Unlike the Capitalistic Mexican Justice System, you cannot buy Zapatista Justice
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”.