On 16 February 18 years passed since the signing of the San Andrés Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture between the federal government and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), within the context of the Law on Dialogue, Negotiation, and Dignified Peace in Chiapas.
The signing of the accords in the Tsotsil community of San Andrés Larráinzar or Sak´am Ch´en De Los Pobres was the result of a process of negotiations and dialogues which began in October 1995 and ended in February 1996 in which particiapted different actors from Mexican civil society, including the National Commission on Mediation (CONAI), presided over by bishop Samuel Ruíz, and the Commission for Concordance and Pacification (COCOPA), comprised of legislators from the federal and state congresses.
By signing the accords, the federal government committed itself to constitutionally recognize the indigenous peoples by means of the creation of a new juridical system that would guarantee the political representation of the indigenous at the local and national levels, the right for the indigenous to organize and rule themselves according to their own customs, their right to develop their own alternatives to economic development and production, and the right for them to preserve their own cultural identity. In sum, the agreement recognized the indigenous peoples of Mexico as public participants with the capacity of organizing themselves autonomously.
In November 1996, the COCOPA presented the Proposal for Constitutional Reforms in terms of Indigenous Rights and Culture as a continuation of the agreements made in San Andrés. Though some of the aspects originally agreed to were missing in this new version, the EZLN accepted the proposed document.
In December 2000, the PAN government of Vicente Fox submitted the law to the federal congress.
In 2001, the federal senate approved the constitutional reform on indigenous affairs, with the majority vote from the deputies of the principal political parties (PAN, PRI, PRD), though this did not include that which was agreed to in San Andrés. The reform stressed the effective exercise of rights, defining indigenous communities as public-interest entities instead of public-right entities, with the latter being a stipulation from the San Andrés Accords. In this way was it denied to the indigenous to participate autonomously and collectively in the decision-making structures of the political and juridical institutions of the Mexican State, thus limiting their ability to organize autonomously in accordance with their own uses and customs.
In response to the reform, both the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the EZLN rejected the approved law, considering it to be a treason from the political parties toward the indigenous, and dialogue with the government was broken off until such time as the San Andrés Accords be included within the Mexican constitution as stipulated in the COCOPA Law.
Lastly, in December 2013, Jaime Martínez Veloz, commissioner for Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples, announced that the Secretary of Governance would present in early 2014 a legal initiative that rescues the content of the San Andrés Accords and would serve to reactivate the dialogue which had been suspended since 2001 between the Zapatistas and the government. For Martínez Veloz, the legislative reforms in indigenous affairs from 2001 did not resolve “the problems of the indigenous peoples in a profound way.”
For more information (in Spanish):
Los Acuerdos de San Andrés, pacto inédito entre los pueblos indios de México, cumplen 18 años de vigencia (Desinformémonos, febrero de 2014)
Acuerdos de San Andrés. A veinte años del alzamiento (Mirada Sur, febrero de 2014)
Acuerdos de San Andrés: avatares internacionales (La Jornada, 11 de febrero de 2014)
A 18 años de los Acuerdos de San Andrés (Chiapas Paralelo, 17 de febrero de 2014)
Peña prepara ley que retoma los acuerdos de San Andrés (ADN Político, 31 de diciembre de 2013)
Para más información de SIPAZ:
Chiapas: new governor calls for observance of San Andrés Accords (8 January 2013)