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(en) Sicilia Libertaria 2-24: Relativism: Legal rebels: the Zapatista case in Mexico (4) (ca, de, it, pt, tr) [machine translation]

Date Sun, 3 Mar 2024 07:55:15 +0200

The research path that led me from Italy to Bolivia and then, among other nations, to Mexico, chasing the traces of a possible legal pluralism within societies with indigenous populations, nations with their own languages, cultures and norms, finally arrives , in Chiapas, where the rebellion of a people has produced spaces of self-managed freedom, without fetishizing the past and looking to the future. Some essential facts: In 1994, in the Mexican state of Chiapas, organized indigenous groups rebelled against the domination and control of the Mexican state, creating a local resistance movement and also inspiring other indigenous groups to organize themselves. As Subcomandante Marcos declared, it was not about the seizure of power, but "just something more difficult: a new world". Thirty years later, the Lacandon region has seen the development of new forms of sociality, based largely on indigenous tradition, including the organization of its own forms of administering justice. All this was possible, thanks to multiple strategies of struggle and communication, managing to have the support of part of the non-indigenous Mexican population and, even more, in the Western world, especially the one that saw in the Zapatista struggle, an example to follow . One of the most important characteristics of the social and political system that has been built over the last thirty years concerns the management of power, which tends to be horizontal, where those in charge of managing public life, who hold office for three years, do not decide but, in as representatives, they carry out the decisions that the local community has taken and whose execution they control: "Command by obeying" is the key rule of this system.

The complete exclusion of the state from community life, sometimes even defended with weapons, was the condition for the production of a new model of society, even if it was not easy, given that the original indigenous societies were transformed over the centuries of colonial and republican domination, so much so that current cultures are the result of mixtures and syncretisms, of impositions but also of resistance and appropriations of foreign cultural elements implanted, more or less consciously, on the fabric of traditional cultures, managing to largely maintain part of their basic identities, languages and cultures. For this reason, when thinking about the future, the Zapatistas found themselves in need of producing alternative management models which, without betraying the past, could be used to manage the new realities. The contribution of subcomandante Marcos in this process is undeniable, as he personified the different utopian traditions, both indigenous and libertarian-derived.

As regards the administration of justice, the Zapatista system that has been refined during these thirty years is structured into three overlapping levels of internal functioning, even if it is open to comparison and even clash with the Mexican national system. The most basic level concerns minor crimes, such as thefts or offenses, arguments between neighbors and even between spouses, scandalous drunks, etc. The elected municipal authorities are in charge of these problems, even if, in complicated cases, the municipal assembly is used, which fundamentally defends the good functioning of the life of the local community. Problems are not always resolved satisfactorily by the assembly, so a specifically appointed Honor and Justice Commission may be called upon. This is also used when problems involve more than one community, even if the last instance is represented by the Good Government Council, the general organization of the communities. This is the level that also deals with cases involving non-Zapatista individuals or other political organizations and, of course, the non-indigenous government of the region (political issues, active conflicts and land disputes). Finally, it is important to highlight that, when it comes to domestic problems or problems that, in general, involve women, these are dealt with only by the women who make up the various justice bodies.

In general, the function that these institutions perform is to mediate conflicts, pushing the actors involved to reach an agreement on disputes. If convicted, the penalties are rarely imprisonment and, in these cases, it involves an open room or hut for the few days of punishment. In most cases the punishment consists of work to be done for the community or paying a quantity of money to compensate those who were the victim of the transgressive action. Even in the case of being sentenced to long periods of community work, if necessary, the condemned person is allowed to return to their fields so as not to harm their family. Even if it seems secondary, it should be noted that all these proceedings are carried out in the local indigenous language, this being one of the major problems that indigenous people face when they end up, with or without reason, in the national justice system. And it is free, another important element, given that, as in many countries, it is the poor who mostly end up in state prisons. Finally, the difference between the state system of justice and the Zapatista system is so evident that, often, even non-indigenous peasants turn to the latter, obtaining, in cases where the state system intervenes or is already intervening, support and assistance. , particularly when they fall victim to state or regional police. The reference to the Mexican police is necessary, considering that they are historically violent bodies and symbols of state repression for the poorest social and ethnic sectors of the population. In fact, a struggle to limit their powers has been underway for years in all indigenous territories. In Chiapas it has literally been abolished, replaced by indigenous "patrols" of community members who provide this service in a voluntary and rotating manner.

Evidently, all this was possible thanks to the political conquests that the Zapatistas carried out, managing to maintain their territory and ensuring that the state ended, certainly not with enthusiasm, by recognizing the value of their autonomous legal system. This condition of autonomy, also defended with weapons, proves necessary to be able to produce and maintain one's own rules of coexistence, as the Syrian case of Rojava has also demonstrated. These cases show us that the struggle for legal and, in general, political and social autonomy is also possible in the face of the state, which can be bent to accept differences, clearly group and not individual; while in regional or municipal terms, once a sufficient degree of autonomy has been achieved, this possibility would be an anthropological contradiction, given that every social structure, even new and libertarian ones, needs a minimum of cohesion and common rules.

(For further information: Rebrii, Anne (2020): "Zapatistas: lessons of community auto-organisation" (https://www.opendemocracy.net); Gasparello, Giovanna (2017): "Nuestra justicia es la alegría del corazón. Justicias indigenous and intercultural people in southern Mexico". Revista de Paz y Conflictos, X-2: 143-164).

Emanuele Amodio

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