An Indigenous Woman Could Be a Presidential Candidate in Mexico Two Years From Now

Indígenas de Chiapas. Foto del usuario Flickr Andrés Virviescas. Usada bajo licencia CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Indigenous women from Chiapas. Photo by Flickr user Andres Virviescas. Used under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

In a little less than two years from now when Mexicans go to vote for their next president, it's possible they'll see the name of an indigenous woman on the ballot.

During the Fifth National Indigenous Congress (CNI), Mexican indigenous communities and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) declared their intent to nominate a woman as an independent candidate ahead of the presidential election in 2018. The announcement appeared in a document entitled “May the earth shake to its core”:

Ante todo lo anterior, nos declaramos en asamblea permanente y consultaremos en cada una de nuestras geografías, territorios y rumbos el acuerdo de este Quinto CNI para nombrar un concejo indígena de gobierno cuya palabra sea materializada por una mujer indígena, delegada del CNI como candidata independiente que contienda a nombre del Congreso Nacional Indígena y el Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional en el proceso electoral del año 2018 para la presidencia de este país.

Given the aforementioned, we declare ourselves in permanent assembly and will consult the agreement of the Fifth CNI in each one of our geographies, territories, and paths to appoint an indigenous council of government whose word is carried out by an indigenous woman, a delegate of the CNI as an independent candidate who fights on behalf of the Indigenous National Congress and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in this country's 2018 presidential election.

At this time, they have not announced the name of the woman who would be nominated as a candidate.

It is important to remember that the EZLN is a primarily indigenous armed group of the extreme left who staged an uprising in 1994 in Chiapas, in Mexico's southeast region. In recent years, they have remained inactive and their most well-known leader, the Subcomandante Marcos, changed his name in 2014 to make way for a new persona identified as Subcomandante Galeano (some versions indicate that his real name is Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente).

The news has been discussed in traditional media and on social media, especially after the reaction from Andrés López, founder and leader of a political party called the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). He pointed out that the EZLN's participation in the election would mark a significant change for the group:

The EZLN in 2006 was “the serpent's egg”. Then, as ultra “radicals” they called for not voting and now they are nominating an independent candidate.

Journalist Pascal Beltrán del Río took a stand regarding this in his column called “The Indigenous Vote”:

La reciente decisión del EZLN y el Consejo Nacional Indígena representa un cambio importante en sus posiciones anteriores con respecto a los comicios, pues con motivo de las elecciones presidenciales de 1994, 2000, 2006 y 2012 habían llamado a no votar y con ello rechazar a la clase política completa.

Este cambio propició una condena de Andrés Manuel López Obrador, líder del MORENA y virtual aspirante a Los Pinos en 2018, quien en diferentes momentos ha invitado al EZLN a ser parte de su movimiento por el “cambio verdadero”. Pero ¿qué tanto afectaría a López Obrador la participación de una mujer indígena como candidata en 2018?

The recent decision of the EZLN and the National Indigenous Congress represents an important change to their previous positions with respect to elections, since during the presidential elections in 1994, 2000, 2006, and 2012 they called to not vote, thereby rejecting the entire political class.

This change led to a condemnation from Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leader of MORENA and virtual contender for Los Pinos [the official residence of Mexico's president] in 2018, who has invited the EZLN to be part of his movement for “true change” on several occasions. But, how much would López Obrador be affected by the participation of an indigenous woman as a candidate in 2018?

On Twitter, users like Rodrigo Castro criticized López:

It's obvious that EZLN's intention to nominate an indigenous candidate for 2018 is hurting AMLO. Cry me a river.

In his public Twitter profile, cartoonist Rafael Barajas, better known as “Fisgón”, illustrated the EZLN's new position, alluding to the armed group's previous rejection and disqualification of the country's entire electoral process:

Cartoon: Remember everything we've said about the filth that is the electoral farce in Mexico? Well, now we want in!

Tweet: The EZLN will launch an independent candidacy. Shouldn't they explain this change in discourse and strategy in light of their position in 2006?

Meanwhile, Dalia Vázquez received the news as follows:

I would definitely vote for the indigenous candidate from the EZLN, say no more!

The role of the indigenous woman in the government

The eventual nomination of an indigenous candidate for president of the country by the EZLN contrasts with the reality that women in politics have faced in recent months, particularly those who have been forced to forgo their legally obtained elected positions.

Such is the case of Rosa Pérez, whom the people of Chenalhó in Chiapas – precisely the state where EZLN has a major presence – forced her to leave office, solely because she was a woman. The electoral justice authority has already ordered Pérez's reinstatement, but this has not yet been carried out. María Gloria Sánchez, mayor of Oxchuc in the same state, currently finds herself in a similar situation.

Given this sexist behavior, which is tolerated because it deals with indigenous “customs and traditions”, it will be particularly interesting to know if the armed group in question effectively designates a candidate, if she will receive the support needed to ensure that her candidacy complies with the formal requirements and if she will truly have the possibilities to compete not just with López – who has sought the presidency on two prior occasions – but with the vast range of individuals in the political class who have already demonstrated their aspirations for 2018.

Indígena otomí. Imagen de la usuaria de Flickr Citlali Medal, utilizada en términos de licencia Creative Commons.

Otomi woman. Image from Flickr user Citlali Medal, used under the terms of the Creative Commons license.

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