More than 1500 invited students are in the Lacandonan Jungle taking part in the Zapatista Freedom school last week. The school has also gone online also with registered studemts participating by teleconference around the world. Due to demand new courses are planned for Dec and Jan.
With so many of their comrades having being murdered by people who are never punished, or else get exonerated and released (like the ones who committed the Acteal massacre), Zapatistas know about corruption in the capitalistic judicial system.
They know about comrades being arrested under false charges, tortured, forced to sign false confession statements, judged by corrupted judges and serving lifetime condemns for crimes they did not commit.
Criminals like the brother of Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, accused of drug smuggling and unlawful enrichment (more than $120 millions US DOLLARS), has just been exonerated of all his crimes two weeks ago, while rural Zapatista teacher Alberto Patishtán still serves an illegal sentence for crimes he did not commit.
So Zapatistas know about justice being bought. That’s why they developed mechanisms to create a judicial system that is not about money.
In the fourth class on Freedom According to Zapatistas, they talked about how their system avoids favoritism and bribes.
“We call it ‘the other justice’ because there is a big difference with the official “justice” system. The Zapatista justice is non-negotiable, as opposed to the Mexican justice system from the political parties, where people can pay for justice. It is a judicial system that allows settlements by personal friendship, money, and corruption. You need to have money to pay a lawyer and all the corrupted officers.”
“In the non-Zapatista communities, there is no financial treasurer, which means the police authorities are not accountable for the money they get,” they explained.
That does not happen in the autonomous justice system. No payments are allowed. There is accountability and information. While the Mexican judicial system manages to turn every step of the process into a business with side settlements, bribes and unofficial fines, the Zapatista system makes sure that fines and penalties (consisting in several days of work for the community, depending on the felony) compensate the aggrieved person or family.
While each community develops their own regulations, they all follow the seven government principles.
The local authorities deal with minor offences. More serious crimes are referred to the municipality or the government board. In every case, it is never about one person deciding on a sentence, but about investigating, communicating, educating, trying different solutions and agreements, and then deciding a penalty. There is no such thing as police arresting people with no warrant, then violating the prisoner’s human rights, and then a judge deciding. Actually, when a crime is committed, the authorities try to talk to the family and friends of the accused person to persuade him/her so that he/her turns himself to the authorities.
In cases of serious crimes (like murder), the agents arrest the person and start an investigation along with a consultation with every officer and every person involved about the possible punishment. However, in the meantime the authorities can facilitate that the family of the murdered person and the family of the murderer get to an understanding. It takes time, but they facilitate the possibility that the affected people and the offender decide on the punishment. “The families talk to each other. Some families think – what is the purpose of putting in jail the murderer? I won’t have my son back. So they agree on some other punishment. A murderer serves sentence working to provide for his family and the family of the affected people. So the authority is just a mediator”.
“It is not easy, that’s one example, it not always happens that way. Another time, we arrested the person and the person escaped before we could reach an agreement why? Because we don’t have always resources, so we asked the community to let us know if they find the criminal.
“We don’t always have a place to detain the criminal, to feed him. So this is how it works for us right now.”
They also talked about punishment for human smugglers who abuse the immigrants from other countries (entering from Guatemala) on their way to the US.
They stressed that it is an incipient system lacking many resources, but they have the vision of turning it into a complete rehab system, unlike the official Mexican system where people learn more crime and drug smuggling in jail than outside.
“Aside from the fact that our justice is applied by collective agreement, our justice does not discriminate by race, language, genre . . . the prisoner eats exactly the same that the authority eats, if the authority officer eats meat, the prisoner eats meat . . . In the official justice system, prisoners of a higher social class have banquets in jail while the others have bad food.”
“Those are the differences between the official justice system and Zapatista judiciary system, and we did not study that anywhere, in any Code, we learned from experience and from the community.”
Those were, in short, the main points of today’s class.
Tomorrow is the last online class of the Zapatista Freedom School, the topic being “democracy”.
The Other Democracy: “For us, Democracy is Not about Election Season and Candidates’ Campaigns”
· “We did not have a theory first, our theory is the result of our practice”
· For us, democracy is not about election season and candidates.
· We start from small to bigger in everything.
· We don’t have minority people dissatisfied because their proposal was not voted for.
· Even our children apply democracy.
“For us, democracy is not about election season and candidates’ campaigns. It’s not about money, and a person telling us how he/she is going to do it when he/she gets elected. Democracy is at any moment, at every level of our life. Even our children are learning democracy. They don’t even know it’s democracy, but they implement it all the time among them. ‘What are we going to play today? Basketball or Football?’ they ask and take a vote. When their teacher sees them tired, he/she asks: ‘Would you guys take a break?’ and he/she takes a vote, or like we call it: they reach an agreement,” said the Zapatista teachers on the last day of the Freedom School.
Indeed, one of the most interesting topics for the Occupy Wall Street community was left for the last day – their voting system. They do not have minorities dissatisfied because their proposal was not voted for and their voices were not heard.
But how do they do that? Do they use direct vote? Do they use consensus?
Their answer was – they don’t allow any method/solution that does not work for the community to be permanent. Leaders get rotated. Officers cannot get re-elected in the same position. And all the proposals are just a test until they really work for the community.
CONSENSUS – “All the proposals are listened and taken into consideration. Not all of the proposals can be implemented at the same time. So the people vote (direct vote) for all of them. We implement the proposal that was most voted for (majority). HOWEVER, if your proposal did not win, that does not mean it is a bad idea or doesn’t work for the community. We implement the majority’s proposal for a while. It’s an idea to try for. It is never a permanent ‘majority vote’ that we must stick with even if it doesn’t work. We make a lot of changes! If we have a collective work project (be it a construction project, a production project, etc.) and we have been using one proposed idea for a while but it is not working, we switch to the second most voted idea and so we go on.”
“Our proposals are not for the benefit of just one group, so we don’t have such thing as people getting angry because their group was not included. There are no such things as dissatisfied people because their proposal was not voted by the majority. When they see that the majority’s proposal is working for them, why would they be dissatisfied? When the proposal is not working, the community can always change it and try the other ideas that were on the plate. Besides, each proposal is analyzed before the vote. It is discussed what the pros and cons it has – the benefits and the costs. We say that democracy works at every level because people elect even the duration of a certain collective work – for how long are they going to be working on something? That’s the result of a collective agreement as well.”
The only case when authorities are allowed to make an immediate decision without agreements are in emergencies (like natural disasters and paramilitary attacks) “because we cannot allow a group of human beings to suffer for a while”. In such cases, the authorities have the power to act, but they must let people know how they took action and why.
“Each local and municipality has its own agreements as on how to elect their authorities, but they all must follow the seven principles of government. Authorities do not make campaign to be elected. They don’t post their pictures. They sometimes are not even present when they get elected – they are somewhere else working. You qualify to be elected as an authority or representative if you are a responsible person who don’t steal, don’t abuse your family, don’t drink, etc.”
Zapatistas said that all the capitalist state governors have stolen the wealth of the state, including the so called “leftist” former PRD governor Juan Sabines.
“We don’t believe in the so-called democratic electoral system because it is all made so that officers serve themselves, become rich and get relocated in another elected officer’s position inside the same system forever. They offer housing, healthcare and education for all, but the housing system they offer is just a tin roof, their healthcare are hospitals with no doctors and nurses inside of them, and the education-for-all they are offering is all being privatized. So we don’t believe them.”
“How do we know the official government does not work, and their campaigns and programs are all lies? Because after a while we see demonstrations, barricades and rallies made by the same people who voted for them. These politicians are doing the opposite of our principle of ‘Building instead of Destroying’. They are destroying everything instead of building.”
On their last day of classes, Zapatistas thanked the students for their time, and humbly apologized if there was anything they were not able to answer satisfactorily. “If Mother Nature and Life allows, we will see you in another time,” they told us.
These night-shift classes were attended by students from across the world and almost all the Mexican states. From the Americas there were representatives from each extreme – from the very South (Argentina) to the very North (Indigenous groups from Canada) with English translation online by OWSZapatista. These 5 emails were just a quick summary. We will make available detail transcriptions both in English and Spanish in our next Zapatista newsletters. If you have any questions on these classes or proposals on how to work along with the Zapatistas for a world where many worlds fit, please email us to email@example.com. If you live in the NYC area, stay tuned for our S17-related teach-in on these Zapatista classes and how we can apply these conclusions to our fight for a world where many worlds fit!
If you are in Occupy Wall Street, don’t forget to fight the TTP this week – NAFTA ON STEROIDS! And remember that the Zapatista Uprising occurred the day NAFTA got into effect!
If you want to take the class by videoconference and you don’t have an invitation, write to the following email address:
Dates for the Second Round of the Little School
- Registration: December 23-24, 2013.
- Classes: December 25-29, 2013.
- Returning to your homes: December 30, 2013.
They also decided to remember and celebrate the January 1, 1994 Zapatista uprising, so for those who want to stay for the 20th anniversary festivities, there will be a party December 31 and January 1.
After that, there still won’t be rest, because it has also been decided that after the festivities, the work—that is, the Little School—will continue:
Dates for the Third Round of the Little School
- Anniversary party: December 31, 2013 – January 1, 2014.
- Registration: January 1-2, 2014.
- Classes: January 3-7, 2014.
On January 8, 2014, everyone back to their corner of the earth.
PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THIS POINT: In order to request an invitation and registration code for the second and third rounds of the Little School, even if you have already asked for one via the webpage or by email, you must send your request to the following email (you can send it as of today):
We are doing it this way so that we can organize things adequately and so that you receive a timely response.
“Our Weapons are Our Words, Our Thinking, Our Hearts.”
“We are the Guardians of our Mother Land – it is not a commodity, it’s our mother.”
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Zapatista Freedom School goes Worldwide (thefreeonline.wordpress.com)
- Zapatist School Day 2: Women’s Government (thefreeonline.wordpress.com)
- Zapatista School Day 3: Autonomous Schools, Banks… Resistance.
- 50,000 Mayan Zapatistas march for New Era
- ZAPATISTAS EN DÍA DE LA RESISTENCIA INDÍGENA