Last Friday afternoon in Mexico City, I was waiting for a friend, a dedicated human and civil rights activist for many years in Mexico. He was going to tell me about his work on an initiative recently launched to call for a citizen’s convention to draft a new constitution for Mexico. This initiative, the “Constituyente Ciudadana Popular,” is spearheaded by Bishop of Saltillo Raul Vera, a leader of the Mexican Catholic Church.
Vera was assistant to the well-known Bishop of Chiapas Samuel Ruiz, an uncompromising advocate for Indigenous rights. During and after the Zapatista uprising in 1994, Ruiz denounced military and paramilitary attacks on the largely Indigenous Zapatista base, and was instrumental in negotiating on their behalf with the Mexican government. It was said that Vera was originally sent to be a conservative counterweight to Ruiz, who was unapologetically committed to liberation theology and its preferential option for the world’s poor. But instead Vera has joined the company of the Latin American church’s firebrands for social justice, famously denouncing homophobia as an illness, advocating for the rights of political prisoners, accusing the government of collusion in not just the disappearances of the 43 teachers’ training college students of Ayotzinapa last September, but of several other confirmed but less publicized massacres that preceded it.
In announcing the launch of the Constituyente effort last January, Vera cited his experience with Ruiz negotiating the 1996 San Andres accords, institutional reforms that the Zapatistas had intended to be binding on all of Mexico. The accords reached were limited to protecting Indigenous cultural and land rights, and the government then failed to implement those.