Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chiapas Prisoner Hunger Strike Over; Struggle Continues

In an April 14 meeting, ex-political prisoners from Chiapas who participated in the month-and-a-half long hunger strike for their freedom announced that all prisoners who were still incarcerated agreed to call off the hunger strike. In addition, SIPAZ reports that ex-prisoners and family members decided to end their plantón outside of the Chiapas state house in the capital of Tuxtla. They made the decision after Bishop Samuel Ruiz wrote them a letter to pressure them to call of the hunger strike. In the letter, he told them that he feared they would die or cause irreparable damage to their health they continued the hunger strike (something the prisoners have always been prepared for), and that there was no hope for their release because the government had closed negotiations over their freedom.

The entire text of Samuel Ruiz's letter is available in English.

Bishop Ruiz essentially convinced the prisoners to play into Gov. Juan Sabines' hands. Sabines released thirty political prisoners (and most likely many more paramilitaries, although that has not been corroborated because the government is keeping the list of released prisoners secret), leaving many Zapatista strikers still in jail. By releasing some but not all prisoners, the government hoped to break the hunger strike. It didn't work, because prisoners declared that they would keep up the hunger strike until all of them were free. That is, until Bishop Ruiz stepped in and convinced them to go along with Juan Sabines.

Ex-prisoners will hold another meeting next week to determine next steps in the struggle to free the remaining prisoners. They declared that the hunger strike might be over, but they're not giving up until all political prisoners are free.


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