The San Andrés Accords were drafted on Jan. 18. 1996 following negotiations between the EZLN and the Mexican government. These negotiations came almost exactly two years after the EZLN first rose up on Jan. 1, 1994.

The Accords define the immediate goals of the EZLN (i.e. recognition of indigenous rights and granting autonomy to indigenous communities) and codifies standards for implementing those goals.

This agreement would be a powerful step forward for indigenous people all over the world, in that it would provide a precedent for the establishment of autonomous indigenous communities within existing nation-states.

Also, importantly, the Accords specifically address the need for government of any kind to take all necessary steps to ensure full participation of previously disempowered groups (women, minorities, homosexuals, etc.)

The Mexican government failed to implement any part of the San Andrés Accords and the EZLN/Zapatista struggle continues.

An english translation of the San Andrés Accords follows.
Translated by Rosalva Bermudez-Ballin

Joint Proposals which the Federal Government and the EZLN commit to send to the Debate and National Decision Authorities, in Accord with Point 1.4 of the Rules of Procedure.

The various parties commit themselves to sending to the Debate and National Decision Authorities the following joint proposals upon which they have agreed.

On the basis of the new relationship between the State and the indigenous peoples it is necessary to recognize, insure and guarantee rights within an emended federalist framework. Such an objective implies the promotion of reforms and addenda to the Federal Constitution and the laws emerging from it, as well as to State Constitutions and local Judicial Dispositions, to further, on the one hand, the establishment of general foundations that may insure unity and national objectives; and, at the same time, allow the federative entities the true power to legislate and act in accordance to the particularities of the indigenous issues coming before them.

1.- To urge a profound transformation of the State, as well as of the political, social, cultural, and economic relationships with the indigenous peoples, which satisfies their demands for justice.

2.- To urge the emplacement of an all-inclusive new social agreement, based on the understanding of the fundamental plurality of Mexican society and on the contribution that the indigenous people can make to national unity, beginning with the constitutional acknowledgement of their rights, and in particular, to their right to self-determination and autonomy.

3.- The legal reforms to be promoted must originate from the principle of the equality of all Mexicans before the law and judicial organs, and not by the creation of special codes of law that privilege particular people; respecting the principle that the Mexican Nation is a pluricultural entity which is originally supported by its indigenous peoples. 4.- The constitutional modifications represent one of the most important factors in the new relationship between the indigenous peoples and the State within the framework of reforming the State, so that their demands may find support within the State legal system.


1.- The creation of a judicial framework that establishes a new relationship between indigenous peoples and the State, based on the recognition of their right to self-determination and the judicial, political, social, economic and cultural rights that obtain from it. The new constitutional dispositions must include a framework of autonomy.

2.- Such a judicial framework must be produced with the recognition of the self-determination of indigenous peoples, who, with previous societies, are the ones who have suffered a historical continuation of colonial oppression, maintain and recognize their own identities; and possess the will to preserve them, based on their own, distinct cultural, social, political and economic characteristics. Those attributes characterize them as indigenous peoples, and as such, they are constituted as subjects with a right to self-determination.

Autonomy is the concrete expression of the exercise of the right to self-determination, within the framework of membership in the National State. The indigenous peoples shall be able, consequently, to decide their own form of internal government as well as decide their way of organizing themselves politically, socially, economically and culturally. Within the new constitutional framework of autonomy, the exercise of self-determination of indigenous peoples shall be respected in each of the domains and levels in which they are asserted, being able to encompass one or more indigenous groups, according to particular and specific circumstances in each federal entity. The exercise of autonomy of indigenous people will contribute to the unity and democratization of national life and will strengthen national sovereignty.

It is appropriate to admit, as a fundamental demand of the indigenous peoples, their right to autonomy, insofar as they are communities with different cultures and they have the faculty to decide their own local issues within the framework of the National State. This acknowledgement is based on Agreement 169 of the OIT (International Labor Organization), and ratified by the Senate of the Republic. Thus, the recognition of autonomy is based on the concept of indigenous group, which is founded on historical criteria and on cultural identity.

3.- National legislation must acknowledge indigenous peoples as subjects with the right to self-determination and autonomy.

4.- It is proposed to the Congress of the Union to recognize, in national legislation, these communities as entities with public rights, with the right to free association in municipalities with populations that are predominantly indigenous, as well as the right of a group of municipalities to associate, in order to coordinate their actions as indigenous peoples.

Competent authorities will execute the orderly and gradual transference of resources, so that the people themselves may administer the public funds assigned to them, and to strengthen the indigenous participation in government, negotiations and administration in the various domains and levels. It will be up to state legislatures to determine, in their case, the obligations and faculties that might be transferred.

State legislatures will be able to move forward on the remunicipatization in the territories in which the indigenous villages are established, said remunicipalization must be based on consultation with the towns involved.

In order to strengthen the federal contract, it is essential to revise in depth, not only the relationship between the Federation and the state governments, but also the relationship between the latter and the municipalities.

The union between townships and predominantly indigenous populations is proposed, not as a different type of municipality, but as one which, within the framework of the general concept of this political institution, may allow indigenous participation in its composition and unity, while, at the same time promoting and integrating indigenous communities into the municipal government. As to what constitutes a municipality with a predominantly indigenous population, reaffirming the full meaning of a free municipality on which federalism is based, it is considered necessary that the organizations be constitutionally strengthened, in such a manner that:

a) they may be endowed with duties that guarantee the exercise of autonomy of the indigenous peoples;

b) the structure foreseen in the Municipal Organic Law will guide and orient them toward facing the new challenges of development, and in particular to the needs and new forms of organization specifically for indigenous towns;

5.- It is proposed that the Congress of the Union and to the State Legislatures acknowledge and establish the characteristics of self-determination and the levels and modes of autonomy, taking into consideration what "autonomy" means.

a) Territory. Every indigenous town is found in a territory that covers the entire habitat occupied or used by indigenous people in one form or another. The territory is the material base of their reproduction as a people and it expresses the inseparable unity people-land-nature.

b) Demarcation of application. Jurisdiction is the spatial, material and personal normative field of validity in which the indigenous people apply their rights. The Mexican State will acknowledge the existence of said fields.

c) Responsibilities. There must be compatibility with various federal, state and municipal authorities, as well as a distribution of political, administrative, economic, social, cultural, educational, judicial resources, for the management and protection of natural resources, with the purpose of responding opportunely to the requirements and demands of indigenous peoples.

Furthermore, it will be required to specify the obligations, faculties and resources that are likely to be transferred to the indigenous communities and towns under the established criteria in Section 5.2 of the document entitled "Joint Pronouncements", as well as the various forms of participation by the communities and towns vis a vis the government authorities, so that they may interact and coordinate their actions with them, particularly at the municipal level.

d) Self-development. The indigenous communities and towns themselves must determine their development projects and programs. For this reason, it is considered appropriate to incorporate, in local and federal legislation, the ideal mechanisms that would promote the participation of indigenous peoples in the planning for development at all levels; so that the design of this participation may take into consideration their aspirations, needs and priorities.

e) Participation in the national and state channels of representation. Local and national participation and political representation must be ensured, respecting the various socio-cultural characteristics, in order to create a new federalism.

It is proposed to the Congress of the Union, the recognition, in constitutional and political reforms that may derive, of the rights of the indigenous woman to participate as an equal with men in all levels of government and in the development of indigenous peoples.

6.- It is proposed to the Congress of the Union and to the State legislatures that, in acknowledging indigenous autonomy and for the determination of all its levels, they take into consideration the main rights that are the objects of said autonomy; establishing the characteristics required to insure its free exercise. Among said rights, the following may be emphasized:

a) to exercise the right to develop the specific forms of social, cultural, political and economic organization;

b) to obtain the recognition of their internal normative systems for regulation and sanctions, insofar as they are not contrary to constitutional guarantees and human rights, especially those of women;

c) to agree to State jurisdiction in a better way;

d) to agree collectively to the use and enjoyment of natural resources, except those which fall under national jurisdiction;

e) to promote the development of the various components of indigenous identity and cultural heritage;

f) to interact with the various levels of political representation in government and the administration of justice;

g) to cooperate with other communities of their ethnicity or different groups, in joining efforts and coordinating actions for optimal use of resources, and the initiation of regional and general development projects for the promotion and defense of common interests;

h) to design their community and their municipal government representation freely, as well as selecting their authorities as indigenous peoples, in accordance with their own institutions and traditions;

i) to promote and develop their languages and cultures, as well as their political, social, economic, religious and cultural customs and traditions.


1.- Increase in political participation and representation. Municipal strengthening. It is convenient to anticipate at the constitutional level the necessary mechanisms that:

a) Insure the adequate political participation of indigenous communities and peoples in the Congress of the Union and local congresses, incorporating new criteria correspond to the indigenous communities and towns;

b) Allow participation in the electoral processes without requiring participation of the political parties;

c) Guarantee the effective participation of the indigenous peoples in the publicity and supervision of those processes;

d) Guarantee the organization of internal election or nomination processes.

e) Recognize the system assignation of offices and other forms of organization, methods of designation of representatives, and the making of decisions in the assembly and of popular consultation.

f) Establish the election of municipal agents or allied figures or, when appropriate, be named by the corresponding towns and communities.

g) Foresee in the state legislation the mechanisms that may allow the revision, and, when appropriate, the modification of the names of the municipalities, proposed by the population located in the corresponding boundaries.

2.- The guarantee of full access to justice. The State must guarantee the towns full access to the jurisdiction of the Mexican State, with recognition and respect for their own internal normative systems, guaranteeing full respect for human rights. It will promote the recognition that positive Mexican Law may acknowledge the authorities, norms and internal procedures for conflict resolution of towns and communities, will guarantee that local judgments and decisions are confirmed by the judicial authorities of the State.

The recognition of jurisdictions stems from a restructuring of the municipal charter, so that said authorities will be able to settle internal conflicts of coexistence; their knowledge and resolution may imply a better acquisition and distribution of justice.

The marginalization in which the indigenous people live and the conditions of disadvantage to which they consent in the system of granting and procuring justice, create the need for a serious revision of the federal and state judicial frameworks, so that effective access of the indigenous peoples be guaranteed, or in place of local action, access to its members to the State jurisdiction, and in this manner, avoiding partial distribution of justice to the detriment of the indigenous sector of the population.

In the legislative reforms that may enrich the internal normative systems it must be determined that, when sanctions are imposed upon members of the indigenous towns, the economic, social and cultural characteristics of those sanctioned must be taken into consideration, privileging sanctions other than incarceration. Preferably sentences may carried out in places that are closer to home and also, that integration into the community be favored as an essential mechanism of social readaptation.

The insertion of the norms and judicial practices of the indigenous communities as a source of law applicable to procedures and resolutions of controversies under their authorities, will be encouraged; also, in order to provide constitutional guarantees, it is strongly suggested that federal and local judgments in which the indigenous people are involved be taken into consideration.

3.- Knowledge and respect of indigenous culture. It is considered necessary to elevate the constitutional rank of all Mexicans by means of a pluricultural education that acknowledges, disseminates and promotes the history, customs, traditions and, in general, the culture of the indigenous peoples, root of our national identity.

The Federal Government will promote the laws and necessary policies so that the indigenous languages in each state may have the same social value as Spanish, and it will promote the development of practices that deter discrimination against them in administrative and legal transactions.

The Federal Government commits itself to the promotion, development, preservation and practice of indigenous languages by providing education in the indigenous languages; moreover, it will favor the instruction of writing and reading in the languages themselves; and measures will be adopted to insure that these peoples have the opportunity to learn Spanish.

Knowledge of indigenous cultures is national enrichment and a necessary step to eliminate misunderstandings and discrimination toward indigenous peoples.

4.- Integral Indigenous Education. The various governments commit themselves to respect the educational tasks of the indigenous peoples within their own cultural space. The allocation of financial, material and human resources must be brought about with fairness to plan and carry out educational and cultural activities determined by the indigenous towns and communities.

The State must bring about the indigenous peoples' right to a free and quality education, as well as to encourage the participation of the indigenous towns and communities in selecting, ratifying and removing teachers, taking into consideration criteria on academic and professional performance previously agreed on by the indigenous peoples and the corresponding authorities, and to form supervisory committees on the quality of education within the framework of local institutions.

The right to bilingual and inter cultural education of the indigenous peoples is ratified. The definition and development of educational programs with regional content, where their cultural heritage is recognized, are established as the jurisdiction of federative entities in consultation with the indigenous towns. It will be possible, through educational action, to insure the use and development of indigenous languages, as well as the participation of towns and communities in conformance with the spirit of Agreement 169 of the OIT (International Labor Organization).

5.- The provision of basic needs. The State must set up mechanisms to guarantee the indigenous towns the conditions that may allow them to satisfactorily tend to their nourishment, health, and housing at an adequate level of well-being. Social policy must set up priority programs for the improvement of the levels of health and nourishment of children, as well as support programs, in an egalitarian plane, for the training of women, increasing their participation in the organization and the development of the family and the community. Priority must be given to the intervention of the indigenous woman in the decisions regarding economic, political, social and cultural development projects.

6.- Production and employment. Historically, development models have not taken into consideration the productive systems of the indigenous peoples. Consequently, the utilization of their potentials must be encouraged.

The Mexican judicial system, both at federal and state levels must push for the recognition of the indigenous peoples' right to the sustainable use and the derived benefits of the use and development of the natural resources of the territories they occupy or utilize in any form, so that, in a framework of global development, the economic underdevelopment and isolation may be overcome. This action also implies an increase in and reorientation of social spending. The State must foster the development of the economic base of the indigenous towns and must guarantee their participation in designing the strategies directed toward the improvement of their living conditions and the provision of basic services.

7.- Protection of migrant indigenous peoples. The State must set up specific social policies to protect migrant indigenous people, both in the national territory as well as beyond its borders, with inter institutional actions to support work and education of women, and health and education for children and youth, which, in rural regions, must be coordinated in the areas of contribution as well as those that attract agricultural workers.

8.- Means of communication. With the purpose of creating an inter cultural dialogue from the community level up to the national level, that may allow a new and positive relationship between the various indigenous groups and between these groups and the rest of society, it is essential to endow these towns with their own means of communication, which are also key mechanisms for the development of their cultures. Therefore, it will be proposed to the respective national authorities, to elaborate a new communications law that may allow the indigenous towns to acquire, operate and administrate their own means of communication.

The Federal and State governments will promote that the means of communication currently in the hands of the Indigenists become indigenous means of communication, which is a demand made by the indigenous communities and towns.

The Federal Government will recommend to the respective authorities that the seventeen INI (National Indigenist Institute) radio stations be given to the indigenous communities in their respective regions, with the transference of permits, infrastructure and resources, when an expressed request by the indigenous communities has been issued to this effect.

In the same manner, it is necessary to create a new judicial framework in the area of communications that may consider the following aspects: national pluriculturalism; the right to use indigenous languages in the media; the right to rebuttal; guarantees to rights of expression, information and communication; and the democratic participation of the indigenous towns and communities before the authorities who decide on matters of communication. The participation of interested parties in establishing a civic responsibility process for the decision making authorities in the area of communication, can be realized through the creation of a communications Ombudsman or a citizens' Council of communications.



1.- Pluralism. The contact between the peoples and cultures that constitute Mexican society must be based on respect for their differences, and must assume their fundamental equality. Consequently, it must be the policy of the State to regulate its action, to promote a pluralist orientation in society, capable of actively combating every form of discrimination, and of correcting economic and social inequalities. Similarly, it will be necessary to move towards the creation of a judicial order nourished by plurality, reflecting intercultural dialogue with common standards for all Mexicans and respect for the internal systems of law of the indigenous peoples.

2.- Self-determination. The State shall respect the exercise of self-determination by indigenous peoples, in all fields and levels where they will try to validate and practice their separate autonomy, without damaging national sovereignty and within the new normative framework for the indigenous towns. This implies respect for their cultural identities and their forms of social organization. It will also respect the abilities of the indigenous towns and communities to determine their own development, as long as national and public interest is respected. The various levels of government and State institutions will not intervene unilaterally in the affairs and decisions of the indigenous towns and communities, in their organization and forms of representation, and in their current strategies for the use of resources.

3.- Sustainability. It is necessary and urgent to safeguard the natural areas and culture of the territories of indigenous peoples. Legislation will push for the recognition of the rights of the indigenous towns and communities to receive the corresponding indemnization, when the exploitation of natural resources carried out by the State causes damages to their habitat which may endanger their cultural survival. In the cases where damage has already occurred, and the towns are where damage has already occurred, and these towns are able to show that the given compensation does not allow their cultural survival, the establishment of review mechanisms will be promoted to allow the State and the affected to jointly analyze the specific case. In both cases the compensatory mechanisms will try to insure the sustainable development of the indigenous towns and communities.

In the same manner, there will be launched, in common accord with the indigenous towns, rehabilitation activities of those territories, and support of initiatives to create the conditions that may insure the sustainability of their practices of production and of life.

4.- Consultation and Accord. The policies, laws, programs, and public actions that might relate to the indigenous towns will be consulted. The State must promote the integrity and agreement of all the institutions and levels of government that influence the life of the indigenous towns, avoiding partial practices that may split up public policy. To insure that their action corresponds to the distinct characteristics of the various indigenous towns, and to avoid the imposition of uniform policies and programs, their participation in all the phases of public action, including conception, planning and evaluation must be guaranteed.

Similarly, there must be a gradual and orderly transference of powers, obligations and resources to the municipalities and communities so that, with the participation of the latter, the public monies assigned to them may be distributed. As for resources, and for whatever purpose they may exist, they may be transferred to the forms of organization and association that are anticipated in point 5.2 of the document of Joint Pronouncements.

Since the policies in the indigenous areas should not only be conceived with the towns themselves, but implemented with them, the present indigenist and social development institutions that operate locally must be transformed into different entities that may be conceived and operated jointly and in concert with the State and the indigenous peoples themselves.

5.- Strengthening of the Federal System and Democratic Decentralization. The new relationship with the indigenous peoples encompasses a process of decentralization of the obligations, faculties and resources of the federal and state authorities to the municipal governments, in the spirit of point 5.2 of the document Joint Pronouncements, so that with the active participation of the indigenous communities and the population in general, they may assume the initiatives thereof.



1.- The establishment of a new relationship between the indigenous peoples and the State has, as a necessary point of departure, the creation of a new judicial framework at the national level as well as in the federative entities. The constitutional reforms that recognize the rights of the indigenous towns must be achieved through a creative legislative spirit, that may produce new policies and may give real solutions to social problems. To that effect, we propose that these reforms must contain, among others, the following general aspects:

a) To legislate on the autonomy of the indigenous communities and towns, to include the recognition of the communities as entities with public law; their right to associate freely with municipalities that are of predominantly indigenous populations; and also the right of various municipalities to associate for the purpose of coordinating their actions as indigenous towns;

b) To legislate to "guarantee the protection of the integrity of the lands belonging to indigenous groups," taking into consideration the specifics of the indigenous towns and communities, in the concept of territorial integrity contained in Agreement 169 of the OIT (International Labor Organization), as well as establishing the procedures and mechanisms for the regularization of the various forms of indigenous property rights and for the promotion of cultural cohesion;

c) In issues related to natural resources, to install a preferential order that privileges the indigenous communities in the granting of concessions in order to reap the benefits of the exploitation and use of natural resources;

d) Legislate on the rights of the indigenous people, men and women, to have representatives in the legislative entities, particularly in the Congress of the Union and in the local congresses; incorporating new criteria to delimit the electoral districts that may correspond to the indigenous communities and towns, and that they be allowed to have elections in accordance to the legislation on that matter;

e) Legislate on the rights of the indigenous towns to elect their own authorities and to exercise authority according to their own internal norms in their aut]\onomous localities, guaranteeing the participation of women on equal terms;

f) In the content of the legislation, to take into consideration the pluricultural nature of the Mexican Nation that may be reflected in intercultural dialogue, with common standards for all Mexicans and with respect for the internal normative systems of the indigenous towns;

g) In the Constitution, to insure the obligation to not discriminate on the basis of racial or ethnic origin, language, gender, beliefs or social condition, thus, making possible the designation of discrimination as a crime.

The rights of the indigenous towns to the protection of their sacred sites and ceremonial centers, and the use of plants and animals that are sites and ceremonial centers, and the use of plants and animals that are considered sacred for strictly ritual use must also be insured;

h) Legislate so that no form of coercion may be exercised against the individual guarantees and the specific rights and freedoms of the indigenous towns;

i) Legislate the rights of the indigenous towns to the free exercise and development of their cultures and their access to means of communication.

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