By: Kyle James | 06-30-2018 | News
Photo credit: AFP

Indigenous Mexicans Prepare Blockades To Stop Presidental Voting

Mexico's presidential election is scheduled to take place Sunday in one of the country's most important and divisive votes. The nation is on the verge of electing a far-left progressive leader, but those who are fed up with the corruption are being left behind while politicians pockets swell. Community leaders representing tens of thousands of indigenous people have vowed to block voting in their communities to protest the system that failed them.

<img src="" style="max-height:640px;max-width:360px;">

<span style="margin-top:15px;rgba(42,51,6,0.7);font-size:12px;">Alan Ortega</span>

Polls show the country is on the verge of electing Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, one of the most leftist and anti-establishment presidential candidates Mexico has ever seen. The message of change failed to resonate with the small communities in the outskirts of the wooded countryside of southwestern Michoacan. The resistance to the vote is so strong in 16 of the towns that they have been declared "unviable" and will likely not risk confrontation to force polling stations to open in the towns.

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Residents from no-go zones such as the impoverished hamlet of Nahuatzen, where the indigenous Purepecha live off an economy of avocado farms on tiny plots of land, have donned firearms and cowboy hats to stand guard at the town's entrance. A tree trunk was laid across the road to prevent anyone from entering the small community. A member of an indigenous council created recently to petition the Mexican government for autonomy named Antonio Arriola said, "The politicians haven’t done anything besides enrich themselves and they’ve left us behind."

Word spread Friday that local party bosses may try to deliver ballots in their personal cars, the indigenous leaders used bulldozers to dig a trench in the main road to strengthen the blockade. Local leaders including Arriola did admit to having some common ground with the 64-year-old former Mexico City mayor Lopez Obrador who began his political career advocating for indigenous rights decades prior. Arriola says he knows better now than to get his hopes up. "Our roads, schools, and healthcare have been in the gutter for more than 40 years," he said.

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The movement of indigenous communities seeking to self-rule and turn their backs on mainstream elections is proliferating. Communities in Michoacan began to dissent ahead of the 2012 presidential election, but only one municipality opted out of voting back then. That number has since grown to 16 towns with at least 50,000 voters spread among them. The unrest has also spread to traditional Maya communities in Southern Mexican states such as Chiapas and Guerrero where indigenous leaders in at least six towns and small cities are also vowing to block voting Sunday.

Erika Barcenas, a lawyer who advises indigenous communities, says some electoral officials may opt to set up polling stations outside of towns that have refused to accept them so that those who may want to vote can still do so. "But I think the view of the majority is a more global rejection, a rejection of political parties and of the kind of democracy we have right now," Barcenas said. The complaints among the indigenous seem to be echoed among the country in general as the Mexican population has become tired of widespread political corruption, drug violence, and poverty.

<img src="" style="max-height:640px;max-width:360px;">

<span style="margin-top:15px;rgba(42,51,6,0.7);font-size:12px;">Alan Ortega</span>

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