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Fake Indigenous Rights Law Protested at Mexican Consulate

At the Mexican consulate in Chicago and other cities around the country, protesters decried the Mexican Congress's ratification of a "fake" indigenous rights law which fails to fulfill the major tenets of the San Andres Accords.

On May 18, about 35 people gathered outside the Mexican Consulate at 300 N. Michigan Avenue to protest the Mexican Senates passing what they called a "fake" Indigenous Rights Law on April 28.
Critics say the constitutional amendment does little to protect the rights of indigenous people in Mexico, including the communities in the southern state of Chiapas where low-intensity warfare has been going on since the Zapatista uprising calling for autonomy started in 1994. Speakers at the consulate charged that the amendment, which still has to be ratified by the two thirds of the individual state senates to become law, violates the 1996 San Andres Accords, which were the result of negotiations between the EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army) in Chiapas and the federal government.
Protests were held at Mexican consulates in other cities around the country on May 18, and at each consulate letters with hundreds of signatures were delivered to the consulates. The letters demanded that the government pass indigenous rights legislation which is faithful to the San Andres Accords, and specifically that it ratify the proposed COCOPA accords in their entirety. Speakers at the protest noted that the National Indigenous Congress and the EZLN have both categorically rejected the legislation recently passed by the Senate.
"The constitutional reform in no way answers the demands of indigenous people," said a statement from the EZLN, read at the protest. "It represents a serious offense to indigenous people."
"We are protesting a bill that completely guts the dignity of indigenous people," said Jason Wallach, an organizer with the Chiapas Media Project.
The COCOPA accords guarantee measures of autonomy for indigenous people, including the right to maintain forms of government and justice systems in keeping with indigenous law, and the right to provide education in indigenous languages.
When Fox, a member of the PAN party, was elected last summer, the seemingly endless stranglehold of the PRI party was broken. Fox promised to end the conflict in Chiapas "in 15 minutes," but critics say he has done little to end oppression and militarization or grant autonomy and democracy to indigenous communities.
"I think its finally clear that there isnt a single political party in Mexico now which is in favor of indigenous people," said Tom Hansen, director of the Chicago-based Mexico Solidarity Network. "Even PRD (opposition party) senators voted for this."
Teodoro Alonso, press secretary for the consulate, said that the legislation is out of Foxs hands.
"The EZLN can make whatever statements they want but the reality is the law is in the hands of Congress," he said. "President Fox doesnt have the power to change it. People didnt get the law passed that they wanted, and theyre looking to put the blame on someone they can easily identify. But the president is committed to making the law work in favor of indigenous people."
Statements read from the EZLN and the National Indigenous Congress didnt accept this answer.
"This betrays hopes for a negotiated solution to the war in Chiapas," said the statement from the EZLN. "The EZLN has suspended dialogue between ourselves and the Fox government. The EZLN will not dialogue with the federal government until indigenous rights are recognized with the COCOPA proposal."
For more information, contact the Mexico Solidarity Network at msn (at) or 773-583-7728.



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