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Indigenous candidate seeks to shake up Mexican politics

2 min

Mexico City (AFP)

Maria de Jesus Patricio looks nothing like any president in Mexican history: She's a woman. She has dark skin. And she grew up poor.

But thanks to a new law allowing independent candidates to stand for president, she is planning to run in the country's 2018 elections.

The 53-year-old traditional healer from the Nahuatl ethnic group has been nominated to run by the National Indigenous Council and the Zapatistas, a former guerrilla army in the southern state of Chiapas that is now a leftist political movement.

If she can gather the required one million signatures, she will become the first indigenous woman to run for Mexican president.

Soft-spoken and slight, "Marichuy," as supporters call her, spoke to AFP about her decision to run and her mission to shake up the political establishment in Mexico -- a country with a history of racism, machismo and entrenched elites.

Q: Why are you running for president?

"For years, our communities have not been listened to or even seen. No one addresses our problems. On the contrary, our problems keep getting worse," she said, citing poverty, incursions on indigenous land, and a lack of health care and education.

"(Indigenous people) are dying, but it's as if there were nothing wrong. The people on top say nothing about it... They are quietly 'disappearing' us.

"They are destroying nature, and that is what gives us life.

"We need to get rid of our current capitalist system... and for the people to really take the reins in this country."

Q: What do you hope to achieve with your campaign?

"We're not aiming for power. It's more about reaching below to all these people, touring the country and listening to what people are going through.

"We're going to use the tools (of electoral politics) that those in power have been using, because for years they have used these tools to manipulate the people and impose their authority.

"We want to make them lose at their own party. Because to them (elections) are a party, but not to the people, right?"

Q: Mexico has had one indigenous president who was a man, Benito Juarez (1858-1872). Why is running for president important to you as an indigenous woman?

"They see women as if they don't have a right to education, to hold office, no right to hold a high position. Discrimination and racism are deep. So now, with this project... you can see the importance of being a woman that gives a voice to everyone."

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