Councils of Good Government

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The Councils of Good Government (Spanish: Juntas de Buen Gobierno) are organized by the separatist Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) guerrilla movement in their areas of influence (remote parts of the Mexican state of Chiapas).

The top sign states: "You are in Zapatista rebel territory. Here the people command and the government obeys." The bottom sign states: "North Zone. Council of Good Government. Trafficking in weapons, planting and consumption of drugs, inebriating beverages, and illegal sales of wood are strictly prohibited. No to the destruction of nature." Federal Highway 307, Chiapas.


In Chiapas, the Mexican Army moved out of the zones of influence of the EZLN guerrilla movement as part of an unofficial truce. The EZLN organized Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities based on the old indigenous custom of self-government. In these municipalities, an assembly of local representatives forms the Juntas de Buen Gobierno or "Councils of Good Government" (JBGs). Although these Councils are not recognized by the federal or state governments, they effectively oversee local community programs on food, health, and education, as well as taxation.


During 2004, Subcomandante Marcos sent a series of communiqués across the globe in order to report on the Councils, and in reflection of the status of the Zapatistas in relation to the world. The name, "Councils of Good Government", is in direct opposition to the "Bad Government" that these Councils intend to counteract. Several such Councils exist in Chiapas, each acting according to Zapatista guidelines but setting its own independent decisions and standards. The Councils accommodate not only Zapatistas, but also their supporters and allies.

The Councils also apply a rotational method for service on the council. Each citizen within the jurisdiction of a JBG is required to serve on the Council for two weeks; then, a new Council is put into power. This is done to ensure that no political figure is corrupted or falls under the influence of outside forces. The system also accommodates the needs, interests, and concerns of each member within the area that the specific JBG covers.

The federal government ignores the Councils, as they are few and located in remote parts of the state. Outside organizations[who?] which attempt to interact with the Councils find it difficult to do so, stating that their composition changes too quickly to maintain any knowledge of what is in progress.


The Councils have created their own laws and enforce them, applying punishment when deemed necessary, under a community-based system.

The JBGs have declared a serious opposition to trafficking in drugs and people. It is said that various policing groups monitor the traveling of suspicious people and vehicles, in order to prevent such trafficking. Offenders are usually warned the first time, then punished if they repeat the offense, or turned over to appropriate authorities if they are not Zapatistas. People being smuggled are often deceived with promises of illegal entry into the United States, but instead often are abandoned to die by the smugglers. When these smugglers are caught, the victims cared for by the JBGs, and given the money and goods which the smugglers had carried. The smugglers then are warned initially; but if caught again, the smugglers are punished if they be Zapatistas, or turned over to appropriate authorities if they are not. Any drugs confiscated are destroyed, and the same system of punishment is applied. These claims, however, cannot be verified, since government representatives (bureaucrats, police and army members) avoid their zone of influence to preserve the unofficial truce on the EZLN guerrilla movement.

In general, the Councils are progressing[citation needed] toward implementation of Zapatista ideology within their limited areas of influence.

See also[edit]