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Indigenous autonomy and governance in Michoacán

Indigenous autonomy and governance in Michoacán

By Bertha Dimas Huacuz

The recurrent events of violence, kidnappings and executions, and not only agrarian conflicts within neighboring rural communities, with regrettable loss of human life, force us to reflect on the conditions of life and security both in the cities and main economic centers and in the most impoverished rural and indigenous areas of our state of Mexico.

We live in an inhuman world, riddled with conflict and disaster zones that burst onto the scene day after day. Mainly in the southern hemisphere of the globe, small and large natural catastrophes and local and regional crises are multiplied by geopolitical and economic interests; for unjustified actions of genocide and "ethnic cleansing"; by chiefdoms and the control of territories and strategic sources of natural resources, as well as by existing social and economic inequalities. These situations that occur in other latitudes also occur in Mexico, and even in Michoacán, with shameful examples of the massacres of peasants and indigenous people, forced expulsion of families and dispossession of their lands, conflicts derived from the illegal exploitation of the forest by landowners, and ancestral “hot spots” of property boundaries and communal tenure.

I. Ungovernability and violence in Michoacán


The recurring events of violence, kidnappings and executions, and not only agrarian conflicts within neighboring rural communities, with regrettable loss of human life, force us to reflect on the conditions of life and security both in the cities and main economic centers (La Piedad, Morelia, Uruapan) as well as in the most impoverished rural and indigenous areas of our state. These violent events, invariably with the deployment of long weapons, are a clear demonstration of a severe lack of governance and not only of effective control of order. The statistics of those executed so far this year, whether they have occurred in remote places or around the corner of our neighborhoods, are already a cause for serious concern.

It is convenient to make it clear that the conflicts in Michoacán are not exclusive to the P’urépecha Plateau or necessarily the result of the intransigence or lack of civility of the inhabitants of the indigenous communities. In this same sense, the forest riches of Michoacán are not threatened by the axes and machetes of peasants and community members who fell trees, one by one, to cover their own needs. The constant threat is from the power saws of organized gangs that systematically loot the forest in complicity with some municipal, state and federal authorities, which operate equipped with all-terrain vehicles, cell phones and high-powered weapons.

The absence of “governability” in Michoacán should not be understood only as a result of isolated conflicts of little importance and events beyond the control of government entities, as is argued and is intended to be justified about the presence of organized crime in Michoacan territories. On the contrary, the sad events in Cheran Átsikurhin in recent days, which followed the demonstration of firmness and courage by the women of the Plateau against the loggers that besiege the region, force us to rethink elements that we consider are key to the well-being of our communities, starting with the actions necessary to end conflicts over communal land disputes - using negotiation and law - and applying more good practice than academic theories on development that are handled by advisers who are unaware of the state where the entity is located.

Any approach must put the reality of Michoacán in correct perspective, with respect to the slow and erratic pace of its development (one of the lowest in the country, based on social, economic, educational and health indices). Among them, the widespread ubiquity of the migrant phenomenon stands out, which was initially rural, indigenous and peasant, but now it is also urban and also includes people with higher education.

We are also convinced that to avoid violence, deaths and imprisonment of young people and innocent people, the convivialities inherent and natural elements of rural and indigenous populations, and their intrinsic community elements of unity, shared risk and collective problem solving, and never again police and military interventions.

II. Principles and Purposes of Governance

The lack of governance in our state is caused by the limited understanding of the very function of good governance in its broadest sense. Ungovernability goes beyond the specific administration functions that are not executed with the transparency, effectiveness and probity as it should be, whether they are related to the formulation of development plans and programs or to the allocation of budgets and their execution. But even in these functions, and for what corresponds to the indigenous communities, the claim for the absence of personal attention from the Governor is widespread, although even so without guarantee, as shown by the many pending issues without solution.

Governance, by definition, comprises the traditions, institutions and processes that determine the way in which power is exercised, the way in which citizens can express their voices, and the way in which decisions are made and executed, in practice , about matters of public interest. Governance is not a synonym for government; nor are the public policy problems (which are intrinsic to this condition) only concern or responsibility of the government, but of all social actors, among which the government is one of the many participants. And serving is the obligation of the ruler.

One of the key principles of good governance consists of self-determination, expressed in a material way in autonomy; and this in the political-administrative territoriality. Here, simply, the basic principle of public administration is applied that the local is and must be manageable by those who live there. This is relevant both for large cities and important municipalities, as well as for the smallest administrative unit, as would be the case of a tenure chief. And a separate understanding and complete analysis deserve the issues of the management of territories and natural resources, mainly as it refers to poor and marginalized regions and communities with forests under communal tenure.

It is worth mentioning here the lack of sensitivity and the precarious regional planning carried out in Michoacán, while any serious discussion by the Legislative and Executive on the importance of the creation of new municipalities that are required in specific regions has been systematically denied. in order to, thus, activate regional economies and consolidate local communal governance.

III. Indigenous Autonomy and Community Governance

Respect the concept of autonomous indigenous municipality It is one of the main slopes for the governance of the indigenous peoples and communities of Michoacán. And along with this, among the fundamental issues pending satisfactory response, we also include: recognition of the self-determination and autonomy of peoples and communities; the guarantee of communal possession, use and usufruct of natural resources; and the integration of our populations to the main aspects of the economic and social life of the country, under conditions of respect and equality.

We must, consequently, support the re-establishment of organizational structures, authentically representative, as would be the case of a "Autonomous council of representatives of communal property". We need these structures. They would help put into practice the collective self-management of the territories and heritage resources of our communities and lay the foundations of a new rural economy.


It is for these reasons that step must be taken, as part of the actions of The Other Campaign and the independent organization of the communal authorities, to the exercise of plural and diverse regional and communal autonomies. These autonomies - in fact- They are necessary conditions for the creation of authentically representative institutional structures in our territories, which allow the exercise of political-administrative pluralisms for a true economic, social and environmental governance, and not only for a symbolic internal representation, a formal display of batons of command and minor prosecution of justice.

Is new governance it is based on our millenary perception of life and society, on the instruments and ways of exercising our collective resources: communal ownership of lands, territories and cultural heritage; community and neighborhood assemblies; fulfillment of social positions and responsibilities; extended exercise of social and family relationships, among others.

Therefore, it is necessary to strive for the integration of a new and consistent third level of government that represents, before external institutions and instances, the interests of our communities. This governmental level would consist of - and be delimited by: (i) the territorial aggregation of geographical areas with a predominantly indigenous population; (ii) the organizational sum of individual communities (adjacent or separate); Y (iii) the exercise of the functions of a new type of "municipality", governed and organized under communal representation schemes.

This would lead to exercise, not only de facto but also of law, of a indigenous jurisdiction - unpublished in the context of the promises of politicians and rulers (including candidates in the campaign for the presidency of the Republic) -, which would include the key areas for authentic communal governance: internal communal organization, public health and the environment, education and social services, law enforcement, economic development and management of everyone's assets, and communication and cultural heritage.

The listed actions, as a whole, would be components of a process aimed at the reconstitution of the Purhépecha people and the other indigenous peoples of Michoacán. In sum, indigenous autonomy is an essential and indispensable condition to be able to materialize a new social pact State-Indian peoples, but in conditions of respect, equality and dignity.

IV. Jimbánerani Uinhápikua

Reasons and Aspirations of Indigenous Zapatismo in Michoacán

It is the time for the definition of new directions for the authentic well-being of the urban, rural and indigenous communities of Mexico and Michoacán. It is time to build the "black work" of those institutional structures essential for the truly representative organization of our communities.

It is the moment to abandon the attitude of the “request sheet” and to denounce the compromises. The time to stop being the object of consultation, assistance and attention; and to demand to be treated as subjects of judgment and law. The time of rejection of flattery and small rewards for our obedience, for bowing our heads, for bowing ... It is time to walk together with our heads held high, with firmness, honor and decorum.

The Other Campaign it is above all a different way of seeing and understanding things, Máteru Jásï ErátsekuaIt is at the same time a call - with the tolling of our own local and regional bells - for autonomy of space, territory, thought and action. It is for the construction of a community of communities, and in defense of the territorial, communal and human rights of its inhabitants. It is in solidarity with the biodiversity and cultural diversity of the Mazahua, Nahua, Otomí and P’urépecha, and of the other indigenous peoples of our country.

The Other Campaign It is to end the Mexico of miracles, speculation and unfulfilled promises; to eradicate once and for all, manipulation, mediatization and the purchase of non-conformities. It is to banish the arrogance of billboards and government marketing banners; All of them constitute an insensitive affront to the poverty of thousands of families in the countryside and the city, and an insult to the good judgment of citizens.

The Other Campaign It is an initiative of new political practices without tricks or special effects; of reflection and acoustic, sound debates, in search of the answers that the demands of our young people and the complaints of the humble people of our peoples deserve.

The Other Campaign is to give shape and content to indigenous zapatismo of the 21st century, that of the definitive recovery of our forests and territories. It is to speak in the plural and in our language. For the flowering of communal and shared wisdom. To walk serenely and without anguish through the streets and sidewalks of our neighborhoods and communities.

The Other Campaign It is for our children to dare to see the horizon up close. So that they are the authors of their own future. Without mythologies. To build a new, emancipated and just nation. Májku xanhárani juchari uinhápikua jimbó!

San Pedro Urhepati neighborhood, Santa Fe de la Laguna, Michoacán, March 15, 2006.

* Of P’urhépecha origin, the author is a doctor, a public health specialist, and a community member of Santa Fe de la Laguna. He received the José Pagés Llergo National Prize for Journalism 2004 and 2005.- LA JORNADA MICHOACÁN - The photographs belong to the graphic report available at: http://www.xiranhua.com/afotos/talamontes.htm


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