The Zapatista National Liberation Army and the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) in Mexico will select their presidential candidate for the 2018 elections this weekend.
The convention and consultations, which began Friday and concludes Sunday, is being attended by the two groups, as well as delegates from 32 states, and is being held in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. Following this meeting, members of the Constituent Assembly of the CNI will be chosen and tour the country with the agreed upon candidate in order to gain a place on the 2018 ballots.
The decision to put forward a candidate for the next election marks a break with more than two decades of Zapatista strategy of rejecting the Mexican state and electoral politics. The EZLN declared war against the Mexican state on January 1, 1994, launching the Indigenous movement in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas into the international spotlight as an example for autonomous social movements around the globe. The movement has seen victories, but also considerable challenges, including intense repression and criminalization of the struggle at the hands of the state, private landowners, and paramilitary forces.
As expected, the party elected by EZLN and CNI, according to CGI members, will not be a conventional one. “Do not confuse us, we do not pretend to compete with them (political parties), because we are not the same ... It is time for indigenous peoples to go on the offensive,” says CGI members.
The Zapatistas announced in December 2016 their plans to elect a female candidate to represent the indigenous community, a move met with mixed reactions as some tried to insinuate the candidate will help the country's right ing by drawing votes away from two-time left-wing candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mayor of Mexico City.
“Of course, if you think that by meeting, thinking, and deciding collectively on their path and destiny the compas of the CNI are playing into the hands of the right and endangering the u-n-s-t-o-p-p-a-b-l-e advance of the institutional left, you can make your support conditional on their obeying you, or add a note to your contribution saying something like, 'I’m going to give you these 2 pesos, but don’t let yourselves be fooled and manipulated by that sockhead,'” read a statement signed last year by Subcomandante Insurgente Moises and Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano in response to critics.