By Enrique Davis-Mazlum
Mexico City - On April 25, 2001 the Senate (El Senado de la República) approved the Bill: "Law of Rights and Customs of the Indigenous Pueblos and Communities" with 109 votes in favor (all parties voted in favor) and on April 28 the House (Camara de Diputados) approved the same Bill with 386 votes from legislatures from the National Action Party (PAN), Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Green Ecological Party of México (PVEM). Sixty (60) Congressmen of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and Labour Party (PT) along with five Congressmen of Oaxaca of the PRI, voted against the Constitutional Amendments which incorporated some of the proposals made by President Vicente Fox, the "Acuerdos de San Andres Larranzair" and "LEY COCOPA (The Law of the Commission of Harmony and Pacification)".
Those that voted against the Bill said that it was "too light", that it did not really attack the issues of inclusion, autonomy, traditions. of the Indigenous Pueblos and Communities. What is interesting is that the entire Senate voted in favor of the Bill and it was there were the greatest opposition to modify the Mexican Constitution took place. Senator Manuel Bartlett of the PRI said that experts in Constitutional Law were consulted and proposed some changes in the wording in order to have a law that would include all Indigenous groups in Mexico and not just those in the state of Chiapas. Bartlett says that one of the major changes is that each state (Local Congress, Governor and Indigenous Groups) will decide what are the traditions and cultures of each Indigenous group. Bilingual education will now be an obligation of the state. Senator Diego Fernandez de Cevallos of the PAN said that he did not only legislate for the Indigenous Pueblos and Communities, but for 100 million Mexicans.
Xochitl Galvez who is the Director of the Office of Development of Indian Pueblos (created by President Vicente Fox on December 1, 2000) announced on April 30, 2001 that the Bill that was approved by the Senate and the House did take into consideration some of the proposals made by President Fox, the "Acuerdos de San Andres Larranzair" and "LEY COCOPA, but it needs to describe with greater depth central aspects, like the autonomy and free determination, the use of natural resources like land and territories, among other things. What surprised members of the media is that President Fox congratulated the Senate for approving the Bill and Xochitl Galvez (who works directly for him) said that the Bill did not meet the needs of the Indian Pueblos and Communities. Galvez said that if the President had asked her to say that the Bill did meet the needs of the Indian Pueblos and Communities she would have resigned, but the President agreed to support her.
While members of the PRD are acting like kindergarten kids, Xochitl Galvez is trying to find a way to resolve the conflict that emerged once again between the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) and the Federal Government. The PRD left the House floor as a sign of protest after the vote took place in the House, they acted in a very childish manner. Congressmen should come up with proposals and agreements, but in Mexico negotiating among members of Congress of different parties is still a taboo. The PRD and those that voted against the Bill should start looking for other alternatives and lobby with the State Legislatures that have to approve the Bill and have them make changes. Acting like a kinder garden kids who did not get there way, only gave the EZLN an excuse to break all contacts with the Mexican Federal Government.
Subcomandante Marcos in a two page statement announced that the EZLN would break all forms of communication with the Mexican Government and instructed the architect Fernando Yáñez Muñoz (also known as Comandante German) to avoid any type of communication with the government of President Vicente Fox. Both the Mexican Government (Legislative Branch) and the EZLN are acting very childish. The attitude of both groups is frustrating, the stubbornness of those Senators and Congressmen that approved the Bill and the childish attitude of those that did not agree with it. In a country there needs to be consensus, we must come up with agreements that in a very general way give us what we are asking for - a win-win situation.
The Mexican Congress as a whole needs to reevaluate their attitudes and sit down and negotiate a new Bill. If the Mexico has waited six years for this we can wait a couple of months, but in return we want a quality document. The EZLN needs to understand that the Constitutional Amendments will affect every single person in Mexico and that there are some parts of their proposals that will not be accepted, but at the same time the Legislative Branch needs to take into consideration that the minority, which in this case are the Indian Pueblos and Communities need to be protected and recognized by the Constitution. The job of the Executive Branch, Xochitl Galvez and Luis Alvarez, Commissioner for Peace in Chiapas, both representatives of President Vicente Fox need to lobby and serve as mediators between all of the groups that are a part of this historic change. One of the things that we need to understand is that there needs to be tolerance, recognition and respect for indigenous groups and among ourselves.
Enrique Davis-Mazlum is the Assistant Director of Vortice: Analysis and Proposals of Public Policy Journal. www.vorticesiglo21.com; firstname.lastname@example.org