Saturday, April 19, 2008

Zapatista Prisoners Threaten Hunger Strike in Tabasco

Two Zapatista political prisoners will begin a hunger strike on April 21 if they are not released before then, reports Enlace Zapatista. They demand immediate, unconditional release--not a pardon. In their own words: "For what crime do we have to request a pardon? For what crime would they have to pardon us?" In their eyes, to request a pardon would imply that they assume responsibility for a crime they didn't commit.

Both men threaten to hunger strike despite serious health problems. Ángel Concepción Pérez Gutiérrez (below, right), age 44, suffers from a reportedly untreated infection that has wracked his body for the past three years. Francisco Pérez Vázquez (below, left), age 74, has diabetes.

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Ángel Concepción Pérez Gutiérrez (age 44) and Francisco Pérez Vázquez (age 74) from the community of Guapacal in the municipality of Tila, Chiapas, were detained and charged with the murder of Florentino Hernández López on July 9, 1996, and each sentenced to 25 year prison terms. The murder took place on November 16, 1995, as the result of a territorial dispute between two ejidos on either side of the Chiapas-Tabasco border, Tutzil (Chiapas) and Agua Blanca (Tabasco).

The case brought against the two indigenous Ch’ol men was fraught with irregularities, including some which constitute human rights violations. Among these is the right to valid reasoning and legal grounds with regards to one’s judgment, as stated in articles 14 and 16 of the Mexican Constitution. In this case, the sole witness originally claimed he could not identify the perpetrators and later changed his testimony claiming psychiatric distress at the time of his original statement, although there was no hard evidence to sustain his claim.

Both men have been held in substandard conditions, and have stated that they are forced to sleep on the floor and are subject to flooding during rainy periods. Pérez Gutiérrez has been in ill health for the past three years, suffering from a serious infection for which he reportedly has not received medical attention. Meanwhile, Pérez Vázquez’s advanced age and diabetes has created health complications for him as well. The two men have been in solidarity with the huger strikers held in prisons in Chiapas, commencing a fast March 24. However, due to their ill health they have decided to cancel the fast as of April 3. While they are no longer able to continue with the strike, Pérez Gutiérrez and Pérez Vázquez offer an example of the circumstances faced by detainees throughout Mexico, a situation which has inspired the hunger strike that continues in Chiapas.

Pérez Gutiérrez and Pérez Vázquez were not among the 30 detainees participating the hunger strike who were released Monday, March 31 as that release only pertained to those detained in the state of Chiapas. However, the zapatista Good Government Council known as Roberto Barrios issued a communiqué March 25, demanding the immediate release of the detainees in Tabasco and reparations for suffering endured on the part of Pérez Gutiérrez, Pérez Vázquez and their families.

The Other Campaign in Tabasco requests that adherents and supporters of the Other Campaign maintain a constant vigil outside the Tacotalpa prison where the men are being held. The Tabasco Other Campaign will hold a press conference in Juárez Park on April 21 to coincide with the beginning of the hunger strike. Human rights observers and international adherents are asked to closely monitor the situation as it develops, and to be prepared to act as the moment arises.


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