The Zapatista National Liberal Army and the National Indigenous Congress resolved Friday to present an Indigenous woman as an independent candidate for the 2018 presidential elections in Mexico, marking a significant shift in strategy for the organization that has its roots in armed struggle.
Defining themselves as grassroots organizations, the communique specified that the decision to present a candidate in the elections was subject to approval from the groups’ membership.
“We confirm that our struggle is not for power, we do not seek it; instead we will call on indigenous peoples and civil society to organize ourselves to stop this destruction, strengthen us in our resistances and rebellions; that is to say, in the defense of the life of every person, every family, group, community or neighborhood,” read a joint statement from the National Indigenous Congress and the Zapatistas.
The decision to participate in the 2018 election was announced at the conclusion Fifth National Indigenous Congress, held over the previous week in the city of San Cristobal, that saw delegates debate the political situation in the country and decide on joint action on a litany of issues facing Indigenous peoples in Mexico.
According to Proceso magazine, delegates argued that the strategy of armed struggle had not met all their goals.
The Zapatistas, also known as the EZLN, burst onto the world stage in 1994 when they launched a surprise armed insurrection in the southern state of Chiapas. The uprising failed, but the organization persisted in its aims, developing grassroots local governance structures that were autonomous from the state.
In the 22 years since, the EZLN regularly rejected any participation in electoral politics.
The EZLN also famously launched “The Other Campaign” ahead of the 2006 election, which called on Mexicans to participate in political activity that went beyond voting. Zapatistas — including its most recognizable figure, Subcomandante Marcos — traveled throughout Mexico meeting with activists and civil society leaders in order to build a broad front against capitalism.
Some sectors of the Mexican left criticized the “The Other Campaign” for declining to support leftist former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who was then poised to win the presidential election. Lopez Obrador ultimately was defeated by the right-wing National Action Party candidate in an election that was widely seen as fraudulent.
The statement from the EZLN and the National Indigenous Congress did not provide details on exactly how they intended to participate in the 2018 vote or if they would use the resources provided by the Mexican state for those participating in elections.
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