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Civil Society and the Peace Process in Chiapas

Civil Society and the Peace Process in Chiapas


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By Onésimo Hidalgo Domínguez

First I will try to explain the concept of civil society and its role in the transformations of society. Then I will present the experience of the role of civil society in Chiapas.

Reflections on Civil Society and the Peace Process in Chiapas

Civil Society VS. Political Society

First I will try to explain the concept of civil society and its role in the transformations of society. Then I will present the experience of the role of civil society in Chiapas.


The concept of CIVIL SOCIETY was used for the first time by Saint Augustine in the 5th century, eight centuries later, Saint Thomas Aquinas gave it great relevance in his writings and in the 17th century Hobbes and Locke used the concept again. and they opposed it to that of the State. In the 20th century, the great thinker, writer, intellectual and leader of left-wing social movements, Antonio Gramsci, was the one who studied it the most and tried to explain it. However, the conceptualization of Civil Society has gradually undergone great changes.

According to these thinkers, but especially Gramsci's thought, he says that Civil Society is "where the collective will is formed, the conviction and adherence of the subaltern classes is organized." That is, for civil society to exist, a political society must exist, which is the State-Government, understood as the governmental apparatus that functions with laws and repressive apparatus (police forces, army, etc.) and exercises control over the media, education and in general the ideology that reproduces and suits the system.

What characterizes the State is that its operation is done by seeking consensus with Civil Society and when it loses it, then it seeks to maintain and advance the established order through coercion, domination and its hegemony over society, but at the same time time marks the direction of the functioning of society.

The State seeks to adapt Civil Society to its economic structure, with direct dominance that is expressed in the legal government that legally ensures the discipline of groups that do not consent either actively or passively. The more the State loses consensus with Civil Society, the more it is urged to resort to force for submission. The State seeks subjugation in all the structures of society, in the economic, political, social, ideological, cultural, educational and military aspects; in favor of a ruling class that seeks to guarantee its permanence in the direction of the State and society. The ruling class elaborates, presents and disseminates a conception by which the State-Government presents itself as the representative of the whole of the people.

So the struggle for power goes through Civil Society, it is the space where all political battles are fought. The hegemony of the ruling class is supported by the Political Parties, but goes through various channels of Civil Society. There is an educating role in this process. There is hegemony when the ruling class is also a leader. This direction is exercised through private institutions. Hegemony leads. To achieve that, it must go through Civil Society.

On the other hand, what characterizes Civil Society is that it permanently builds emancipatory proposals for the social classes excluded from the Plans and Projects, from the exercise of the State-Government and the ruling class, always integrating the collective wills that are born from the bases social, seeking and strengthening the self-managed. There are transformations in daily life that, against the prevailing individualism, enhance a character of solidarity in civil society relations, which little by little are gaining ground in spaces of society in general, which call into question and question the permanence of the class hegemonic in power. Therefore, Civil Society seeks a change and transformations in the structures of society in general, but for this, it is necessary to demonstrate the illegitimacy of the ruling class in power, its lack of consensus and the lack of representation of all interests and needs of the various sectors of society, then it is necessary to undress the ruling and hegemonic class of its antidemocracy and imposition and control.

What characterizes Civil Society is the implication of pluralism, it is multiform, there is constant internal conflict for hegemony and against hegemony, it elaborates its own ideology and spreads it, some private organizations try to overcome others, etc.

Civil Society as an expression of the plurality of social classes, of diverse nature and characteristics, seeks to build itself as another power and become a government from below, to establish a balance of forces between government and society, so that government and state represent and govern. according to the interests of all social classes and not just one.

For this, it is necessary to understand that when a crisis occurs in the balance between society and government, a crisis also occurs between Political Society and Civil Society, which occurs because the ruling class is saturated, not only does it not expand but it disintegrates Not only does it not assimilate new elements, but a part of itself is detached or detachments are more numerous than assimilations. It is a long-term process. The organic nature of this crisis occurs when the great masses no longer accept what they previously believed; when there is a break in the relationship between Civil Society and State. There is not only resistance to domination among the dominated classes, but Civil Society is gradually becoming a counter-hegemonic power.

This power that Civil Society acquires is that it does not aspire to power, because in itself it is already a power, because the social predominates in it, like everything that is not the State. It is noted that totally different and different things are done in Civil Society and in the State. The particular is located in society, and the State is seen as the depositary of a delegated power in search of what represents the whole of society, the general.
The writer Touraine concludes that Civil Society cannot be reduced only to economic interests, but is the domain of all social actors who are oriented at the same time by cultural values ​​and by frequently conflictive social relations.

Proposals and Functions of Civil Society

a) .- When there is a democratic country, civil society plays a diversity of roles and functions, and its importance can hardly be overstated; If Civil Society does not express itself in this diversity of roles, democracy is precarious or perhaps almost non-existent.

b) .- The important and key role of Civil Society is the capacity it has for the integration of isolated groups and individuals or groups excluded from the social order in general through the offering of ways for social contact, alliances and cohesion.

c) .- Another important function of Civil Society is that it manages to disperse power and protect individuals, which it achieves through the creation of numerous centers of thought, action and loyalty. The independence of these associations and organizations separated from the direction of the State-Government, which is the hallmark of the dispersion of power carried out by Civil Society. The result of this dispersion of power is that the associative life of Civil Society has the capacity to protect the individual in significant ways. The membership of certain Civil Society organizations, such as Human Rights NGOs, Civil Associations, and more recently organizational expressions in thematic networks, etc., which can act as a psychological, social and economic that stand between individuals and political or social forces that demand submission against the wishes of individuals.


d) .- Another important function of Civil Society and NGO organizations is the Supplementation of Government Programs, for example in programs and projects of education, development, social services, housing, communication infrastructure, projects productive projects, political education and articulation projects, etc., for those places and sectors where the State-Government has excluded certain sectors of society. Strengthening the structural organizational capacity of certain sectors through projects parallel to those carried out by the State. It should be clarified that NGOs are not representative of Civil Society, they are simply one of the organized expressions with the greatest capacity for social relations, economic resources, infrastructure and communication. The challenge for NGOs is how to put all these resources at the service of Civil Society and not only for the individuals that make them up.

e) .- Another important function of Civil Society is the mediation role that it plays between the individual, the Family and the State-Government. Above all, this happens in the face of modern mass political systems, where individuals can feel dwarfed by the large scale of the Modern State and unable to make themselves heard. The opportunity to form unions, religious, civil, professional associations, etc., provides a context, a modernity and an opportunity to discuss public affairs of all kinds, through these associations individuals can make their voices heard in Power Councils. more clearly than through isolated political representation. The important thing is to link individuals and the community as a whole.

f) .- It promotes creativity, where threats and intimidation inhibit the exchange of ideas and many of the creative processes take place in a private setting and cannot be fully expressed. Independent creative thinking and the associative phenomenon of Civil Society are protected, so it is to be expected that creative forces will manifest themselves.

h) .- Civil Society widens exclusive loyalties, since voluntary associations of different kinds in civil society make people go outside of themselves and through associative life, encourage moral and ethical interest in others and encourage ethical responsibility. Civil Society has the capacity to contain and soften the ethical and national conflict.

i) .- The Civil Society releases the individual. The existence of various civil, religious, economic, political, social, cultural, educational associations, etc., the ability of the individual to choose between points of view, initiatives, courses, workshops, etc., that are developed in Civil Society, looking for alternative actions. The ability to choose is freedom itself.

j) .- Not all associations organized in Civil Society are ethically defensible. There is no doubt that freedom of association can lead to the creation of groups that range from the suspicious to the repulsive to the morally indefensible. There are Civil Society associations that become the modus vivendi or modus operandi of people or groups of economic, political, criminal or drug trafficking interest, which discredits, corrupts and delegitimizes the true work and interest of Civil Society. Or in other cases, more recently in the last 10 years both the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and in the case of Mexico, to the extent that the State-Government loses consensus before Civil Society, creates organizations with a facade of Civil Society, with economic resources that give it the capacity to recover political spaces and the imposition of plans and projects that benefit the State and the neoliberal system with the support of a political class in power. As for example in Chiapas, at the beginning of the armed conflict in 1994, the government formed the State Council of NGOs, to try to co-opt certain organized groups of Civil Society and oppose it to the Coordination of NGOs for Peace (CONPAZ) who played a convening and important role for the ceasefire on January 12, 1994. More recently, the Governor of the State Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía, constantly uses in his speeches the good relationship that he claims to maintain with Civil Society, and presents his works of government as achievements of Civil Society, deceptive and deceitful speech. Because although it is true that there are nine Civil Society organizations (in this case NGOs), which under the co-investment project receive funds from the government, but they are not all, they do not represent NGOs or Civil Society (of course that those who receive resources from the government do not represent representativeness, but who capitalizes on this relationship and discourse is the government).
Nor does the Better Life program (a deceptive program that forces those in civil resistance to pay for electricity, where the government claims to contribute 50% and consumers the other 50% of debt) has the support and support of Civil Society, more and more there are many sectors disappointed in the performance of the government of Pablo Salazar and this is the reason for the recurring discourse regarding good relations with Civil Society, due to the loss of consensus.

k) .- The role of civil society, in civility and democracy. The development of civility, of the concept and awareness of being a citizen, is linked to the development of Civil Society, understanding civility as a virtue of Civil Society. Civility is more than good manners; it is a form of political action that strongly implies that the opponents are also members of the same society, that they participate in the same common identity. Treating others with the same civility marks them as members of the same moral universe, just as not doing so, excludes them. Democracy within a society benefits when individuals in whom civility predominates occupy positions of authority, where their civility is visible. Civility must be in key segments of society, because civility can also be present in society, but in a dispersed way.

l) .- The Organization of Civil Society in Networks: In the last 15 years, different sectors of Mexican, continental and international civil society have chosen to articulate themselves in thematic networks of different interests, such as networks of defense of human rights, consumers, women, environmentalists, democracy, against trade agreements, anti-globalization, alter-globalization, fair trade, organic production, health, education, productive projects, etc. Many of these efforts seek to unify in large networks of a social movement such as the World Social Forum, the European Social Forum, Via Campesina, the Network Against Transgenics, the World Network Against Dams, etc., many of them are gaining greater strength in the as they articulate various social sectors and build alternatives to the neoliberal model. What already sounds like the Otherworld is Possible.

The Participation of Civil Society in Mexico and in the State of Chiapas

The participation of Civil Society in Mexico has been diverse in different conjunctural and structural moments; but it has acquired a greater participation in the last twenty years to the extent that the population has been more informed, more aware, active and organized; for example, the broad social participation in 1985 to help the population affected by the earthquake of September 19, 1985 in Mexico City, until the social fabric and infrastructure were rebuilt that little by little managed to normalize the life of the community. capital of the country. Likewise, in 1988 when the construction of a broad front of organizations, Citizen Committees, resistance fronts, etc., which championed and pushed the candidacy for the presidency of the Republic of Ing. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, took place for the first time, by the National Democratic Front (FDN).

Civil Society, in itself, did not believe in the Mexican political system led by the PRI government, but this time due to the great electoral fraud, Civil Society accelerated its process of disbelief in the face of the State-Government, but it was also the beginning of the lack of credibility in the Political Parties of channels of participation and decision of the Civil Society, and the government began to fall under the mask of being a representative and conducting State of the Civil Society and from that time on, the Popular Defense Committees, Civil Resistance Fronts, Organizations for the Defense of Human Rights, Fair Trade, Consumers, Housing, etc., that when we arrived on January 1, 1994, Civil Society not only understood and understood the armed uprising of the EZLN composed and directed mainly by the indigenous people in Chiapas; If not, that the Civil Society was mature and was able to organize, mobilize until January 12, 1994, the government of Carlos Salinas decreed a ceasefire and the EZLN accepted the cessation of military confrontations and began the search for a political and negotiated solution to the armed conflict. That January 12, there were more than 2 million people who mobilized in Mexico City, but this happened in at least some twenty-five states of the republic with the sole interest of stopping the war that threatened to spread to the rest of the Mexican republic.

The participation of Civil Society was later manifested in Civil Peace Belts in the Cathedral of San Cristóbal, when the EZLN-Government dialogue began and it gave all its support to the National Intermediation Commission (CONAI), headed by Bishop San Cristóbal , Samuel Ruiz García. The participation of Civil Society in these Peace Belts coordinated and acting together with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Mexican Army was impressive. Later it was in the Forums, in the National Democratic Convention, in the federal elections of August 1994, in helping the population affected by natural disasters, etc.

Later, when on February 9, 1995, the then president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo ordered the capture of the General Command of the EZLN, there was a great national and international movement on February 12, where roads, bridges, ports, etc. were taken. . and in 52 countries of the world there were mobilizations to stop the offensive against the Zapatistas. Until March 11, when the Law of Concord and Peace (COCOPA) is enacted. Thus, in April 1995 negotiations began in San Miguel, municipality of Ocosingo and later in San Andrés; between the EZLN and the Federal Government. Here the participation of Civil Society was very important, not only in the Civil Belts, together with the ICRC, the Mexican Army and indigenous EZLN support bases, but also various organized sectors transcended and were able to agree and enter the negotiations with a political proposal to negotiate together with the EZLN.

Therefore, the decisions and the construction of a new Mexico and the agenda of the social and national movement were discussed between the Federal Government, EZLN and Civil Society in San Andrés. The major issues on the national agenda were discussed in San Andrés and not in the Federal Congress. For this reason, this ceased to be the place where laws were discussed and approved and from there the lack of credibility of the Political Parties accelerated much more (without ceasing to recognize the importance of the parties that made up COCOPA), reaching the moment of PAN-Amigos de Fox, the PRI with Pemexgate, PVEM and the "Niño Verde" scandals and more recently the case of the PRD in the Federal District and its mafia ties with Carlos Ahumada (although not everyone in the PRD acts as a The same way, but the PRD has already stained itself) and the end of the PRD in Chiapas, the aggression and ambush that the PRD members threw at the Zapatistas on April 10 in Jech'vo municipality of Zincantán. All these practices differ in nothing from the PRI.

For this reason, Civil Society has taken other forms of organization and fights for their demands and seeks new forms of organization.
Returning to the issue of the negotiations, they advanced due to the strong and determined participation of the Civil Society, and the militarization and paramilitarization, the official non-compliance forced the Zapatistas to suspend the dialogues. While in Chiapas and Mexico, a Low Intensity War was being applied at the same time against the indigenous and peasant communities, which exceeded the negotiating table and the dialogue was suspended, which until today has not been able to resume due to the distrust of the actors, due to the lack of compliance with the San Andrés Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture, due to the lack of political will of the federal government, both of the former presidents and the current president Vicente Fox.

The representative for the Dialogue in Chiapas, Don Luis H. Alvarez, constantly travels to Chiapas, meeting with PRIs, paramilitaries, businessmen, merchants, saying that he is dialoguing with the Zapatistas. H. Alvarez is delirious with having a dialogue with the EZLN, which is impossible, because what is the use of dialogue, reaching agreements and the government does not comply?

As the possibilities of dialogue with the government are closed, the EZLN's option has been to continue the dialogue with Civil Society, the construction of the Good Government Juntas, the articulation of Zapatismo in Rebel Autonomous Municipalities and its link with the movement of the national and international civil society; because he knows that his main strength is in legitimizing himself before national and international society, before that Rainbow of thoughts, forms of expression, organization, rebellion, which even brings together sectors that are even opposed to each other, because, what makes it beautiful al Arco Iris is the mixture of light rain and sunset, which are so contradictory, but so complementary to each other at a given moment. The beauty of the Rainbow is due to the diversity of colors, which together but not mixed are manifested in front of the sun, with a single form that makes it take identity. Just as it appears and manifests itself, so it disappears, either because the sun shines brighter and defeats the rain or because the rain defeats the sun.

This is Civil Society, a gelatinous social mass that is not so easily schematized and cannot be structured in traditional forms of organization, it is changing and appears in certain social situations, which changes the correlation of forces in favor of certain actors.

Civil Society in Chiapas


Civil Society in Mexico and Chiapas manifested itself since the beginning of the war in 1994, through Caravans and Days for Peace, Civil Peace Camps, observation tours, etc., with constant and vigilant help to the population. civilian in war zones mainly. Chiapas Civil Society has played an important role in stopping the war and in the most critical times of conflicts it has been able to organize in different ways and demonstrate in favor of peace. Its organization has been in Committees and Fronts of Resistance, in Citizen Committees, in Civil Spaces of Peace, etc. These organizational forms in electoral times have been expressed in an alternative way in the construction and establishment of Procuradurías and Electoral Tribunals, in Popular Assemblies by neighborhoods, neighborhoods and communities, etc .; and that its daily practice is expressed in Civil Resistance, in rebellion, a form of non-violent peaceful struggle that gradually builds new forms of popular government in indigenous communities, new forms of relations with the national and international community, which resizes the concept and content of international solidarity; generates new forms of production; new ways of applying justice, where the punishment of the guilty is not necessarily jail or the death penalty, there are other more humane ways of doing justice. These forms of organization also seek greater participation by women in community decisions; This comes from the good practices, customs, traditions and culture of indigenous peoples and communities.

All of this would not have been possible if there had not been a process of popular education and self-education, with simple and practical methods, where not only is it analyzed and reflected, but it is thought that it is what is best for the collective and the bulk of the community. population, regardless of political party, religion, organization or any political militancy. What is sought is the common good. Acting is based on the construction of an economic, political and social alternative for the communities. Common problems are reflected upon and common solutions are sought together.

For this to be possible, several factors intervene, one important thing is the community assembly, as a decision-making and conflict resolution body, where the collective prevails over the individual, where the values ​​of forgiveness, justice, peace and reconciliation are given. based on the community and not on individuals. The reading of biblical texts also plays an important role from the option for the most vulnerable and marginalized. We reflect on which are the structural and conjunctural problems that affect us all, we look for the problems that hurt the most in the heart and reflection and look for proposals that help to remove that pain, since the communities speak from the heart and not so much from thought.

Another important element is also trying to seek the participation of women, who are in an organizational process in decision-making and give their word, and take positions in its organizational process. Many times this is materialized in the organization of cooperative stores, in community education according to customs and in their own indigenous languages, in Community Honor and Justice Commissions, in Dialogue and Reconciliation Commissions; in the production of an organic agriculture that watches over, cares for and protects Mother Earth, its territory and its natural resources, because we come from her, we live in her, we reproduce in her and we die in her; Peoples and communities have a comprehensive worldview of life linked to the land, production and daily life.

* CIEPAC, A.C.
Center for Economic Research and Community Action Policies
NEWSLETTER "CHIAPAS AL DÍA" No. 410/411


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