Thursday, October 23, 2008

Friends of Brad Will declare dry hunger strike at Sen. Clinton's office

Friends of Brad Will, an organization founded by friends and family of murdered Indymedia journalist Brad Will, has declared a four-day dry hunger strike and vigil in front of Sen. Hillary Clinton's Manhattan office to demand that she take action on Will's case. During the hunger strike, the protesters will not drink or eat.

Will was murdered in Oaxaca, Mexico, on October 27, 2006, while covering the popular uprising there. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Mexican government has blamed members and supporters of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca for the murder. It has already arrested three people in the case, and says it has arrest warrants for eight more. All are APPO members or supporters.

Witnesses, journalists, ballistic evidence, the autopsy results, video evidence, and photographs all point to Juan Carlo Soriano, municipal police officer; Manuel Aguilar, council personnel chief; Able Santiago Zarate; and Pedro Carmona, mayor of Felipe Carrillo Puerto de Santa Lucia del Camino as the most likely culprits.

The Mexican government's own National Human Rights Commission (CNDH in its Spanish initials) has strongly condemned the government's investigation of the case, saying that Will died of two long-range shots, not two short-range shots fired by APPO members standing around Will, as the attorney general claims. According to the CNDH, "We are concerned because the person the Attorney General's office detained as the person allegedly responsible for the homicide of US journalist Brad Will could be charged without evidence, and he runs the risk of being convicted."

On October 16 the Mexican government arrested APPO activist Juan Manuel Martínez Moreno as the intellectual author of the crime and Octavio Perez Perez as a co-conspirator. A day later it arrested Hugo Colmenares Leyva as another co-conspirator. The government claims that Martínez Moreno pulled the trigger as he stood to the side of Will, even though the first shot Will received came from straight-on.

This is not the first time Martínez Moreno has faced problems for his activism: in 2007 he was kidnapped along with two other APPO members while performing election observation in Santa Lucía del Camino, where Will was murdered in October 2006. The kidnappers beat the three APPOistas severely in the face and abdomen under a bridge and then dumped them in a community 38 kilometers from Oaxaca City.

Friends of Brad Will has decided to target Sen. Clinton because she supports the military aid package to Mexico called the Merida Initiative, also known as Plan Mexico. Plan Mexico will provide training, resources, and armament to the Mexican government, military, and police forces to continue its highly controversial war on organized crime, which has already resulted in skyrocketing drug-related homicide rates and human rights abuses. Robert Jereski, a member of Friends of Brad Will who is on his third day of hunger strike, told Narco News, "Clinton's supporting a security package that's arming the security forces who killed a US journalist who worked in New York City."

The hunger strikers delivered a list of six demands to Sen. Clinton's office yesterday morning. They include:

  • That Hillary Clinton issue a public statement demanding protection for witnesses to Will's murder, the arrest of the government agents filmed shooting at him, and a public statement opposing the Merida Initiative. Witnesses in the Will case claim they and their families have suffered harrassment, including being followed and having their homes watched.
  • That the Mexican government arrest the real killers in the Will case.
  • That the the charges against Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno and Octavio Perez Perez be dropped. FoBW calls these charges "an absurd attempt to divert attention from the real killers."
  • The end of the "corrupt brutal rule by Ulises Ruiz" Ortiz, the current governor of Oaxaca whose destitution was the central demand of the 2006 uprising.
  • An end to the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), and Plan Puebla Panama, now known as the Mesoamerica Project.
  • No to the Plan Mexico military aid package, officially known as the Merida Initiative.

Thus far Clinton has not met with the hunger strikers, even though she was reportedly in her Manhattan office yesterday. She has also not responded to the demands, which were delivered directly to her staff and are also being faxed to her office by protesters all over the United States.

Friends of Brad Will is undettered. They are encouraging supporters to continue calling Sen. Clinton's office at (212) 688-6262 to support the hunger strikers' demands. According to Jereski, "It is our duty to stand up for human rights in solidarity with the victims of those security forces, and not with the perpetrators of human rights violations....US tax money will be used to send lethal aid to Mexico to wholely unaccounatable police and military forces there. We have a resonsibility to take action." Jereski says that U.S. weaponry and training have been used by Mexican officials to violently repress dissent and leftist and indigenous movements, "the very actions that journalist Brad Will was exposing."

Calls on Thursday to Sen. Clinton's press office for a comment on the hunger strike went unanswered.

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