence protected Indigenous territories in mobilised and self-organised contexts since the 1990’s, contesting the values and development outcomes of the neoliberal system, have achieved what many might not have believed possible. In December 2019, Comandanta Amada from the EZNL, at the opening of the Second International Women’s Gathering, at a time when at least 10 women in Mexico were being reportedly killed daily, stated: “Our report back to all of you this year is that among us” – i.e., amongst people living within the Zapatista mobilised and protected autonomous communities – “there has not been a single murder or disappearance of any of our compañeras.” In other words, not a single femicide or disappearance of a woman.
In August last year, the Indigenous Government Council (IGC) and Indigenous National Congress (INC) issued the following statement: “We denounce the war that, from above, is being deployed against the organisation of the Zapatista communities, at the same time that the bad governments above seek to impose, throughout the country, mega projects of death that we oppose and will oppose, because we are not willing to give up our territories and allow the destruction promised by the powerful.
“We hold the paramilitary organisation ORCAO, the MORENA party, the state government and the federal government responsible for these events, which have not stopped sowing violence in the region in order to hit not only our sisters and brothers in the communities, support bases of the EZLN, but to all the peoples who dream of fighting for life, of healing our mother earth and not letting it be privatized. (…)
“We call on the comrades of support networks and networks of resistance and rebellion to speak out and mobilise against the war of extermination, which is dangerously sharpening against our sisters and brothers of the Zapatista peoples, who teach us to never stop sowing rebellion and hope.”
Concerns over the neoliberal nature of AMLO’s and MORENA’s megadevelopment programmes
Greta Rico asserts that, in Mexico, “these are times of necropolitics,” where there is an urgent need to recognise, acknowledge and “denounce an ignored, deficient and capitalist [neoliberal] system that profits from naturalising violence and exploitation, a system that criminalises those who maintain a discourse that points out and questions inequality, and the subordination of some social sectors, including women. (…)
“Us women who live in this country” know that, under the current system, “our bodies are disposable and that capitalism for the benefit of market forces profits with impunity from the (…) violence that takes our lives away. (…) The rules of the game and these policies of death have shown us that we live in a system where some lives are worth more than others,” and it is this system that needs to be exposed, confronted and opposed.
Mercedes Olivera’s perspectives – as presented in the book ‘Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Americas’ – drawing upon the findings of others as well as her own, cannot afford to be ignored. Nor can the concerns that were raised in Parts one and two of this series. In a neoliberal structured context in Mexico, she concludes that there will necessarily be horrific levels of femicides, other types of killings, disappearances and violence perpetrated, because that is how such a system operates.
“Women are being murdered in Mexico at an alarming rate,” she confirms. “Since the 1990s, this rate has increased so dramatically – in direct relation to the expansion of neoliberalism. (…) Feminicide and feminicidal violence,” she contends, is “a direct expression of the structural violence of the neoliberal social system. (…) Putting the neoliberal mandates into practice through institutionalised patriarchal power, Mexico’s so-called political class and its business and financial sectors have undermined and violated both society’s and individual’s rights, interests and needs. In the case of women, one outcome of the processes on both levels has been murder.”
“In the face of neoliberalism’s increasing demands, (…) the disturbances they have always produced in personal relations are enflamed by the current social violence. Conflicts within couples and families as masculine domination is brought into question and delegitimised steadily increase the levels of violence and of course, the risk of murder.
“These conflicts are multiplied under the pressure produced by unemployment, poverty, social polarisation, alcoholism and insecurity” – enhanced by the paramilitarisation/militarisation of the environment as a consequence of the neoliberal fuelled ‘drug wars’ and ‘counterinsurgency/resource wars’ – “among the many other problems that fill daily life with tension.”
Olivera confirms that “poverty and unemployment, the disintegration of the peasant economy and migration – all more acute since the government of President Salinas de Gotari accelerated neoliberal policies – are, along with the national crisis of governability, the most important structural causes of the increase in violence against women. (…) The problem is so deep, however, that in order to make progress” in substantially reducing violence and feminicides in Mexico, “the women of Mexico need to participate in building a different world – one without violence, sexism, or oppression. And to do that, we must struggle against the neoliberal system that has invaded our lives” – something which many ‘civilisational feminists’ will not do, but which ‘decolonial feminists’ (as pointed out in Part 1 of this series) and the Zapatistas and EZNL will. AMLO and MORENA have evidently persisted with an extractivist, militarised, megadevelopment linked neoliberal programme.
Denisa Krásná and Sagar Deva, in their 2019 paper ‘Neoliberalism, NAFTA, and Dehumanisation: The case of femicides in Ciudad Juárez,’ conclude that “it is imperative to acknowledge” the drug war’s “impacts on femicide rates. Like unregulated free trade, the ‘drug war’” – given stimulus by NAFTA’s transformed neoliberal landscape – “contributes to the creation of an environment that facilitates femicides. Gender violence is overlooked as a minor problem by governments on both sides of the border that like to make the war on drugs” – in its official and unofficially declared capacity – “seem their top priority. As Kelliher contends, the government’s military response ‘has both normalised violence and diverted attention from (…) violence towards women’ that is rendered invisible as a consequence. (…)
“It is the poor sector of Mexican society that is most often targeted by the drug cartels, making women even more vulnerable because of the intersection of their class and gender. (…) Femicides are” also “overlooked because the sacrifice of maquiladora workers bolsters neoliberal capitalism.
“To end the violence,” Krásná and Deva assert that “misogyny and exploitation of marginalised workers have to be stopped. However, such a change is difficult in a world” – and Mexican state, even under the presidency of AMLO and the governance of MORENA – “governed by the neoliberal market, which has exploitation at its core. Mexico, with its still very traditional society, serves as an ideal neoliberal colony, as patriarchy is the driving force of neoliberalism.”
Çiçek: ‘This reality is clearly apparent from Kurdistan and Turkey to Belarus, from Chile to the USA, from Afghanistan to Mexico’
In a neoliberal system, violence will persist in the following manner, observes Meral Çiçek: “The perpetrators are often not punished because the killer is the system itself. It is the trio of the state/supranational corporation/paramilitary gang that decides, plans, organises, and implements political assassinations against leading women. The aim of the political murders committed by these main players of patriarchal capitalist modernity is to eliminate women’s leadership in this turn of the 21st century (…) because the leadership of women,” as women, “in the fields of freedom, democracy, justice, and ecology is the dynamic that most threatens the existence of the dominant system and the mentality on which it is based.
“This reality is clearly apparent from Kurdistan and Turkey to Belarus, from Chile to the USA, from Afghanistan to Mexico. Therefore, each political femicide that the system tries to present to us as a singular and isolated event constitutes a part of a systematic whole,” she asserts.
Amidst the promotion by AMLO and MORENA of neoliberal inspired and linked megaprojects and policies relating to ‘narcopolitics’ and security (issues covered in Part 2 of this series), Paley reports that “homicides have continued at a terrifying pace. In 2019 and 2020,” years under the governance of MORENA and President AMLO, “there were 71,072 murders in Mexico, marking two of the most violent years in decades. One count based on news reports found that there had been 533 massacres (killings of at least three people) in Mexico during the first nine months of 2020. (…)
‘Neoliberal war,’ of the systemic kind that facilitates ethnocides, femicides, other forms of killing, massacres, disappearances and forced displacements of people (of the kind that were detailed in Parts 1 and 2 of this series), is being waged against Indigenous peoples and their territories that are being defended by autonomous movements…
“On 21 June 2020, 15 Indigenous Ikoots people were killed, some of them burned to death. (…) A paramilitary group that survivors link to local authorities used bats and stones to attack 31 people occupying a municipal building. The attackers brought out jugs of gasoline and burned their victims alive.”
Maria del Rosario Guerra informed Paley that “the National Guard and state police accompanied the paramilitaries into the community and stood by as her friends and comrades were slaughtered. ‘The National Guard was there and they didn’t do anything, they were just watching,’ said Guerra. (…) The attack has gone unpunished, and dozens of Indigenous families remain displaced from their ancestral lands.”
Luis Hernández Navarro, a journalist and author of ‘Planting Concrete, Harvesting Anger,’ also concludes that “AMLO’s development programme marks a continuation of the same market-based, ecologically harmful projects implemented by former governments. ‘Independently from López Obrador’s anti-neoliberal rhetoric, his projects are still neoliberal. (…) There’s no rupture with the Washington Consensus,’ he said. ‘There’s a threat of dispossession and environmental destruction in the name of progress.’”
To Guillermo Almeyra, AMLO has given much “to the sector of big business that supports the reactionary Agrarian Law of Ricardo Monreal by naming Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) businessmen as advisers and granting them the construction of an integrated system of metropolitan airports and, above all, the projects of the Mayan Train and the neoliberal transformation of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
“The latter is a rehash of an anti-Indigenous, anti-peasant and anti-ecological project by former Presidents Luis Echeverría and Vicente Fox that seeks to transform the territory according to the interests of finance capital, building a multimodal transport axis for freight between Europe and China, developing real estate speculation, massively cultivating oil palm plantations, and installing wind energy mills.
“The Mayan Train is particularly dangerous because its current layout would destroy the main ecological reserve of Chiapas and the country, it would destroy the peasant” – inclusive of Zapatista – “communities and indigenous ways of life, it would speed up plans for real estate development and tourism which are harmful to the territory, it would give a death blow to Mayan culture and language, and it would give organized crime a great opportunity for money laundering.
“Furthermore, AMLO’s decision to create new Special Economic Zones in the hands national and foreign capital (…) would dispossess Indigenous communities of their right to make decisions about their territory, and it would destroy the environment.”
Nicholas Cunningham also asserts that “the renegotiated NAFTA agreement” which AMLO has promoted “is largely a continuation of the old agreement. (…) AMLO’s support for the recent deal is a signal that he has no intention of attacking the underlying logic of NAFTA – or of neoliberal logics – despite his long history opposing much of the treaty.”
“Signing on to NAFTA [2.0] will be hard to square with his narrative of enacting a new kind of politics,” Cunningham concluded. “In practical terms, reviving the livelihoods of small farmers, for instance, will be virtually impossible within the confines of NAFTA 2.0. Just as with the old treaty, heavily subsidised corporate agriculture from the US will continue to flow into Mexico, suffocating small farmers. (…) At the same time, AMLO (…) changed his tune on the prospect of multinational oil companies drilling for oil and gas in Mexico.”
Alexander Gorski, as importantly, contends that AMLO’s “infrastructure policies” – which are being enforced and facilitated by the armed forces – “raise deep concerns about his willingness to end neoliberal politics in Mexico,” which has played such a significant role in increasing the rate of femicides in Mexico.
Belén Fernández notes that “AMLO’s anti-neoliberal rhetoric” – alongside his anti-militarisation rhetoric, I might add – is not “easily reconcilable with all of his actions, which have included celebrating with Donald Trump the new iteration of the [neoliberal] North American Free Trade Agreement, which destroyed countless Mexican lives and was linked to a surge in lethal violence against women.” “The start of the updated United States-Mexico-Canada [neoliberal USMCA] trade deal,” reported Mary Beth Sheridan and Kevin Sieff on 6 July 2020, was actually described by Presidents Trump and López Obrador (AMLO) “as among their signature accomplishments.” Yet officially, AMLO continues to state that his coming to power marked an end to the neoliberal period in Mexico: “The neoliberal period, the long neoliberal period (…) end[ed] at the end of 2018,” he asserted as recently as yesterday.
Para-militarisation, encroachments by drug cartels, militarisation and securitisation of the area is being advanced to enforce ‘operations’ (some officially deniable) that terrorise the local residents whilst ‘clearing’ spaces for these megadevelopments and infrastructure projects.
For Gibrán Ramírez Reyes, a Mexican scholar, columnist, television host, current head of the Inter-American Conference on Social Security and member of the MORENA party, ‘Obradorismo,’ AMLO’s movement for the ‘Fourth Transformation’ (4T), “is a left” orientation “that is (…) post-neoliberal more than anti-neoliberal. (…) It is post-neoliberal in the sense that it assumes that neoliberalism has already shaped the country we live in. For example, there is a disposition to integrate with the US. In his first presidential campaign in 2006, López Obrador was much more anti-neoliberal and would say we needed to renegotiate the terms of NAFTA and focus solely on developing an internal market.”
Now, in power, however, “the movement and López Obrador have had to accept” – i.e., they have consciously taken the pro-active position (which many others on the left, including the EZNL, have rejected for a host of reasons) – “that it cannot” – indeed, will not – “be overturned. [Or] when he talks of public property, he is referring mostly to strategic sectors, he’s never spoken of nationalising big industries like, say, communications. Several of the traits [of neoliberalism] have been accepted, and the aim now is simply to hit the brakes. (…)
“So private property is not being combated, free trade is not being combated, and the web of power in several sectors is also left untouched. The financial sector hasn’t been hit,” Gibrán Ramírez Reyes observed.
Kurt Hackbarth, in May 2021, also acknowledged that “MORENA’s performance (…) has been too timid on a number of fronts, including reining in the privatised free-for-all of the mining and banking industries, attacking the nation’s grotesque wealth inequality, and defending migrants against US pressure.” On the horizon, Sky News reported just this week that “the UK is considering joining the free trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada. (…) Ministers are believed to be mulling the option.” AMLO’s perspectives on the matter have not yet been reported.
‘Neoliberal war,’ ethnocides and the violence of AMLO’s and MORENA’s megadevelopment programmes
In effect, AMLO’s promoted megaprojects are bringing into Indigenous areas and territories “what the Guarijíos, in the voice of Dr. Armando Haro,” for example, have “denounced” in the wake of the imposition of the Pilares mega-dam development as “the making of an ethnocide, as defined by Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the first rapporteur of the United Nations on Indigenous Peoples. (…) When governments apply these policies” – as detailed in Part 2 of this series – “they are guilty of ethnocide.’
“Nothing has changed in these times of change,” concludes Francisco López Bárcenas. “I have to tell you that I am indeed amazed. I did not think things would be like this. I believed that the Fourth Transformation (4T, Cuarta Transformación) would imply a substantial change in the way megaprojects were developed. But no. I hope you will put on your thinking cap quickly. (…) The government’s policies will deprive the Guarijíos” in the manner in which, in the past, “many Indigenous peoples [were] affected by the construction of dams throughout history. This is the same thing that has been explicitly recognised with the construction of the Maya Train, which for its promoters, ethnocide has a positive opposite: ethno-development.
“This has led the anthropologist Benjamin Maldonado” – Academic Director of the Colegio Superior para la Educación Integral Intercultural de Oaxaca and co-editor of ‘New World of Indigenous Resistance: Noam Chomsky and Voices from North, South, and Central America’ – “to affirm that to see ethnocide as enabling ethno-development is a clear political position.
“There is no change in focus because the Fourth Transformation is the fourth reiteration of the same will of power. For the State, ethnocide is a form of ethno-development. From the Indigenism of Gamio to that of López Obrador, this has been suffered.”
‘Neoliberal war,’ of the systemic kind that facilitates ethnocides, femicides, other forms of killing, massacres, disappearances and forced displacements of people (of the kind that were detailed in Parts 1 and 2 of this series), is being waged against Indigenous peoples and their territories that are being defended by autonomous movements that have adopted a societal-development programme and value-system that is predicated upon addressing femicidal, patriarchal, militarisation, paramilitarisation, ‘drug/resource war’ concerns.
The coordinator of Transnational Justice at the Mexico City-based Project of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ProDesc, Juan Antonio López Cruz, confirms that “López Obrador’s idea to fully develop the Istmo de Tehuantepec is nothing new. The idea to connect the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean through the Istmo goes back to the heyday of neoliberal governments in Mexico. (…) Now MORENA is saying the same thing all over again. (…)
“The Zapatistas’ position” to these mega-development projects that are being promoted within the context of the neoliberal NAFTA 2.0 ‘free trade’ agreement with the US and Canada, and which bring with them militarisation and securitisation of the areas they ‘target’ and ‘clear,’ reports Gorski, is that “‘these projects will destroy the territories of the Indigenous peoples,’ said Subcomandante Galeano,” and will have attendant impacts and consequences that will have repercussions in increasing, not lessening, the rates of femicides, murders, massacres, disappearances and forced dislocations in the country.
L. Gahman clarifies that “the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) is a politico-military organisation inclusive of a hierarchy, strict rules, discipline, and armed insurgents/soldiers. It is distinct from the more horizontalist Zapatista bases of support and movement-at-large. Significantly, the army is community sanctioned and comprised of freely-associating volunteers” who have mobilised in a self-defensive context against state and linked drug cartels and privatised, paramilitary forces.
GRAIN also asserts that AMLO’s/MORENA’s megaprojects are being promoted within a neoliberal context, despite everything he and his party might say to the contrary: “The misnamed Maya Train is a national strategy for economic integration and territorial reorganisation, which takes advantage of the new North American free trade [neoliberal] agreement, the T-MEC, to open the key space of the Yucatan Peninsula-Isthmus of Tehuantepec.”
Today, GRAIN confirms, “we know that it is a network of projects of all kinds that make up a kind of mega ‘special economic zone,’ invading with investments the five Mexican states involved. (…) There is land grabbing, deforestation and devastation, poisoning and environmental degradation, and eventual expulsion of populations” is expected and part of the planning structure.
Para-militarisation, encroachments by drug cartels, militarisation and securitisation of the area is being advanced to enforce ‘operations’ (some officially deniable) that terrorise the local residents whilst ‘clearing’ spaces for these megadevelopments and infrastructure projects. “The Peninsula, which covers 181,000 square km,” is being “reconfigured as a space for the articulation of extractive projects, multimodal hoarding and maquila” with all their attendant consequences of the kind we have already seen in other parts of Mexico (such as Ciudad Juarez, where femicides have become a ‘by-product’ of such developments and financial structures and systems – See Parts 1 and 2 of this series).
Moreover, in a linked context, Annette Lin by mid-2019 reported that, “faced with pressure from the US to reduce immigration, the López Obrador administration ha[d] started” – via its militarisation and securitisation policies against refugees/migrants – “to do the dirty work it vowed to avoid.”
The shadow of death (including femicidal deaths), in this wider neo-liberalised megaproject and securitised/militarised/paramilitarised context, continues to loom over women, refugees/migrants and Indigenous peoples living in territories coveted by corporate groups, financiers, middle-men and local/central government governing circles, and the recent massacre in San Mateo del Mar – covered in Parts 1 and 2 of this series – exposes the manner in which state bodies and functionaries such as the National Guard, championed by AMLO – reportedly collude with the paramilitaries to attain their murderous goals.
“New forms of paramilitary social control,” Coughlin concludes, have become “associated with the deepening of neoliberalism in Colombia, Mexico and Central America. (…) Political violence” – which in a linked manner has increased femicides in the country – “is deployed by states to shock and de-mobilize the popular classes” in ways outlined in Part 2 of this series.
NIC, IGC and EZNL: The ‘bad’ government has ‘spread destruction over the entire territory’
The National Indigenous Congress (NIC), the Indigenous Governing Council (IGC) and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZNL), through their spokespersons described the following assaults against Indigenous communities and territories – aimed at destroying the autonomous movements’ very systems of life and self-sustaining environments – even as early as December 2019, well into the period of AMLO and MORENA’s governance.
It is necessary to detail their findings to fully appreciate the scope and all-embracing nature of the assault on the EZNL and Zapatista and Indigenous territories and communities: “To advance in its war, the bad government is committed to the dismantling of community fabrics, by fostering internal conflicts that stain communities with violence. (…)
“Military and paramilitary harassment persists against the Zapatista territories, to try to weaken and destroy not only the autonomous spaces that have been built, but also the echo that spreads throughout the country and the world.”
“The bad government, together with its armed military, police, paramilitary, white guards and shock groups” has “spread destruction over the entire territory in the name of money national. In Veracruz, (…) along with the lies of the Neoliberal government of AMLO, the hydraulic fracturing is propped up and operated to extract hydrocarbons, transfers are made to take the water from the rivers and put it in the hands of private parties, threatening the lives of the Tenek and Nahuatl peoples, Totonaco, Otomí and Tepehua, in addition to the increase in organised crime groups.
“In Michoacan, (…) in the coastal highlands of the Nahua people, the intention of looting by organised crime gangs, with the blatant support of all levels of the bad government, threatens the life and integrity of the native peoples, particularly of our brothers of the indigenous community. (…)
“In the Purépecha community of Zirahuén, which has a long struggle to defend the lake of the same name, today with the help of armed organised crime groups, avocado businessmen destroy the forest and pollute the water with the use of pesticides. In Jalisco, the invasion of the Wixárika territory of San Sebastián Teponahuaxtlán persists at the hands of supposed small owners of Huajimic, Nayarit. Likewise, the government places thousands of hectares of the sacred Wirikuta territory in the state of San Luis Potosí in the hands of foreign mining companies, threatening the cultural existence and the ceremonial territory.
“In the Chichimeca indigenous community of San Juan Bautista de La Laguna, in the municipality of Lagos de Moreno, the bad government puts in the hands of individuals the ancestral territory recognised in its primary titles, also imposing a gas pipeline to supply large industries. (…)
“The Tepehuana and Wixárika community of San Lorenzo de Azqueltán suffers, along with the dispossession of their land, death threats and attempted homicides such as the one that occurred on 3 November. (…) All this with the complicity of the municipal government of Villa Guerrero, Jalisco, with impunity prevailing in this cowardly crime. (…)
“The bad government, together with its armed group of the National Guard and police groups, intends to impose a megaproject that would dump toxic waste into the Metlapanapa River, this as part of the so-called Comprehensive Project for the Construction of the Sanitary Sewer System of the Huejotzingo Industrial Zone, known as ‘Textile City.’ In the defence of the life of the river and the peoples that inhabit it, our companions of the Nahua people, of the communities of San Mateo Cuanalá, San Lucas Nextetelco, San Gabriel Ometoxtla, Santa María Zacatepec and the José Ángeles neighbourhood have suffered aggressions by those repressive bodies.
“In the Sierra Negra de Puebla, our colleague Sergio Rivera Hernández was disappeared since 23 August 2018, in retaliation for his fight against the destruction caused by the Autlán mining company. ( …)
“In Campeche, under the pretext of the misnamed ‘Mayan Train,’ the construction of 15 new urban centres is being planned, which not only entail environmental destruction, but also imply the dispossession of indigenous peoples’ territories. In Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala, the so-called Morelos Comprehensive Project is imposed by force, repressing those who disagree, such as the murder of our brother Samir Flores. (…) [There is a] scenario in which the presence of violent criminal groups is exacerbated.”
And there is more, far more. In Chiapas, they note, “the intention of dispossession and privatisation of the Tzeltal territory persists for the benefit of private companies, through the so-called ‘Cultural Highway’ (…) that intends to pass through the territory of the ejido of San Sebastián Bachajón, Palenque and other communities. Likewise, in the Zoque territory, the big capital identified an oil corridor that covers nine municipalities, in an area of 84,500 hectares and that intends to cross the territory of the Chapultenango community.
“The bad governments of all levels, through campaigns of confrontation, paramilitarisation and impersonation, seek to end the organisation of the communities that organise themselves autonomously. (…) On the coast of Chiapas,” they report, “we have received threats and dispossession of our lands due to the attempted construction of the Pijijiapan – San Cristóbal de las Casas – Palenque highway, in addition to the construction of a gas pipeline that intends to cross the coastal zone of Chiapas and Guatemala.
“Military and paramilitary harassment persists against the Zapatista territories, to try to weaken and destroy not only the autonomous spaces that have been built, but also the echo that spreads throughout the country and the world.”
And in Mexico City, they additionally assert, “while public spaces are denied to the native peoples residing in the city to carry out their work, they are handed over to private capital for their enrichment. Such is the case of the Otomí people residing in Mexico City, who are currently threatened with eviction. (…) While the dispossession of peasant and indigenous spaces in Mexico City worsens, so does the harassment. (…)
“In Guerrero, harassment persists” in neoliberalised spaces “against our brothers of the Indigenous and Popular Council of Guerrero Emiliano Zapata. (…) In the Valley of the Mexico basin, the neoliberal Santa Lucía megaproject and the imposition of the Tuxpan-Mexico highway have been carried out by paramilitaries on the cart on the Ecatepec-Peñón section. (…)
“In Oaxaca, the Chinantec territory of San Antonio de Las Palmas is being threatened by mining concessions that cover more than 15,000 hectares, as well as dam projects on the Cajonos River, in the Papaloapan basin. (…) In the south of Veracruz, the northern part of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, they intend to impose an interoceanic corridor, (…) leaving us without water, destroying nature and the fabric of peoples with violence and insecurity.”
The Río Mayo is additionally “being polluted by the open-pit mining company Cobre del Mayo, which dumps its toxic waste into the Abelardo L. Rodríguez dam, known as the Mocuzarit dam, threatening the collective life of the Mayo people. (…) The San Pedro River in the Nayeri territory is threatened by the ‘Las Cruces’ hydroelectric project, as well as the mega-mining of gold and silver in the community of Jazmín del Coquito, in the Los Arroyos ranch.”
In Yucatan, “in the context of the ongoing imposition of the so-called Mayan Train, our colleague Pedro Uc Be, from the Assembly in Defence of the Mayan Territory Muuch Xiinbal, was threatened with death.”
Antonino García, a research professor at the Autonomous University of Chapingo, has additionally “indicated that” the proposed “operation of 98 hydroelectric projects” in Chiapas alone “would not benefit the communities at all; on the contrary, their ecological consequences would be fatal.”
In the space of two months this year, “Mexico’s Indigenous movement (…) lost two of its most lucid and committed defenders of territory and of people’s rights, the Yaqui leader Tomás Rojo and the Tsotsil activist, Simón Pedro Pérez López. Their deaths have been part of a continuum of violence exerted upon their territories,” observes R. Aida Hernández Castillo, a researcher at CIESAS, “that have included forced displacement, disappearances, femicide, and the use of clandestine graves as part of a ‘pedagogy of terror’ practiced by armed actors who are members of organised crime, of paramilitary groups, with the direct or indirect participation of security forces.”
“Both the execution of Simón Pedro, member of the Association of Las Abejas de Acteal, and of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) on this past 5 July, and the forced disappearance and murder of Tomás Rojo one month before,” he notes, “were preceded by decades of repression and paramilitarisation in their communities, for which the Mexican state has direct responsibility.
“In the case of the Tsotsil leader, the Acteal Massacre, which occurred on December 22, 1997, was an antecedent that evidenced the state’s responsibility in the formation of paramilitary groups in the region. (…) In this [continuing structural] context, we denounce the existence of the militaristic transnational culture of death that crosses borders along with high-powered weapons, torture strategies and techniques of bodily mutilation. (…)
“Over this already complex framework, global narco-trafficking networks” – enabled substantially by the NAFTA neoliberal trade agreement and with full prior knowledge and support of ‘deep political’ US intelligence and global banking circles and networks (the subject of the next article in this series) – “have been set up. (…) The disappearance of Yaqui youth forcibly recruited by organised crime, and who often end up in clandestine graves, has also played a part in the territorial control strategies used by armed actors with direct or indirect support from security forces.”
Castillo concludes that, “throughout the country far and wide, organised crime linked to the global” – neoliberalised – “weapons industry has embedded itself in indigenous communities, physically or culturally kidnapping a generation of young people, whose bodies many times end up becoming markers of territorial control for the cartels. Faced with this politics of death, the indigenous resistances have mobilised to defend the territory,” oppose drug use and trafficking and drug cartel/paramilitary incursions into their territories, “and denounce genocide on a national and international scale.”
What is at stake: The potential destruction of autonomous societal formations and a Zapatista Revolution that holistically addresses femicidal concerns
The Zapatistas, in recent years – mirroring in some respects the initiatives of democratic confederalism and Jineology that have been practiced in Rojava and elsewhere – have committed themselves towards “dismantling patriarchy,” Hilary Klein concludes, which has “bec[o]me a goal of the movement in [and] of itself.” This has implications regarding keeping in check patriarchal systems that promote or see femicides as ‘acceptable’ or ‘necessary’ outcomes or ‘by products’ of a system needed to facilitate the neoliberal order of ‘development,’ counter-insurgency and the current unofficial ‘War on Drugs’ in Mexico.
The Zapatistas have been promoting a ‘living’ community based framework that does not see femicide as an acceptable ‘by product’ of the developmental process. The AMLO and MORENA ‘Fourth Transformation’ neoliberal modernisation development process now more than ever threatens to disrupt that societal way of living by imposing its ‘process/spatial impress’ over it.
Victoria Law, in her assessment of the movement, says “there’s still a lot of work to be done, and Zapatista women will tell you that too. They often frame their vision for women’s liberation in terms of the lives they want for their daughters and granddaughters. But uprooting patriarchy is not something that happens overnight. As women’s leadership shaped the movement, the EZLN has evolved a much more nuanced gender analysis and has looked for ways to really address patriarchy” which is at the root of so many femicidal processes in Mexico.
The Zapatistas, in recent years – mirroring in some respects the initiatives of democratic confederalism and Jineology that have been practiced in Rojava and elsewhere – have committed themselves towards “dismantling patriarchy,” Hilary Klein concludes.
“To me, this is the most important lesson that we can draw: Zapatista women – and their stories of courage and dignity – remind us that revolutionary struggles cannot achieve collective liberation for all people without addressing patriarchy, nor can women’s freedom be disentangled from racial, economic, and social justice,” Law concludes.
Women in the EZLN, asserts Miranda Willson, have “connected women’s struggles to the struggles of indigenous peoples and other historically marginalised groups in an increasingly globalised and corporatised world, working to achieve gender equality, economic justice and environmental justice all in conjunction. They” have “recognised that systems of oppression – racism, neocolonialism, environmental injustices and neoliberalism – are intrinsically linked. Furthermore, they” have “realised that many of these systems could be traced back to the white heteropatriarchy. Whether we are talking about feminism, environmentalism or globalisation of world markets, we need to be making these connections. (…)
“White heteropatriarchy continues to disregard the needs and rights of marginalised peoples. It has also led to the formation of trade agreements like NAFTA that have contributed to and justified these social and environmental injustices.”
As noted by Steven Volk and Marian Schlotterbeck in ‘Making a Killing: Femicide, Free Trade and La Frontera,’ in maquilas, where vulnerable women workers became a crucial component of the production site, “maquiladora industrialisation ultimately created a gendered and racialised political economy and shaped, [for example, Ciudad Juarez’s] geography in ways that facilitated, absorbed and perhaps promoted femicide. (…) The murders” of women, they concluded, “cannot simply be understood without recognising the specific ways that maquila development has shaped both the political and the sexual economy of the border. (…) The nature of [neoliberalised] maquiladora development increased the danger for all Juarese women [i.e., women from Ciudad Juarez] whose subaltern status could not remove them from harm’s way” of femicides.
Miranda Willson makes the point that “we cannot ignore how capitalism, racism, environmental injustices and the legacy of colonialism function in the fight to dismantle patriarchy. The Zapatista uprising and the EZLN philosophy, specifically the Revolutionary Law on Women, illustrate how patriarchy reinforces and strengthens other systems of oppression, and how we need to tackle these systems together.”
For Shirin Marie-Rose Hess, “undeniably, one of the key characteristics that shaped the movement was the ‘Women’s Revolutionary Law,’ passed by the Zapatista committees in 1992. For Sylvia Marcos, a sociologist and expert on indigenous movements across the Americas, the emphasis on women’s rights is a defining factor for the organisation. Furthermore, she indicates that these rights were claimed not solely for women as individuals, but were ‘fully linked and interwoven with collective rights.’
“The unique transformations achieved by the Zapatista indigenous movement are manifest in its attempt to re-imagine gender and decolonise oppressive discourse for the sake of personal empowerment. (…) Women in the ranks of the EZLN (…) comprise about a third of the organisation’s participants.”
Hilary Klein confirms that “women’s involvement in the EZLN helped shape the Zapatista movement” from the outset, “which, in turn, opened new spaces for women and led to dramatic changes in their lives. When the EZLN began organising in the rural villages of Chiapas, women there experienced an extraordinary level of violence and discrimination. But the Zapatista movement radically redefined gender roles in the context of the Zapatista movement, as women became guerrilla insurgents and political leaders, healers and educators, and members of economic cooperatives.
“The tremendous changes in women’s lives,” she reports, “have included public roles of leadership and participation in community affairs and the ability to choose their romantic partner and decide how many children to have. Women’s organising led to the banning of alcohol in Zapatista territories, which women credit with helping significantly reduce domestic violence.” In its evolution, Hilary Klein adds, EZNL has “developed a much more nuanced gender analysis.”
Grace Miller just over two months ago also significantly pointed out that “while Subcomandante Marcos was the revolution’s [initial] spokesperson, his main role befit his title, as he was second in-command. The true leaders of the revolution, the firsts in-command, were the Indigenous women of Chiapas, such as Comandante Ramona and Comandante Ana Maria. (…)
“Marcos himself described the Zapatista Women’s Revolutionary Laws as the uprising’s spark and continually referred to himself as a follower of his female leaders. These laws were the outcome of women’s internal political struggle within the Zapatista community,” Miller emphasizes, “and granted rights to women regarding marriage, children, work, health, education, political and military participation, and protected women from violence. (…) Indigenous feminists started and continue leading the ongoing revolution.”
Miller points out that “the Zapatista’s Women’s Revolutionary Laws were the beginning of the revolution: ‘[T]he first EZLN uprising happened in March of 1993, and was headed by the women. There were no casualties and they were victorious. Such are things in these lands’ (John Foran). Women then continued to comprise the fighting force of the Zapatistas. After the 12-day onslaught of the Mexican Army during the initial stages of the revolution, women returned to their villages first, often sending men into hiding. They became the first line of confrontation with the army after hundreds of their people had been murdered in the streets.”
Miller adds that “they reclaimed their villages and continued to use autonomy as a practice of decolonisation. After violence dissipated and the Mexican government agreed to meet with the Zapatista’s, it was women who led these meetings. While she was dying of cancer, Comandante Ramona participated in the peace dialogue at the San Andres accords. The women of Chiapas used the practice of autonomy to fight for social and political change throughout their own communities and Mexico.”
“What has emerged as a result of the Zapatista women’s collective dissent and action on the terrain of social reproduction,” L. Gahman asserts, “is their ability to question, to speak, to make choices about family life, to claim respect, to live free from abuse and scorn, to demand their partners be co-responsible for domestic tasks and childcare, to work and receive fair pay, and to participate in governance regarding decisions being taken about political organising, community matters, and public events (EZLN 2018, Sierra 2001).” Such actions collectively and actively confront patriarchal and femicidal behaviour.
“And while they modestly admit to still having a ‘long way to go’ in terms of wholly toppling masculinist supremacy and machismo, it is conceivable to say that the gains they have made ‘in the face of the capitalist hydra’ towards (re)valuing reproductive work and effecting gender just structural change, as well as advancing both women’s collective empowerment and emancipation, are not only amongst the world’s most evolved – but effective,” reports Gahman.
“They have placed women,” Gahman concludes, “at the centre of their movement and have revalued social reproduction due to the recognition that colonial-capitalist modernity” – in its neoliberal phase – “has not only disproportionately targeted women, but also has dismissed and devalued work that reproduces society, which women were typically tasked with. (…) Notably, rebel Indigenous women, and the socially reproductive labour and care-work they do each day, are at the heart of both the movement, as well as the life-giving world they are creating.”
The Zapatistas ‘Gathering of Women’ and the ‘Other Campaign’ to address ‘feminicidio’
Last year, Michelle Janikian reports, the Zapatistas organised the ‘Mujeres Encuentro’ (‘Gathering of Women’) which “focused exclusively on women’s issues in Mexico, Latin America, and around the world.” The theme of the summit that she attended “was ‘feminicidio,’ Spanish for femicide, or the murder of women based on their gender. Although a huge problem worldwide, Latin American women have been in particular jeopardy. For instance, the UN has declared Mexico as one of the most violent countries in the world for women because not only are about 10 women murdered per day, but women are also killed in a more violent fashion than men, and their deaths are solved less than 10 percent of the time. (…)
“‘All over the world women are still being murdered, disappeared, abused, and disrespected,’ state[d] the Zapatista communiqué announcing the women’s summit. (…) ‘The number of women raped, disappeared, and murdered keeps rising. We as Zapatistas see this situation as very serious, and that is why we organised this second gathering around one theme only: violence against women.’ The communiqué,” Janikian clarifies, was “written by one of the many Zapatista leaders, Comandanta Amada. (…)
“The Zapatistas voted to ban drugs” – alongside drug trafficking, a cause of so much femicidal violence in ‘War on Drugs’/‘drug/resource war’ related contexts in Mexico – “over 20 years ago – including cannabis and alcohol – as a way to prevent violence and illness in their communities” and to clarify that they do not support the violent, imposing military, paramilitary, cartel and state linked structures and networks that promote and facilitate so many deaths and disappearances.
‘The Gathering of Women’ event has followed years of self-reflection and mobilisation by Zapatista communities with like-minded groups, communities, regional, national and international networks (inclusive of Kurdish activists and Rojavan revolutionaries) that have sought to share experiences and views with an aim towards implementing value-based community systems that practically confront and end femicidal and other forms of violence.
The Zapatistas, for example, as noted by Roxanne Rozo-Marsh in ‘Comandantas and Caracoles: The Role of Women in the Life and Legacy of the Zapatista Movement,’ on 1 January 2006 launched the ‘Other Campaign.’ “Central to its goal of listening to the plight of marginalised peoples throughout Mexico was the idea of creating ‘un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos,’ or ‘a world where many worlds fit.’
“For that reason, the Other Campaign was focused not just on combatting the ills of capitalism and neoliberalism but also on doing so from an inclusive, heterogenous perspective. (…) It attracted a diverse range of individuals and community-based organisations and because of this unifying (and therefore threatening) message, it also became a target for police violence.”
Rozo-Marsh notes that “policemen and those who deployed them saw these acts of resistance as a threat to the neoliberal order and therefore used imprisonment and physically violent tactics to attack the campaign and its base. This culminated in a particularly violent incident in San Salvador Atenco. (…) On 3 May 2006, a protest organised by Atenco flower vendors and allied protestors affiliated with the Other Campaign was met with extreme force which resulted in the murder of two protesters and the violent arrests of many more wherein dozens of women were raped by state and federal police. (…)
“From human rights activists in Morelos to Comandanta Hortensia and Comandanta Kely in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, female participants in the Other Campaign discussed not only the injustices women faced but also the systemic” and often linked “changes needed to combat said injustices. In a similar vein to the aforementioned feminist theory, they saw connections between individual instances of oppression and overarching, systemic power structures (e.g. capitalism, neoliberalism) that subjugate women and other marginalised populations. For Zapatista and aligned movements, the liberation of women in the public and private sphere” – and stringent opposition to femicidal behaviour – “is an intrinsic part of the fight for the liberation of all oppressed peoples.”
The Rojava and Zapatista revolutions
Márgara Millán, a sociologist and social anthropologist, professor at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at UNAM and member of the Network of Decolonial Feminisms and the research group Prefiguraciones de lo Político, noted in 2019 – into the AMLO Presidency and MORENA governance period – that “what is novel about the current moment is the confluence of two processes: on the one hand, the diffusion of feminism among a new generation of women, especially borne of confrontations with gendered violence (in the streets, at work, in the academy) and feminicide which has created a generation of warriors who are rediscovering forms of collectivity by taking care of one another, studying self-defence, feminising their social environments, and for whom autonomy plays a vital role.
“A second process concerns the decolonisation of (neo)liberal feminism” in Mexico, “which began with the impact of the Zapatista movement and the uprising of 1994,” which began as the neoliberal NAFTA free trade agreement came into effect.
Neven and Schäfers add: “Referring to women as ‘the first colony,’ Öcalan argues that the nation-state, monotheistic religions and capitalism all constitute different institutionalised forms of the dominant male.
“Both processes,” she observed, “have linked up and have spread: for example, the demonstration on 8 March this year included a contingent of urban indigenous Otomí women, and, conversely, urban youth of many states attended convergences in rural areas convened by Zapatista women and women of the Indigenous National Congress (or the CNI).
“Zapatismo, and in particular the words of Zapatista women, have influenced feminism and women’s movements in Mexico, confronting them with their own colonial, even racist, view of indigenous and peasant women struggling in defence of their rights, territories and autonomies, and subjugated by the current Mexican government” engaged in its ‘Fourth Transformation.’ “Zapatismo has been a movement with a ‘gender agenda’ since its inception,” she clarified.
Márgara Millán responded to the following questions, “What is the significance of this shift in the meanings of women’s struggle? How is the scope of contemporary feminism being widened, and its radicalism deepened?” by drawing attention to the nature and intervention of the Zapatistas in the following manner in 2019: “Any account of these changes must begin with a consideration of the deepening crisis of capitalist modernity, both its forms of reproduction which today threaten all life as well as its forms of political management and decision-making” – even during the AMLO presidency – “which are incapable of halting the destructive action of global capital. Women today appear to be suspended at the margins of a system that systemically negates them, located in a particular way in relation to the violence exercised by capitalism and patriarchy in times of crisis.”
Like the autonomous experiment in Rojava/AANES in North and East Syria in several respects, “the Zapatistas are working towards constructing what they refer to as ‘Un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos’ (‘A world where many worlds fit’) by emphasizing the dignity of ‘others,’ belonging, and common struggle, as well as the importance of laughter, dancing, and nourishing children. What has emerged as a result of their rebellion is a concept often referred to as Zapatismo. For the Zapatistas, Zapatismo can neither be defined, nor captured in the language offered by modernity.
“Despite its elusive nature, Zapatismo is often described as an ‘intuition’ rooted in dignity that is felt in the chest and compels one to say ‘Enough’ in the face of injustice and the suffering of others. (…) The Zapatistas are also careful to stress Zapatismo does not seek power, is not a model or doctrine, and should never be imposed, but rather, is flexible and changes across geographies. Even given the enigmatic essence of Zapatismo, it does remain the driving force behind the Zapatistas’ everyday struggle.”
The “objective is to create – with, by, and for the communities – organisations of resistance that are at once connected, coordinated and self-governing, which enable them to improve their capacity to make a different world possible. At the same time, the project postulates that, as far as possible, the communities and the peoples should immediately put into practice the alternative life that they seek, in order to gain experience. They should not wait until they have more power to do this. The project, moreover, is not built on the logic of ‘state power’ which entrapped previous revolutionary or reformist groups, leaving the main protagonist (…) bereft of autonomy. Nor is it built on the logic of creating a society without power.”
The Kilombo Women’s Delegation concluded in June 2018 that: “We think that in the Zapatista framework there is an understanding of patriarchy not as a women’s issue or a men’s issue, or even primarily as a gender issue, but rather as a systemic form of domination and inequality” – evident in the neoliberal phase – “that structures all social relations and licenses the domination of men over women, but also of men over other men and women over other women. Here, we think it is important to note the parallels between the way that the Zapatista women understand women’s struggle and the struggle of Kurdish women within the Kurdish freedom movement.
“In these frameworks, we can see that excising systemic problems as women’s issues is merely a marginalisation of the issues that marginalise women. The fact that patriarchy teaches men that their self-worth is tied up in their ability to exercise (and inevitably experience) domination certainly damages women but also debilitates men and society as a whole, corroding from the outset one’s external ability to create relationships of non-domination and one’s internal ability to participate in a project of thinking and organising with others.”
In Rojava, in arguably a similar manner to the situation experienced in Zapatista territories, Dilar Dirik observes that “radical democracy” is centred around “consciousness raising”: “The Kurdish freedom movement’s notion of democracy does not refer to a mechanical application of a set of formal measures and standards. The revolutionary activities in different spheres of life are seen as crucial sites of organising a new, liberated mentality with which authoritarianism, centralism, sectarianism, patriarchy and nationalistic chauvinism” – which all significantly contribute to femicides – “will be overcome.
“Democracy is thus understood as a mentality, an attitude towards the right to exist and let exist, a practice to enable what activists often call a ‘more just, right, and beautiful life’” which does not entertain the notion of femicides, forced disappearances and other forms of killings as being ‘necessary by products’ of societal development that have to be accepted (as is the case that applies for neoliberal development programmes that have been advanced over the past few decades in Mexico, as Parts 1 and 2 of this series highlight). “In this sense, radical democratic citizenship is meaningful and enabled to the extent to which the ‘slow revolution’ within society advances, opening new possibilities for people to articulate political will beyond rituals like voting,” notes Dilar Dirik.
According to Brecht Neven and Marlene Schäfers, “the movement now draws upon the theory and praxis of feminism, social ecology and libertarian municipalism to transcend the state. Instead of centralising power, it seeks to re-allocate it to the grassroots through horizontal forms of representation. (…) The Kurdish movement has clearly articulated its aspirations for a post-capitalist and post-state society and has begun to implement these ideas in the Kurdish autonomous regions of Rojava, in northern [and Eastern] Syria.
“The struggle for gender equality,” they note – as with the situation concerning the Zapatistas and EZNL – “stands at the heart of the Kurdish movement’s vision for a just society. Locating the historical root of social, economic and cultural oppression and injustice in the emergence of gender hierarchies in the Neolithic era, Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader and chief theorist of the Kurdish movement, proposes a direct relation between gender hierarchies and state formation.”
Neven and Schäfers add: “Referring to women as ‘the first colony,’ Öcalan argues that the nation-state, monotheistic religions and capitalism all constitute different institutionalised forms of the dominant male. Fighting patriarchal social structures – or, in Öcalan’s words, ‘killing the dominant male’ – consequently becomes an imperative in the struggle for a society that will transcend the oppressive structures of the capitalist nation-state.
“Within this struggle, the Kurdish paradigm stresses the importance of an enduring transformation of both social and personal mentalities. (…) The liberation of women takes on a pivotal role both for theoretical reflection on social reality and for practical efforts undertaken towards radically changing that reality. The movement asserts that for the social struggle to be successful, it is vital to fully comprehend the links between capitalist, statist and gender oppression. Taking into account insights from both anti-colonial and anti-capitalist resistance movements of the twentieth century, the understanding of struggle itself,” Neven and Schäfers conclude, “is thus fundamentally reformulated.
“In Rojava and in Zapatista Chiapas,” Romero concludes that “emancipatory alternatives of a new kind are being built. (…) A new history is being built and we must learn to listen to it.”
“Jineology, a framework of radical feminist analysis that the Kurdish movement has been developing since 2008, tries to transfer the advancements of the Kurdish women’s movement into society. (…) As a liberatory framework emerging from the Kurdish movement,” they observe that “Jineology places women at the centre of the struggle against patriarchy, capitalism and the state.”
As Necîbe Qeredaxî, a journalist, advocate for Kurdish rights and founding member of a research centre for Jineology in Brussels has noted: “With the help of Jineology, we seek to enter into the depths of history and search for the point where women were made to disappear, in order to do things differently.”
For Raúl Romero, “the theoretical and political solidity that the Kurdish revolution has achieved is reflected in the recognition of its peers in other parts of the world. It is with the EZLN and the Zapatista women with whom they have established a fraternal dialogue.”
Apart from a most recent meeting in Frankfurt in September and other meetings in Mexico with Rojavan activists, “in December 2019, word from the women of Rojava arrived in Zapatista territory to the footsteps of the Comandanta Ramona seedbed, where the Second International Gathering of Women who Struggle was held: ‘Today we would have wanted to be together with the Zapatista women in the gathering of women that was held there, but it is clear that in our situation and with the attacks on our people, this has not been possible. But we can say that our hearts are there and with all of the women in struggle for their liberty and that of their people. Because we are fighting against every type of occupation imposed on the people, on all kinds of slavery imposed on women. And we are together in the struggle.’
“In Rojava and in Zapatista Chiapas,” Romero concludes that “emancipatory alternatives of a new kind are being built. (…) A new history is being built and we must learn to listen to it.”
The Zapatista revolution, a ‘feminist practice in itself’ vs ‘Gynocide’ and the ‘cult of death’
For Miller, then, “the manner in which Zapatista women have both founded and nurtured the revolution is a feminist practice in itself. (…) The indigenous Chiapans” have “specifically focus[ed] on political exclusion, cultural discrimination, and antiracist policies by analysing how women are treated in relation to men, working to remove barriers that cause the degradation of life for all people,” but also where femicidal concerns are addressed and confronted in a particular and much wider sense. “The idea of gender equality is prevalent throughout the EZLN uprising,” she concludes.
With AMLO’s neoliberal ‘sustainable development,’ ‘counter-insurgency’ and militarised/paramilitarised as well as ‘War on Drugs’ (albeit unstated officially) strategies in place (for further details, see Part 2 of this series) – aimed at actually imposing mega-developments in Mexico in the name of the ‘Fourth Transformation,’ which necessarily are aimed at conflicting with and destroying the anti-neoliberal aims and gains of the autonomous Zapatista movement – the advances of the Zapatista movement in preventing femicides and wider killings and human rights violations are significantly threatened.
One may argue that the anti-patriarchal EZNL mobilisations and Zapatista movements, where “Zapatista women have both founded and nurtured the revolution” as “a feminist practice in itself,” will necessarily be targeted for destruction by wider ‘gynocidal’ actions that form part of the process of neoliberalisation, which in many ways demands that women have to be ‘sacrificed’ via femicides to secure globalised financial profits.
Jane Caputi, in ‘Making a Killing: Femicide, Free Trade and La Frontera,’ observes that “gynocide appears in myriad forms, most obviously in the systematic rape and slaughter of women, but also in the rape and murder of gender-variant men who are identified as ‘feminine’ by their male attackers. Gynocide also is an underlying factor in attacks on all that patriarchal civilisations stigmatise as inferior and ‘feminine’ – including whole peoples deemed ‘dirty,’ ‘savage’ and ‘closer to nature’” – as well as autonomous collectives of people such as the Zapatistas and linked self-defensive formations that place the ‘feminine’ and ‘anti-patriarchy’ at the heart of their value systems, I might add – “and of course, non-human Nature itself.”
Many advocates of NAFTA/ NAFTA 2.0 and the linked ‘War on Drugs’/‘drug wars’ (which still are being waged, albeit unofficially) and ‘resource extractive wars’ that use paramilitary forces and drug cartels to facilitate the plans of ‘deep state’ entities and networks, would appear to be “steeped in patriarchal perspectives” of the kind identified by Caputi, where they “have come to believe that rape, murder, violence and warfare are the inevitable expressions of ‘human nature.’”
In this context, Gilberto López y Rivas has troublingly concluded that “one of the characteristics of the current [AMLO] government of the Fourth Transformation (4T) is to neither listen to, much less attend to the serious allegations related to the reactivation of paramilitary groups in Chiapas. (…) In addition to this provocation, several groups (…) once again have carried out all kinds of aggression in various regions of Chiapas. (…)
“The attack of 22 August [last year] against the Zapatista support bases forms part of a continuous strategy of counterinsurgency carried out by previous governments against the Zapatista Mayas. (…) In this type of war, the role of paramilitary groups is fundamental” and part of the ‘deep state’ linked ‘transformational’ process that is being aggressively pursued (albeit in the name of an ‘anti-neoliberal’ process where an unofficial ‘War on Drugs’ and ‘resource war’ takes place).
Here, Rivas asserts that “paramilitary groups are illegal and unpunishable because it is convenient for the interests of the State. That which is paramilitary consists, then, of the illegal and unpunishable exercise of State violence, and the covering up of the origins of this violence. As in previous governments, which were openly neoliberal and counter-insurgent, the Fourth Transformation continues saturating the so-called ‘theatre of war.’
“Zósimo Camacho maintains that, today, the greatest number of active military personnel can be found in Chiapas, which are, to use a metaphor, the anvil that maintains the security fence around the zone of conflict (…) while the paramilitary groups, continuing the metaphor, are the hammer that strikes the people with actions like those of 22 August [last year], trying to introduce terror, creating conditions of expulsion and displacement of indigenous communities, joining up with civil authorities, both military and police, to pinpoint the internal enemy that refuses to follow the logic of [neoliberal] capital, with its little mirrors of progress, development and precarious employment.”
Rivas argues that, “jointly with the actions of the paramilitary groups, the campaign on social networks and communication media has intensified against the Zapatista Mayas, with grotesque infusions” and falsehoods – used to justify a targeted and paramilitarised counterinsurgency-linked and staged ‘war on drugs’ against the EZLN and the Zapatistas – “like that the territory of the EZLN is controlled by a drug trafficking cartel, that supplies high-powered weapons to the insurgent group, the same that are rigorously analysed with information and refuted in depth by Luis Hernández Navarro in an interview that Ernesto Ledesma Arronte carried out on his programme RompeVientoTV.
“Unfortunately,” notes Rivas, “and in unison with this campaign, a very worrisome statement [was issued] from the head of the federal executive branch (…) on 28 August [last year], in which he tried to stigmatise and criminalise the work of advocates and defenders of human rights, journalists, academics and representatives of the indigenous communities in opposition to the so-called Maya Train, one of the signature megaprojects of the developmentalist territorial reorganisation, which the Zapatista Mayas also confront.
“With this declaration, the government of the Fourth Transformation jumped aboard the old counterinsurgency train of its predecessors,” Rivas concludes, a counterinsurgency train that has, in the past, clearly and horrifically contributed to femicides, disappearances, massacres, murders of men, mass graves, forced displacement and terror.
The Fourth Transformation “strategy of the Andrés Manuel López Obrador Government is completed,” Raúl Zibechi concludes, “with the installation of new National Guard camps and bases on the Ocosingo region, which goes hand in hand with the reactivation of armed groups like the ORCAO that act like paramilitaries.”
Just over a week ago, a communiqué in the name of the of the Revolutionary Indigenous Clandestine Committee – General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, read by Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano, urgently appealed to supporters throughout the world to protest before Mexican embassies and consulates around the world on 24 September because of the provocative regional and national state actions that were promoting conflict in Chiapas.
The Chiapas government under the Governor Rutilio Escandón, it stated, “is doing everything possible to destabilise the Mexican southeastern state of Chiapas: It indulges in violent repression of rural Normalistas (teachers college students). It sabotages the agreements made between the democratic teachers and the federal government, forcing the teachers to mobilise radically so that the agreements are fulfilled.
“Its alliances with drug trafficking incite the indigenous communities to form self-defence groups, because the government does nothing to protect life, liberty and property of the inhabitants. The government of Chiapas not only conceals groups of drug traffickers, it also encourages, promotes and finances paramilitary groups like those that are continuously attacking Aldama and Santa Martha. (…)
“Its officials are stealing all they can from the state budget. Maybe they are preparing for a collapse of the federal government and betting on a change of the party in power. Just now it tried to sabotage the departure of the Zapatista delegation that is participating in the Journey for Life, European Chapter” – which was scheduled to meet, amongst others, women activists from the Association of Women from Kurdistan in Germany (YJK-E), the Amara Women’s Assembly and Women Defend Rojava in Germany – “ordering the kidnapping of our compañeros by ORCAO paramilitaries, letting the crime go unpunished, and trying to provoke a reaction from the EZLN with the aim of destabilizing a state whose governability hangs by a thread. (…)
“The Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (PVEM) (…) is one of the names that the old PRI uses in these lands. Sometimes it’s the PAN, sometimes it’s the PRD, but now it’s the PVEM. (…) They are the same criminals as before and now they are part of the poorly named ‘opposition’ movement, like the ‘Fifth Column’ in the 4T. (…) We call on the Europe of below and to the left, and on the National and International Sixth to demonstrate in front of the embassies and consulates of Mexico, and in the houses of the Chiapas state government, to demand that they stop right now with their provocations and abandon the cult of death that they preach.”
The current situation is perilous, concludes Luis Hernández Navarro, a journalist and the opinion editor of La Jornada in Mexico City, whose past investigative journalism into ‘deep politics’ reportedly ensured he “was selected for surveillance with the Pegasus spyware in August 2016”: “It’s still an irony that the” AMLO/MORENA government aggressively promoting its “Fourth Transformation (4T) wants to impel its project of transformation with the support of a political class so close to the most rancid local oligarchy. Notwithstanding the importance that it has for the government, Chiapas is, as the EZLN points out, on the brink of civil war.
“In the midst of the strife above, the exacerbation of narco-paramilitary violence and the tenacious indigenous, campesino and teacher resistance against the dispossession and for autonomy, the hour of hell is announced in the southeast, so feared by all. Whoever doubts it, let them take a look at the experience of the El Machete indigenous self-defence group of the inhabitants of Pantelhó.”
Neoliberal megaprojects and a lack of informed consent
In promoting these ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’ neoliberal megaprojects, it would seem that state promoters haven’t even been concerned with initiating meaningful public discussions or consultations regarding how they can and will be promoted with safeguards in place to ensure that disappearances, femicides, other forms of killings, massacres, intimidation and forced displacements at the point of a gun can be minimised as these ‘sustainable and green developments’ proceed.
Indeed, the nature of the so-called ‘public consultations’ reveals that a development paradigm is being promoted where people who stand to be most affected by the neoliberal projects are not even provided with the most basic information about the projects. There is clearly no sense in which planners and promoters such as AMLO and MORENA at the outset have sought to reassure people of meaningful measures in place to ensure that there will not be a replication of militarisation/paramilitarisation and linked cartel driven violence of the kind that has accompanied past neoliberal extractivist/infrastructure initiatives.
In terms of the top-down and publicly unaccountable manner in which the Maya Train megaproject, for example, is being forced through without informed consent and in a ‘deep political’ fashion, it was revealed in February this year that the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (Fonatur) scandalously “started the Maya Train project in 2019 without having” even “determined its social feasibility and without having a diagnosis that anticipates the possible effects and social risks” – inclusive of risks in creating political, militarised, paramilitarised and corrupt environments and social settings that stimulate, protect or ‘normalise’ femicides, other types of killings and disappearances and forced displacements – “that its construction and operation would cause, according to the Superior Auditor of the Federation (ASF, its initials in Spanish).
“In the 2019 Report of the Result of the Superior Audit of the Public Account, it states that the agency carried out seven audits of the Maya Train, in which after reviewing the exercise of more than 1.1 billion pesos, it concludes, among other points, that the destination of 156 million pesos, related to unjustified payments and contract awards must be clarified. (…) In its reviews,” Enrique Mendez and Arturo Sánchez Jiménez further confirm, “the Auditor found that Fonatur ‘initiated administrative measures before consulting the indigenous population, since it did not inform them about the effects and risks, did not foresee care for the population that would be affected, in the social ambit, for its development.’ (…) To the auditing agency, in 2019, Fonatur” outrageously even “lacked the studies to determine the project’s social feasibility because it didn’t have the definite route of the Maya Train, nor of the location of the development poles along its route.” But these are clearly not issues of concern to the promoters and backers of the megaprojects.
On 15 November 2019, Fonatur reportedly “announced it would carry out information sessions at the end of the month, and on 15 December” – just two weeks later – “it organised a vote ‘for’ or ‘against’ the project in 15 Indigenous communities in the peninsula. This vote” disturbingly and scandalously “took place before communities had access to basic information about the plan, such as the train’s route, the location of stations, and other development associated with the project.
“‘It all happened so fast. It overwhelmed us,’ said Sara López, who is part of the Regional Indigenous and Popular Council of Xpujil (CRIPX), which is part of Mexico’s National Indigenous Congress (NIC). ‘It wasn’t prior consultation, nor was it free, nor was it in good faith. It wasn’t adequate. The people were not properly informed,’ she said. (…)
“On 15 December, the day of the vote, the ballot asked the following question: ‘Are you in agreement with the construction of the Integral Project of the Tren Maya?’ In small print above the question, voters were asked to turn over the ballot and read the text on the other side, which reiterated the promise of jobs, connectivity, and sustainable development if the train is built. It was in these conditions that 92.3% of voters cast ballots in favour of the train. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR), which was invited to observe the consultation process, found the vote did not meet international standards, as only positive information about the project was available to community members beforehand.”
Moreover, according to Sergio Prieto, professor at Ecosur in Campeche, southern Mexico, AMLO’s and MORENA’s “combination of megaprojects and infrastructure, when we lay them out on a map, (…) are de facto elements of a ‘migrant barrier’ which respond to the geopolitical interests of the United States.”
None of these substantive matters appear to have been of sufficient concern to AMLO and MORENA in their rush to impose these projects: “This finding by the Auditing agency clearly gives indigenous communities that oppose the Maya Train support for legal actions against the train’s construction. AMLO is angry and wants one of the auditors removed,” Mendez and Sánchez Jiménez reported.
Frayba: ‘The Mexican State maintains the logic of war with militarised structures, without respect for the human rights of the population’
Hermann Bellinghausen raises the following human rights concerns: “Governments may change, but the counterinsurgency war against the people in Chiapas is ongoing; and judging by the events of recent months in the mountains of Maya territories, in 2020, it worsened on a scale not seen for years. (…)
“The great militarisation continues around and within the Indigenous communities, as the profound demands for self-determination that gave rise to the Zapatista uprising (…) remain unfulfilled. The legitimate autonomy of the autonomous Zapatista municipalities” – which seeks to promote notions of self-defence and which addresses issues of gender equality, femicidal and anti-patriarchal concerns alongside initiatives that are opposed to a ‘War on Drugs/drug-resource wars’ in the region – “is neither recognised nor respected; in the same vein, extractive activities, agro-industry, infrastructure and tourism projects move forward in spite of the indigenous communities, rebellious or not, in the Highlands, the northern zone, the Lacandón Jungle and the border region of the Jungle.
In the current juncture in which femicides and killings continue in Mexico at a relentless pace, where at least 10 women a day are said to be subjected to femicide, the analyses and warnings presented in the late-1990s by the then spokesperson for the EZLN, Subcomandante Marcos, cannot afford to be ignored.
“What has been seen in recent months,” for Bellinghausen, “confirms that the same counterinsurgency manuals of a quarter a century ago” – which clearly created an ‘acceptable’ and ‘normalised’ political and militarised environment and space for governments in which paramilitaries and state linked forces could torture, effect ‘disappearances’ and killings, inclusive of femicides – “are still being applied (with some adjustments for the local context) that the Pentagon generated for its war in Vietnam and against the Guatemalan revolution: ‘winning hearts and minds’ and establishing local armed groups that erode and combat popular resistance.”
Bellinghausen contends that “new-old forms of co-optation, divisionism, control and chaos are deployed across the territory. (…) Paramilitary groups born during the Zedillo administration” exist even as “the perpetrators of the Acteal massacre are in force among the new armed forces.”
In this context, “in military terms, in Chiapas, the same powers of the supreme government continue, be it the PRI, PAN, PRD or MORENA. (…) The Lopez Obrador regime repeats and even escalates the discursive hostility against the civil and human rights organisations that take evidence from the people who are persecuted, violated or in resistance. At this point in the century, we are also talking about defenders of territory and the environment, of the political rights of the original peoples to be guardians of their own security and to exercise community self-government. (…)
“Meanwhile, the federal government establishes friendly agreements with some victims of the past and presents them as the core of its policy of détente, without the Armed Forces assuming any historical responsibility. Meanwhile, violence is repeated, and their alliance with the caciques (political-economic bosses) of Chenalhó is not very different from the one famously maintained by Zedillo and General Mario Renán Castillo, insofar as militarisation is maintained. For the displaced Indigenous people, the political parties just change their names.”
In March this year, the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba) also publicly concluded that “the Mexican State maintains the logic of war with militarised structures, without respect for the human rights of the population. Starting in 2019, with the creation of the National Guard and with the 2020 presidential agreement, public security is in the hands of the Armed Forces permanently. Therefore, Frayba urges the Mexican State to suspend the militarised national security model, as well as to prevent crimes committed” – in all their manifestations – “by members of the Armed Forces and to stop their impunity. We urge guaranteeing the collective rights of the Native Peoples to autonomy, territory and self-determination.”
“Resistance, legitimate as it is” in needing to confront and reject structural violence of this kind that many would argue necessarily feeds into and stimulates and ‘normalises’ femicidal violence, thus “continues to be illegitimate for the Mexican State, which consequently does not accept any real autonomy, despite the fact that there are even international standards.
“Self-determination, appropriate forms of justice, government, education and health are anathema to the imaginary Mexico (as Guillermo Bonfil said), today represented by the dominant capitalist classes and a personalist and centralist government. (…)
“As in all wars, even the ‘soft’ ones,” Bellinghausen concludes that “the State only thinks about the defeat of its enemy. That here would be ‘internal,’ but it is not even recognised as an enemy. The Zapatistas and the National Indigenous Congress” – opposed to patriarchal structures and linked neoliberal frameworks of development and ‘deep politics’ – “have spoken of a prolonged ‘war of extermination [against them],’ which happens, as revealed by the management of mining and tourism concessions, and of the six-year mega-projects that the government imposes. (…) Yes, they are good business for the investors and would create ‘sources of work’ that would de-populate the land; that is, they would be instrumental in the dispossession and at the expense of the original peoples, the owners of these lands.”
EZNL: ‘The flyovers of military planes and helicopters, as well as artillery vehicles have reappeared’
The EZNL explicitly warned of the following intimidation that resisting Indigenous peoples faced as early as April 2019, several months into AMLO’s presidential period: “In our mountains and valleys, the presence of the military, police, paramilitary, and spies, ears and informants has increased. The flyovers of military planes and helicopters, as well as artillery vehicles have reappeared, like in the times of Carlos Salinas de Gortari; of Ernesto Zedillo, political tutor of the current head of the Executive Power; of Vicente Fox after the betrayal of the San Andrés Accords; of the psychopath Felipe Calderón, and the tie and cigar thief Enrique Peña Nieto. The same, but now with more frequency and greater aggressiveness. (…)
“Now, additionally, members of the Federal Army and Air Force go into the mountains and appear in the communities saying that ‘war is coming’ and that they are just waiting for orders from the ‘very top.’ (…) The reality is that the current bad government is just like the previous ones, only it uses a different justification: today the persecution, harassment, and attacks on our communities are ‘for the good of all’ and are carried out under the flag of the ‘Fourth Transformation.’”
But “what is currently happening in these Chiapan lands,” the EZNL asserted, “is just more of the same, the same things we have been subjected to over the past 25 years. (…) There was no ‘right to respond’ for Samir Flores Soberanes” who was murdered by mercenaries to please the head of the armed forces, the EZLN contended, “nor will there be such a right for the peoples resisting the death project that is the ‘Morelos Integral Project,’ a megaproject whose only purpose is profit for big capitalists based in Italy and Spain, the latter of which has been asked to seek forgiveness for the conquest it began 500 years ago and which the bad government [in Mexico] continues today.”
IRCC and the General Command of the EZLN: ‘The criminal logic of the murder of women is that of the system, escalating in predictable fashion’
In a femicidal ‘developmental’ context, a ‘Communiqué from the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee and General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army’ has pointed to “the oppression of a system” that is being facilitated by the current government “that will do anything to satisfy its thirst for profit, even when its path is in direct contradiction to the existence of planet Earth. This abomination of a system and its stupid defence of ‘progress’ and ‘modernity’ crash into the wall of their own criminal reality: femicides …
“The criminal logic of the murder of women is that of the system, escalating in predictable fashion (harassment, physical violence, mutilation, and murder) and backed by structural impunity. (…) The outrageous statistics say it all. (…)
“Civilisation” of this kind “seems to be telling the Native peoples: ‘the proof of your underdevelopment is evident in your low rate of femicides. Here you go, here are your megaprojects, your trains, your thermoelectric plants, your mines, your dams, your shopping centres, your home electronics stores – television channel included. Learn to consume. Be like us.”
The message from the current government, the communique notes, is to engage within the context of the new megadevelopments being promoted in the neoliberalised system and to ‘accept’ the necessary sacrifices of women: “To pay back the debt of this ‘progressive’ aid we’re offering, your lands, waters, cultures, and dignity won’t quite be enough – you’re going to have to throw in the lives of women.’ (…) They are reviving fascist nationalisms, ridiculous chauvinisms and a deafening torrent of meaningless blather. We are sounding the alarm about the coming wars fed by false, empty, deceptive histories that translate nationalities and races into supremacies that will be imposed with death and destruction. (…)
“The hidden genocides behind the megaprojects, conceived and carried out to please the most powerful player, capitalism, (…) wreaks punishment on all corners of the world; the pay-outs to and impunity for the paramilitaries; the buying off of peoples’ consciences and dignity with 30 pieces of silver.”
In the current juncture in which femicides and killings continue in Mexico at a relentless pace, where at least 10 women a day are said to be subjected to femicide, the analyses and warnings presented in the late-1990s by the then spokesperson for the EZLN, Subcomandante Marcos, cannot afford to be ignored, Romero warns: “He characterised neoliberalism as ‘a new war for the conquest of territories,’ a war in which there is a process of ‘destruction/depopulation and reconstruction/reordering,’ a ‘total war,’ in other words, it occurs ‘at any time, in any place, under any circumstance.’ It’s a war against humanity in which ‘everything human that opposes the logic of the market is an enemy and must be destroyed.’”
“In that war against humanity,” Raúl Romero notes that “the peoples who inhabit the territories” – and the Indigenous anti-patriarchal and anti-femicidal autonomous movements, led by women, mobilising against this ‘war against humanity’ – “that capital seeks to conquer and reorder are the first enemies. They hinder the process of the financialisation of nature and of the construction and integration of new commercial regions. For those territories to have ‘value’ in the market, they must first be destroyed and de-populated, either with paramilitaries, organised crime groups, or directly with state forces.”
Here, “the elimination” envisaged and being undertaken, he observes, “also implies destroying worlds of life; in other words, erasing the ways of being of the peoples, above all, breaking their nexus with the land and their being a community,” especially one that seeks to be anti-patriarchal and autonomous in orientation.
“Simultaneously, the process of reordering and reconstruction of those territories” in the present “occurs to make them functional to the logic of the market,” driven by “capitalist modernity” and the logic of neoliberalism.
Concerns over femicides remain marginal in this context. Here, what one re-experiences, Romero notes, are “ecocidal and colonialist projects. (…) In the new war of conquest, organisations of Native peoples, like the CNI” that critique this development paradigm, will necessarily become “a constant target of attacks. (…) The same thing happens with the EZLN and its bases of support” that advance anti-patriarchal, anti-femicidal, anti-neoliberal values as part of their community values.
‘We are attacked so consistently that it would seem to be good business for the system’
It has been in this type of neoliberal developmental-genocidal/ecocidal context, where femicides and other forms of killings, massacres, terror and disappearances occur, that the Fifth National Assembly in Mexico concluded that “we are dealing with an unprecedented global and civilisational crisis that requires all of humanity to destroy the current capitalist and patriarchal system responsible for the destruction of nature and based on the increasing exploitation and dispossession of millions and millions of human beings. A system that relies on organised crime, wars, epidemics and pandemics to generate profit and wealth.”
This “system,” the Coordinators of the Zapatista Women for the Second International Gathering of Women Who Struggle have observed, is responsible for the following: “The truth is that not only are we raped, killed, and disappeared – that’s true – but also that we are not going to be quiet, obedient, and well-behaved as if nothing is wrong.
“We are attacked so consistently that it would seem to be good business for the system: the more women murdered, raped, beaten or disappeared, the more profit produced. Maybe that’s why they don’t stop the war on women. There is no other way to explain that every day more women are killed or disappeared all over the world and the system just calmly and happily marches on, paying attention only to its bank accounts.
“Could it be that if we live, that if we are not abused and brutalised, that business goes down the drain? It seems like we need to analyse if profits for big capitalists increase with the number of brutalised women in the world, if the number of beaten, disappeared, and murdered women comes out about even to their millions of dollars or euros or whatever currency. We say this because we know very well that the system only cares about whatever affects its profit margin.
“We also know that the system profits off war and destruction. So we think that our deaths, the violence we suffer, are profitable for the capitalist, and that our lives, our freedom, and our serenity come out as monetary losses for the system. (…)
“We see clearly that the capitalist and patriarchal system is like a judge that has declared us guilty of being born women and sentenced us to violence, death or disappearance. It’s hard to put it into words, sister and compañeras, it’s like an evil so great that it can’t be named. Now they call it ‘femicide’ or whatever but the name doesn’t change anything, the deaths and disappearances continue to accumulate” as the neoliberal process and ‘impress’ with its new developmental and infrastructural investment-linked initiatives continues to be promoted by AMLO and MORENA.
Standing in its way are autonomous Indigenous movements, territories and networks of support in Mexico and internationally that believe that a different world to the neoliberal one is possible – where femicides are opposed as a matter of ethics and principle – and worth struggling for.
Desmond Fernandes is a former Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at De Montfort University in the UK, who specialises in ‘deep politics,’ genocide studies and human rights/developmental/securitisation concerns relating to the targeting and criminalisation of the ‘Other.’ He is the author of several books and has published widely in journals, including Variant, Genocide Studies and Prevention and the International Journal of the Sociology of Language.