Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mexico’s Peña Nieto on Indigenous Rights

Mexico City.

Following the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, Mexican indigenous leaders accused President Enrique Peña Nieto of portraying himself as a champion of indigenous rights in the international forum while violating them at home.

“President Enrique Peña Nieto’s speech was hypocritical, really, because here we suffer human rights violations, imprisonment, harassment and persecution,” said Felicitas Martinez, Me’phaa, of the Regional Organization of Community Authorities-Community Police of the state of Guererero.

Martinez spoke at a recent press conference in Mexico City. She participated in New York City events, along with a group of indigenous and rural women from Mexico, Central America and Southeast Asia affiliated through the international feminist organization, JASS

The women leaders expressed the distance between the official discourse and reality in their territories throughout Mexico. Martinez listed some of the prominent cases of indigenous leaders imprisoned in the country for defending the same rights the president endorsed in his UN speech, including Nestora Salgado, coordinator of the community police in Olinalá, Guerrero; Marco Antonio Suástegui, of La Parota, also in the state of Guerrero; and Mario Luna, of the Yaqui people of Vícam, Sonora, criminalized for opposing the illegal Independence Aqueduct. She concluded:”There is no justicia.”

In his presentation at the UN, Peña Nieto boasted that the final resolution of the World Conference incorporated several proposals from the official Mexican delegation, including: that the post-2015 development agenda includes the rights of indigenous peoples, and that national laws be amended and implemented to fully respect the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Peña Nieto concluded his speech by affirming that “In Mexico our constitution recognizes and guarantees the right of indigenous peoples and communities to self-determination, and consequently to the autonomy to decide their internal forms of coexistence and social, economic, political and cultural organization.“

Bettina Cruz, Binizaa from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, questioned the president’s remarks, noting the negative impact of large development projects and of Mexico’s recent energy reform on indigenous peoples.

“Peña Nieto’s speech in the sense that in Mexico the rights of indigenous peoples are respected is very contradictory, especially since only a few months ago a national  energy reform was adopted that is extremely harmful to our indigenous peoples and territories.”

“This energy reform opens the door to widespread looting, criminalization, occupation and genocide of those of us indigenous peoples still remaining in our territories. Since we have cared for our lands we still preserve our resources, which they see as “natural resources”, and we we see them as natural goods that sustain us. “

The energy reform incorporates a clause of  “temporary occupation” that gives the state the legal mandate to effectively expropriate land under the principle, also a  concept introduced into law with the reforms,  that “The exploration and production of hydrocarbons are considered of social interest in the public order; therefore they  take precedence over any other [activities] involving the use of the surface and subsurface of land that could be used for that purpose. “

 

Cruz said that the law, by granting legal priority to oil exploitation, “sidelines our rights to live according to our own ways of living. It negates our rights to decide how to live, what to live on, what to eat, what to do, how to be happy, how to govern ourselves.

 

Many indigenous and peasant organizations have pointed out that Mexico’s energy reform is irreconcilable with the rights of the nation’s indigenous peoples and small farmers. Peña Nieto referred in his speech to the right of self-determination, but did not address the wave of threats and invasions of indigenous territories in the country.

The president also did not mention the right to free, prior and informed consent in decisions that have to do with indigenous territories and culture that is a pillar of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Mexico is a signatory of the Declaration and of ILO Convention 169, which also enshrines the right to consultation. But all levels of government consistently fail to comply.

 

The country is experiencing increasing conflict generated by a fundamental clash between the capitalist model of development based on rapid resource extraction and conservation of indigenous lands, rights and worldviews. And when President Peña Nieto hails the guarantees in the Mexican Constitution, he disregards the historic betrayal of Mexico’s indigenous peoples: the counter-reform of  2001. The Mexican government disowned its own signature on the San Andrés Accords and adopted a reform that fails to recognize real autonomy and self-determination for the nation’s 15 million indigenous citizens. The counter-reform purposely left the door open to the plunder, violation of rights, criminalization and discrimination that characterize the situation of indigenous women and men today.

“All the projects installed in our territories–highway construction, wind energy, hydroelectric dams–have completely lacked free, prior and informed consultation. And because of this demand, we have many leaders in different parts of our territories imprisoned or facing ongoing legal processes, “said Cruz.

She faces a judicial prosecution by the 6th District Judge of Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, based on a complaint filed by the Federal Electricity Commission, accusing her of “illegal deprivation of freedom” and “acting against the consumption and the wealth of the nation.”

“Whose consumption and whose wealth have I acted against by defending our lands?”, she asked.

The final resolution of the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples doesn’t offer much to bolster indigenous rights against predatory extractive industries. The resolution largely reaffirms and makes more explicit the rights already included in the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was finally approved by the UN General Assembly in 2007. The United Nations agreed to organize the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples four years ago out of concerns regarding the relative lack of application of the Declaration by member states.  Now it is not at all clear how far the resolution can go to resolve that problem, given the clash of interests involved.

There were also major criticisms of lack of fair representation for indigenous peoples in the process of organizing and participating in the Conference and lack of support from states. Guadalupe Martinez of the Alliance of Indigenous Women noted, for example, that the Mexican government abruptly cancelled the consultation planned prior to the New York event, eliminating a forum for discussion among indigenous peoples.

The final outcome document does present some important advances, though, specifically in clauses that address the role and rights of indigenous women. They include: a call to promote indigenous women’s empowerment, leadership and participation in decision-making (Art. 17); to examine the causes of violence against indigenous women and girls (Art. 19); and to provide access to and guarantee reproductive and sexual health and rights. The latter led to a rejection from the Vatican. The Holy See and Canada were the only entities to object to the Conference resolution.

Women indigenous leaders consistently point out the importance of addressing the many-layered discrimination they suffer for being a woman, indigenous, impoverished and rural, from government institutions and often within their own communities and families. When they become leaders in defense of indigenous territories, persecution is often added to discrimination. At the same time, the new roles generate a strong sense of community, spur reflections on injustice on all levels and affirm inner strengths.

Internationally, some indigenous organizations consider that the document represents progress; others see no real gain. Nobody believes that the resolution by itself can resolve the enormous gap between rhetoric and reality, and between law and the actions of powerful economic and political interests. It’s the bold acts of indigenous leaders’, women and men, who face down obstacles to defend their rights and the rights of the earth, that offer today the best hope of preserving life-sustaining resources for coming generations.

Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program in Mexico City and advisor to Just Associates (JASS) 

More articles by:

Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program in Mexico City and advisor to Just Associates (JASS) .

October 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Middle East, Not Russia, Will Prove Trump’s Downfall
Ipek S. Burnett
The Assault on The New Colossus: Trump’s Threat to Close the U.S.-Mexican Border
Mary Troy Johnston
The War on Terror is the Reign of Terror
Maximilian Werner
The Rhetoric and Reality of Death by Grizzly
David Macaray
Teamsters, Hells Angels, and Self-Determination
Jeffrey Sommers
“No People, Big Problem”: Democracy and Its Discontents In Latvia
Dean Baker
Looking for the Next Crisis: the Not Very Scary World of CLOs
Binoy Kampmark
Leaking for Change: ASIO, Jakarta, and Australia’s Jerusalem Problem
Chris Wright
The Necessity of “Lesser-Evil” Voting
Muhammad Othman
Daunting Challenge for Activists: The Cook Customer “Connection”
Don Fitz
A Debate for Auditor: What the Papers Wouldn’t Say
October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail