Zapatista Development: Local Empowerment and the Curse of Top-Down Economics

Tanya Khokhar

Tanya Khokhar, a program analyst at the Ford Foundation in New York City and graduate of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, visited Chiapas from July to September 2012 to evaluate economic and political development and conflict resolution in the region. Although critical of the government’s role in the state, and approving of Zapatista efforts to implement autonomous modes of governance in the rural communities, the author’s conclusions are pessimistic.
“But as has been shown,” writes Khokhar, “the dynamics currently operating in Chiapas are extremely dysfunctional. Neither Zapatista nor government-led development models have managed to improve the livelihoods of local indigenous communities. Although sporadic successes do arise, Chiapas generally has seen only meager improvements and persistently high levels of poverty.”

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