Friday, May 23, 2008

Army, Police carry out "routine" invasion of San Jerónimo Tulija, Chiapas

The Mexican Army, Chiapas State Police, and the Federal Agency of Investigation (AFI) invaded the community of San Jerónimo Tulija without cause on May 19 and May 20, bursting into homes without warrants, assaulting at least one Zapatista and her baby, and taking photos of the community.

The operation began on May 19 at 11am with a military helicopter fly-by. At 3pm, eleven Army and AFI vehicles filled with approximately 300 agents entered the community. A neighbor from the community, Narciso Morales Gutiérrez, accompanied the operation, showing agents where Zapatista Autonomous Council authorities (community-level Zapatista representatives) lived and who they were. Morales is said to be part of an Infantry Battalion stationed in Cancun.

Without giving any reason for the invasion and without presenting warrants, agents entered three homes, two belonging to Zapatistas and one to a PRI family (members of the Institutional Revolution Party).

In the Zapatista home, an AFI agent grabbed a 21-year-old woman by the neck while she held her 2-year-old baby in her arms. Other agents looked on and shouted, "Kill her already!"

When members of the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) visited San Jerónimo Tulija to document the invasion, they briefly interviewed an agent who identified
himself as Captain Loyola. Captain Loyola told Frayba that the police and military presence was due to "routine reconnaissance." Captain Loyola's superiors promptly terminated the interview, ordering him to say nothing and stay away from Frayba observers.

When journalists questioned the Chiapas state attorney general about the invasion, he stated that the raid was an anti-drug and -arms operation. No drugs or illegal arms were recovered during the raid.

The invasion came just days after the US House of Representatives passed Plan Mexico, which will provide US training and equipment to the Mexican military and police, supposedly for the "war on drugs." The Senate passed the same bill a few days after the invasion. Critics have argued that the "war on drugs" will continue to be used as a pretext for the Mexican government to invade and abuse communities in resistance.

The army, police, and AFI cleared out of San Jerónimo Tulija on May 20, but the community, which belongs to the Zapatista caracol of La Garrucha, remains on alert.

Photos courtesy of the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

US Congress Approves Plan Mexico

The US Congress approved Plan Mexico, also known as the Merida Initiative, last week, dealing a potentially deadly blow to activists and indigenous communities in Mexico. In the House, 244 Democrats and 32 Republicans voted for the bill and 7 democrats and 159 Republicans voted against it. The Senate approved a slightly different version, with Democrats unanimous in their approval and Republicans split evenly for and against. The House and Senate versions of the bill, which is an amendment to the Iraq supplemental funding bill, still must be reconciled and sent to George Bush for approval, who has threatened to veto the entire Iraq supplemental.

While Bush requested $500 million in funding for Plan Mexico in 2008, the House approved $400 million over the next two years, and the Senate approved $350 million. Analysts expected deeper cuts to Bush's proposal, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mexican Ambassador to the US Arturo Sarukhan rallied at the last minute, using the recent murder of Edgar Eusebio Millán Gómez, chief of Mexico's national police force, the infamous Federal Preventive Police, as a pretext to argue for more funding for Mexico's War on Drugs. The Sinaloa drug cartel is rumored to be responsible for Millán's murder.

Plan Mexico will provide resources, equipment, and training--but not money--to the Mexican government, police, and military. It is yet another bill designed to line the pockets of the military industrial complex. The US military, government agencies such as USAID and the ATF, and US defense contractors such as mercenary firms and weapons manufacturers will receive funding to carry out Plan Mexico.

As passed by the House, Plan Mexico will provide $116.5 million over the next two years for training and equipment for the Mexican military, and for "strengthening of military-to-military cooperation between the United States and Mexico." Bush's request included eight helicopters and two airplanes for the Mexico military.

While Plan Mexico specifically targets drug trafficking, the initiative's South American counterpart, Plan Colombia, demonstrates that drug war equipment and training will inevitably be used against activists and insurgent organizations. Mexico has already demonstrated its propensity to use deadly drug war equipment donated by the US against insurgents and civilians. Following the Zapatista uprising in 1994, the Mexican military strafed Chiapan indigenous communities using helicopters donated by the US to combat drug trafficking and production.

Plan Mexico also includes $210 million over two years to expand the US's draconian anti-immigrant policy to Mexico's side of the border. Mexico is a portal to the US for undocumented Central American immigrants. The hope is that Mexico will detect and stop undocumented immigrants in Mexico before they reach the US. The $210 million will be used to modernize and expand Mexico's immigration database and document verification system, establish secure communications for Mexican national security agencies, procure "non-intrusive" inspection equipment, and support interdiction efforts as well as institution building. $5 million of this money will be used to deploy US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agents to Mexico. Most alarmingly, at least $168 million of this funding is unspecified, meaning that the Democrat-controlled Congress waived its right to determine legislative policy in favor of giving Bush a free hand in Mexico's immigration policies and police procedures.

Democrats' overwhelming support for Plan Mexico in the face of overwhelming Republican opposition is yet another example of Democrats' refusal to stand up to George Bush, despite their mandate to do so as a result of the 2006 elections.

George Bush proposed Plan Mexico at the end of 2007 for two very apparent reasons:
  1. Plan Mexico is an indispensable component of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). Known as "NAFTA on steroids" or "NAFTA plus Homeland Security," the SPP "calls for maximization of North American economic competitiveness in the face of growing exports from India and China; expedited means of resource (oil, natural gas, water, forest products) extraction; secure borders against 'organized crime, international terrorism, and illegal migration;' standardized regulatory regimes for health, food safety, and the environment; integrated energy supply through a comprehensive resource security pact (primarily about ensuring that the US receives guaranteed flows of the oil in light of 'Middle East insecurity and hostile Latin American regimes'); and coordination amongst defense forces.

    "Over 300 policies and agreements have been scheduled and/or implemented to realize these corporate priorities. Some examples of these agreements are the integration of military and police training exercises, cooperation on law enforcement, and the expansion of the North American Aerospace Defense Command into a joint naval and land defense command. This also includes redesign of armed forces for combat overseas and greater cooperation in global wars as part of the 'external' defense strategy of the security perimeter" (Harsha Walia and Cynthia Oka, "The Security and Prosperity Partnership Agreement: NAFTA Plus Homeland Security").

    The SPP is not a legislative proposal; it is a plan hatched by a board of corporate CEO's and endorsed by the executive branches of Canada, the US, and Mexico. As such, the legislative branches of these three countries will never vote on the SPP as a policy.

    Mexican civil society organizations such as the Center for Economic and Political Investigation for Community Action (CIEPAC) in Chiapas oppose the SPP because they believe that "The United States is making it possible to force Mexico and Canada to change their laws, rules, and regulations in order to secure the economic ("prosperity") and political ("security") interests of its government and businesses... in order to appropriate our natural resources for themselves and to increase their profits."

  2. Plan Mexico reflects the effort of one weak president, George Bush, to support another weak president, Felipe Calderon. George Bush can sympathize with Felipe Calderon. He knows what it's like to steal an election and then have to rule a country with an iron fist while faced with enormous unpopularity. Seeing as though Calderon is one of only two friends George Bush has in Latin America (the other being Colombia's President Uribe, also the recipient of mind-boggling military funding), George Bush had to act.

    When Felipe Calderon took office in 2006 despite massive protests against the electoral fraud that brought him to power, one of the first things he did was deploy the military to drug cartel-dominated states in the north, militarizing a large portion of Mexico without legislative approval. Mexicans and US organizations have argued that this strategy is Calderon's attempt to bolster a weak president with a strong military alliance and warn that it could signal a return to the "dirty war" era. Plan Mexico represents the further militarization of Mexican society without legislative controls because it will provide US resources and training to the Calderon-controlled military without Mexican congressional approval.

Friends of Brad Will, the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy, and Witness for Peace have criticized Plan Mexico for dumping more resources and controversial US training into the Mexican military and police. The Mexican military has a history of utilizing paramilitaries to terrorize leftists and communities in resistance. Paramilitaries in Chiapas are currently experiencing a renaissance unseen since the 1997 Acteal massacre that resulted in the violent deaths of 47 civilians, most of them women and children. The police's report card is no better: in May 2006 police raped and sexually assaulted dozens of women they detained without charge during a protest in San Salvador Atenco against, ironically, police repression of the community. While some police were charged with "lewd conduct," even these light convictions were overturned. US journalist Brad Will was murdered in October 2006 while working in Oaxaca City. He filmed his own assassination, and photographic evidence clearly shows that the shooters are off-duty police and government officials. After a "thorough" investigation, the Mexican government blamed his murder on Oaxacan activists.

While Friends of Brad Will and their allies argue that no human rights safeguards will be adequate to justify US funding for Mexican military and police under current circumstances, Amnesty International and other major human rights organizations fought for human rights safeguards to be included in the bill rather than opposing it outright. Their reward for this stance is a seat at the table: the Senate version of Plan Mexico mandates that the Secretary of the State “consult” with “internationally recognized human rights organizations on progress in meeting the requirements.”

The so-called “safeguards” will do nothing to advance human rights in Mexico. They require that none other than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certify that the Mexican military and police have initiated reforms, that serious investigations into the rape of prisoners in San Salvador Atenco and Brad Will's murder are undertaken by the US and Mexican governments, and that statements obtained through torture not be used in a court of law. The bill also states that no police or military unit that is corrupt or engages in human rights abuses will receive aid under Plan Mexico, a laughable and unenforceable standard. If Rice is unable to certify progress in human rights and anti-corruption, a mere 25% of military and police funding will be withheld, meaning that Congress believes it's acceptable to give 75% funding to military and police forces even if Condoleezza Rice believes they are corrupt and brutal.

But the problem with human rights safeguards in Plan Mexico isn't that they're inadequate. Legislators included safeguards to make military aid from one brutal right-wing government, the United States, to another brutal right-wing government, Mexico, palatable to the US public. Despite irrefutable proof of systematic human rights violations and torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the CIA's use of "extraordinary rendition" to disappear and torture suspects in "black sites," and ICE's drugging of deportees with overdoses of dangerous psychotropic drugs, the United States still likes to think of itself as the principal defender of human rights globally. The rest of the world, however, does not share the same rosy view of the US. In an editorial criticizing the human rights safeguards in Plan Mexico as a pretext for further US-mandated structural adjustment in the form of mandatory "judicial and legal reforms," Mexico's La Jornada also notes the irony of the US promoting human rights in other countries: "The United States' demand to verify respect for human rights in other nations constitutes a grotesque and absurd pretension, taking into account that, on a global scale, the superpower is the principal violator of such rights."

But Plan Mexico's human rights safeguards were never meant to be taken seriously. They're an excuse to slip in a few US-mandated judicial reforms without Mexican Congress' initiative nor approval, and more importantly, they allow US lawmakers to sleep soundly at night despite the fact that they've just unleashed a nightmare on Mexican citizens.

More information on Plan Mexico and the Security and Prosperity Partnership:
The Security and Prosperity Partnership Agreement: NAFTA Plus Homeland Security by Harsha Walia and Cynthia Oka
A Primer on Plan Mexico by Laura Carlsen

La Jornada shows up The Onion

Sinaloa: hallan helicóptero robado a la CFE en un tráiler abandonado

Otros 17 vehículos, entre ellos dos presuntamente empleados en el asesinato de dos policías en Guasave, fueron incautados en el marco del operativo Culiacán-Navolato.

La Jornada On Line
Publicado: 20/05/2008 18:56

Culiacán, Sin. El Ejército reportó este martes el hallazgo de un helicóptero perteneciente a la Comisión Federal de Electricidad y con reporte de robo en la una caja de tráiler que fue abandonado en un predio agrícola del poblado del Coyonqui, en Sinaloa.

La localización del helicóptero Bell-206, modelo Jet Rangel, fue posible gracias a una llamada anónima en el marco del operativo Culiacán-Navolato, del Ejército y la Policía Federal Preventiva, en cuyas acciones de hoy, martes, se recuperaron 17 vehículos más y se clausuraron 25 bares y discotecas que no cuentan con licencias para operar.

En los poblados serranos de la Tuna y Los Alisos, en el municipio de Badiraguato, se aseguraron quince unidades motrices en el interior de viviendas abandonadas, donde se encontraron casas de campaña, catres y víveres.

Asimismo, dos camionetas, en las que se presume se desplazaba el grupo armado que ejecutó en lunes pasado a dos agentes de la Policía Ministerial del Estado, en la ciudad de Guasave, fueron encontradas abandonadas a escasas calles del Palacio Municipal.

Se trata de una camioneta Durango, matricula de Sinaloa, VHW 9221, la cual presenta varios impactos de bala del lado del conductor, y otra Nissan Armada, con placas del estado de Texas, Estados Unidos Z76VSN, cuyos registros se cotejan.

En respuesta a esta información, la gerencia de Comunicación Social de la Comisión Federal de Electricidad emitió el siguiente boletín:

“En relación con las informaciones difundidas en diversos medios de comunicación sobre la recuperación de un helicóptero reportado como robado a la Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) en el marco del operativo Culiacán-Navolato, en el estado de Sinaloa, la empresa informa que:

Ninguno de los helicópteros que le brindan servicio a la CFE ha sido objeto de ningún robo y todos se encuentran operando con normalidad, reportándose sin novedad”.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Plan Mexico Vote Imminent

May 16 Update from Friends of Brad Will: Some Republicans are calling for a stand-alone bill and we're pushing Cornyn (R-Texas) and Leahy (D-Vermont) to remove the so-called Merida Initiative from the Iraq Supplemental bill and introduce it as a stand-alone to be evaluated on its own merits.

Please call the following Senators and tell them that the Merida Initiative should either be defeated or introduced as a stand-alone bill separate from the Iraq Supplemental bill:

Senator Leahy: (202)-224-4242
Senator Cornyn: (202)224-2934

Letter to Rep. Castle (R-Del.): Remove Merida Initiative funding from Iraq supplemental appropriations bill

Witness for Peace put out an
action alert to call the congressional representative for your district regarding the Merida Initiative/Plan Mexico. The vote is any day now. Seeing as though long-distance calls from Mexico are a little pricey, I wrote Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) a letter.

Dear Rep. Castle:

I'm writing to ask that the Merida Initiative funding be eliminated from the supplemental appropriations bill for Iraq.

The Merida Initiative, also known as "Plan Mexico," will fund a brutal army known for its human rights abuses and use of paramilitaries, and a corrupt and brutal police force.

I'm asking that you oppose the Merida Initiative funding because I am a journalist working in Mexico. Mexico is already one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, and this funding will only increase the risks I take in doing my work every day.

Paramilitaries murdered my colleague Brad Will in the state of Oaxaca in October 2006 while he was working as a journalist. Brad filmed his own murder, and his shooters are clearly visible and identifiable in photographs taken at the time of the murder. Some of the shooters were off-duty police. Others were government officials.

Police also gang raped several of my friends in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico, in May 2006. While some police were convicted of "lewd conduct," the government quickly overturned their sentences. Furthermore, many more have not been tried at all.

Please do not provide more funding and equipment to such corrupt and brutal "security" forces. Mexico needs our support, but not this kind of support.

Action Alert:

Urgent: Stop "Plan Mexico"
from Witness for Peace

Congress to vote this week on Merida Initiative

As early as tomorrow,
Congress will vote on a bill
to continue funding two failed wars:
Iraq and the "war on drugs."

This week Congress will likely vote on a supplemental appropriations bill dominated by Iraq war funding. The bill, in addition to pouring billions more into the devastating occupation of Iraq, would include the notorious Merida Initiative. This security assistance package,
popularly dubbed "Plan Mexico," would provide hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars to Mexican and Central American security forces in the name of combating drug trafficking and crime. Proposals thus far would spend the bulk of the money on military equipment for Mexican forces known for consistent human rights violations.

We at Witness for Peace know that arming foreign militaries will not solve our drug problem, a fact now painfully obvious in Colombia. After eight years and over five billion dollars of Plan Colombia, the massive anti-drug experiment has failed remarkably. The single goal of
U.S. drug policy in Colombia was to see a 50 percent reduction in the production of coca, the raw material for cocaine. Today there is as much coca growing in Colombia as there was the year Plan Colombia began. There is no reason to believe that sending helicopters to stop
drug traffic in Mexico will work any better than sending helicopters to stop drug production in Colombia. Let's learn from our mistakes instead of repeating them. (For further background and analysis please see the talking points below.)

TAKE ACTION: The Time is Now!
To prevent passage of this senseless military package, we need to pressure our Congressional representatives NOW. With the vote just days away, this may be our last opportunity to stop it.

Call the offices of your representatives and ask that the Merida Initiative funding be eliminated from the supplemental appropriations bill. Use the talking points below. To reach your representatives' offices, call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask to be connected to your House or Senate member (give your state and zip code if you're not sure who it is).

Call the office of Howard Berman, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs committee, to say you oppose authorization of the Merida Initiative: 202-225-4695. If your representative is on the committee, also ask them to oppose Berman's steps towards authorization. Click here to find out if your rep is a member.

Talking Points for Opposing the Merida Initiative

A. The initiative would not effectively combat drug-trafficking

The Merida Initiative would fail to have a lasting impact on drug trafficking for three key reasons:

1. Military interdiction efforts have a "balloon" effect. In Colombia, U.S. military efforts to stop coca production and trafficking in key locations have simply shifted production and
trafficking to new locations. The resulting proliferation is evident: the number of coca-producing states in Colombia has jumped from 8 to 24 over the course of Plan Colombia. The Merida Initiative would likely have a parallel effect on drug trafficking. As stated by the
Centro Pro, a national human rights organization in Mexico City, "History has proven time and time again that such law enforcement efforts merely divert trafficking routes, creating a geographic shuffle of social and criminal problems."

2. The Merida Initiative ignores a root cause of the problem: U.S. demand. Widespread drug use in the U.S. makes drug trafficking a lucrative business. Colombia has taught us that so long as demand remains high, even a multi-billion dollar military solution will fail. Even the right-wing RAND Corporation has concluded that far-flung attempts to stop drugs at their source is 23 times less cost effective than domestic drug treatment at home. Yet, according to the current budget, the Merida Initiative destines not a single penny of its funds to state-side drug demand reduction programs.

3. The Merida Initiative model also fails to recognize poverty as another root cause of drug trafficking. Fifty million people in Mexico live in poverty, creating conditions for intense migration and powerful black markets. Minimum wage is barely five dollars per DAY, which is by all standards unlivable, and many people don't even make that. The U.S. has played a role in shaping this desperate reality through structural adjustment and trade policies that have exacerbated unemployment and added to the cost of living for many. So long as such poverty persists in Mexico, some Mexicans will continue to choose drug-running as a lucrative alternative to migration or unemployment. So long as the U.S. implements policies that perpetuate Mexico's poverty, it will be working at odds with its own counter-narcotics

B. The initiative further threatens human rights

Numerous Mexican and international human rights organizations have expressed concern that counter-narcotics aid for Mexico's military and police constitutes a recipe for unchecked human rights violations. According to Centro Pro, "Past experience has shown policies like the Merida Initiative to be financially costly and to broaden the mandate of military operations, violating the human rights of civilians, all the while failing to achieve sustainable gains in human security." At root is the fact that counter-narcotics operations in Mexico have a recorded history of human rights abuses. Amnesty International reports that over the last decade it has
documented "abuses committed by military personnel in counter-narcotics operations in Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas and Coahuila." Espacio Civil, a civil society coalition comprised of 52 Oaxacan organizations, adds that in 2007 "the army committed severe
human rights violations in their supposed counter-drug operations. We are concerned that the funding from the U.S. government will ultimately make this situation worse."

C. The initiative could likely be used to suppress legitimate political expression

Many Mexican groups fear, with good reason, that the US military hardware and training in the Merida Initiative would be used directly against citizens participating in acts of legitimate political expression. Mexican military and public security forces have consistently been deployed to stop and often brutally repress popular protest. Perhaps the most alarming example of late is the crackdown of the Oaxacan social movement that began with a teacher's strike in 2006. Both federal and state security forces brought an iron fist down on the demonstrations, leaving a wake of human rights violations that include over 20 assassinations (including U.S. journalist Brad Will), hundreds of arbitrary detentions, and torture. The cases
against the security forces, which have been well documented by Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, remain unresolved in Mexico. A sizeable portion of the money from the Merida Initiative would support the very security forces
responsible for these violations. Many in Oaxaca fear that with this support, legitimate protest in Mexico will continue to be answered with repression.

Our representatives urgently need to know what you now know. Please do not delay in contacting them. Thank you for calling for a more just U.S. policy towards Mexico. Feel free to contact the Mexico team with questions (

WFP Mexico
Witness for Peace

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Zapatistas End Successful Cafe La Selva Boycott

Less than a year after it began, the Zapatistas and the Other Campaign suspended their campaign against the Jungle Ejido Union (UES in its Spanish initials) and its partner and distributor Cafe La Selva. The Zapatista Good Government Council in La Realidad decided to end the boycott and protests against the coffee companies after UES members withdrew from 24 de Diciembre, the Zapatista community it terrorized for one year and nine months.

The conflict began on February 9, 1995, when the Mexican army staged a massive military offensive against Zapatista territory, creating an overwhelming refugee crisis. Residents of the Nuevo Momón community fled the air and land attack, seeking refuge in other communities. Peasant organizations allied with the Mexican government, including UES coffee producers, took advantage of the enormous displacement and claimed Zapatista land as their own, making themselves the legal owners.

When Zapatista bases of support returned to their homes in Nuevo Momón on December 24, 2006, they found that their land legally belonged to UES members. Not dissuaded, the Zapatistas retook part of their land and named it 24 de Diciembre.

In an attempt to force the Zapatistas to flee once again, UES members from the "Gracias a Dios" ejido have, on various occasions, visited homes in 24 de Diciembre armed with machetes to threaten Zapatista families with forceful eviction.

In response to the repeated threats against Zapatista bases of support, the Chiapas-based Center for Political Analysis and Social and Economic Investigations (CAPISE in its Spanish initials), Regeneracion Radio, and other adherents to the Zapatistas' Other Campaign initiated a boycott and protest campaign against Cafe La Selva and UES. As part of the campaign, they also pressured Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) to revoke UES' fair trade certification because conflict coffee isn't “fair.” International adherents soon joined the campaign, leading the boycotts, protests, and other actions against Cafe La Selva and the FLO across the Americas and Europe.

At the same time, the Zapatista Good Government Council in La Realidad organized a Zapatista camp in 24 de Diciembre to protect the community from further threats. At any given time between 50 and 100 Zapatistas from La Realidad municipalities camped out in 24 de Diciembre.

In response to the campaign, Chiapas governor Juan Sabines offered UES members financial compensation if they left 24 de Diciembre. They agreed to the deal and left the community's land on April 1, 2008. The Good Government Council in La Realidad reported that the UES's departure was "peaceful and definitive," and that since then Zapatistas in 24 de Diciembre have been able "to live and work with dignity and without any problem at all."

The Good Government Council credited the victory to the intense local and international campaign: "After one year and eight months of threats and provocations...and after nine months of a protest encampment...and seeing the good results we and our compas from 24 de Diciembre have had, we've decided to suspend the boycott against Cafe la Selva.... We can say this thanks to the participation of many men and women and national and international collectives and social organizations."

CAPISE, however, was quick to point out that 24 de Diciembre's problems are far from over: the Mexican Federal Army still occupies the only water source within 24 de Diciembre.

For more information about how the Zapatistas are defending their land and territory, see my article in the upcoming issue of Left Turn magazine, due out in June 2008.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Two Years On, Atenco Still Hurts

Two years ago, on May 3-4, 2006, federal, state, and municipal police violently invaded San Salvador Atenco, leaving two people dead and 218 people imprisoned. To date, only a handful of police have been prosecuted for very minor crimes, and many of those convicted have since been exonerated. However, sixteen activists remain imprisoned, some with life sentences.

The invasion incurred because a handful of Atenco residents attempted their yearly ritual of selling flowers in a local market before Mother's Day despite plans to build a Wal-Mart on that site. Police told them to leave the area despite a previous agreement with local authorities that they could sell flowers there, but only for the holiday. The Popular Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT), adherents to the Zapatistas' Other Campaign, arrived to support the flower vendors in resistance. The police attacked, and more adherents to the Zapatistas' Other Campaign arrived in Atenco shortly thereafter from surrounding states to support the FPDT, because an injury to one adherent to the Other Campaign is an injury to the entire Other Campaign.

Of the 47 women arrested during the police riot in Atenco, twenty-six report being mentally, physically, or sexually tortured during their detention. To date, no police officer has been convicted of torture or sexual abuse.

One woman, María Paticia Romero Hernádez, remains imprisoned for her participation in Atenco. She reports being threatened by prison officials. Prison officials recently moved a prisoner who's been harassing her into her cell. The deputy director of the prison also recently accused her of leading a prisoners' movement against prison authorities. For this reason he says he is going to plant evidence on her "to aggravate her legal situation."

This past week activists mobilized in Mexico City to commemorate and protest two years of impunity, repression, and unjust imprisonment.

On April 29, female ex-prisoners of Atenco protested outside the Special Prosecutor's Office for Crimes Related to Violence Against Women to announce their petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)regarding the sexual torture they suffered while detained. The IACHR is considered an option of last resort, when citizens are unable to obtain justice through their own countries' legal systems.

The women and their supporters protested outside the Special Prosecutor's Office for Crimes Related to Violence Against Women to make clear that they were forced to seek justice in an international body because of the Special Prosecutor's failure to act on their cases. Sufficient evidence exists to indict the police who tortured them, but the state has failed to do so.

The women report having tried "many, many times" to schedule a meeting with the Special Prosecutor. Mariana de las Selvas has been out of prison for three months. In that time, she's tried on three separate occasions to meet with the Special Prosecutor, but the office always ignored her requests. It wasn't until the women filed their petition with the IACHR and held a protest and press conference outside the Special Prosecutor's office to denounce its inaction did the Special Prosecutor insist on meeting with the ex-prisoners.

The women agreed to the meeting, and entered with a single question for the Special Prosecutor: What has the Special Prosecutor's Office for Crimes Related to Violence Against Women done in the past two years to punish the police responsible for torture in Atenco? Representatives from the Special Prosecutor's office spoke for thirty minutes in response to the question, effectively saying that they had done nothing. Selvas reports that they gave "every excuse under the sun" for why they hadn't met with the ex-prisoners or prosecuted the police for torture, sexual abuse, and rape.

Over the weekend of May 3-4, Atenco residents and supporters held a march and protest in Atenco to protest abuse, repression, impunity, and to demand the release of the remaining political prisoners. Thousands marched in Mexico City on March 4 with the same demands.

After the Mexico City march hip-hoperos held a hip hop festival with rappers, dance hall singers, and b-boys, all demanding justice for Atenco and the immediate and unconditional release of the country's political prisoners. Performers included New Yorker BocaFloja (originally from Mexico City) and national sensation Magisterio. Female artists were well-represented at the event.

Press Release: Atenco Torture Survivors Petition IACHR

Press Release
Mexico City, April 29, 2008

Petition of 11 women from Atenco, victims of torture, before the IACHR

Today 11 women, victims of torture during the events of May 3-4, 2006, in Atenco, have presented a petition, accompanied by the "Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez" Human Rights Center (Centro Prodh) and the International Center for Justice and Law (CEJIL in its Spanish initials), before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) seeking justice and reparations for the damage caused.

The federal, state, and municipal police incursion into San Salvador Atenco on March 3-4, 2006, resulted in human rights violations. Twenty-six of the 47 detained women have denounced having been victims of sexual, physical, or verbal violence by the police that guarded them inside the the vehicles that transported them to the Santiaguito prison.

The Attorney General of the Republic (PGR in its Spanish initials), via the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Related to Violence Against Women (FEVIMTRA in its Spanish initials), headed at that time by Alicia Elena Perez Duarte, initiated an investigation into those who would seem to be responsible for the crimes committed against some women in the Atenco case. Since February 2007, Centro Prodh, a friend of the court in the complaint, verbally and orally requested on multiple occasions that the then-Prosecutor bring charges against the probable perpetrators, something which never occurred despite having all of the necessary prerequisites to do so. Almost two years after the FEVIMTRA initiated the preliminary investigation (FEVIM/03/05/2006), no one has been charged for the torture that the detained women suffered at the hands of public security.

In the State of Mexico a preliminary investigation (TOL/I/466/2006) was incorporated in civil court. Only 21 police were charged, but not for the crime of torture. Rather, they were charged with minor crimes such as abuse of authority or lewd acts. To date, 15 police have already been exonerated and currently only six police officers face charges. Notwithstanding, it's possible that the FEVIMTRA could charge more perpetrators in case 03/05-2006 for the crime of torture of a sexual nature.

On January 25, 2008, a Spanish citizen who suffered serious attacks against her physical integrity and was deported during the previously mentioned operations, filed a criminal complaint with the Spanish National Court. She denounced acts of torture which are susceptible to being recognized by the courts of said country owed to the principle of national jurisdiction which prevails in cases of serious crimes, as sanctioned by international law.

It is troubling that two years after the crimes occurred there are no results and the victims continue waiting for the attention and support guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution. This demonstrates yet again the deficiencies of the Mexican justice system; the governmental entities have proven themselves ineffective with respect to the charging of authorities responsible for the violations of human rights committed in Atenco. Impunity prevails.

The lack of results of the legal processes initiated in the State of Mexico demonstrate that in this state the processes of prosecution and the administration of justice lack impartiality and objectiveness; they remain under the governor's sphere of control. In the federal realm the situation is no different. The investigations initiated by the FEVIMTRA have not resulted in charges despite the fact that the women denouncing the torture have provided sufficient information for this to occur.

Faced with this situation the women who were victims of sexual torture have decided to turn to the IACHR, an autonomous body within the Organization of American States. Cases are presented to the IACHR when the State has not complied with its obligations of internally investigating and punishing the perpetrators of criminal acts.

Today the victims, the Centro Prodh, and CEJIL have presented a petition before the IACHR with the goal of seeking justice and reparations for the victims of this case, charging the Mexican State with failing to meet its obligations before the international community. It should be remembered that the Mexican State is responsible for the actions of its agents. The history of the case is described, along with the complete testimonies of the 11 victims/petitioners and the human rights that are considered violated: the right to physical integrity, the right to personal freedom and security, the right to access to justice, the right to equality and to not be discriminated against, and the right to dignity and privacy. The evidence consists of 20 annexes, including forensic evidence collected as dictated by the Manual for the Efficient Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Istanbul Protocol) practiced by the National Commission for Human Rights, the Collective Against Torture and Impunity, and the PGR (only two), which returned results that indicated the existence of acts of torture.

Through the international accusation the petitioners want the IACHR to declare that the Mexican State detrimentally violated their human rights, and and that it recommends to the State a serious, impartial, and effective investigation where the perpetrators of torture will be sanctioned, as well as sufficient reparations for the damage.

In Atenco a group identified by the police as "subversive" was systematically tortured: the women weren't only individually abused, but rather, also as a group. They were treated like objects, as spoils of war. Men and women were identified by the state as enemies and not as citizens.

Cases like Atenco also demonstrate the lack of lack of recourse for citizens' participation and for the legitimate expression of discontent. Faced with the the sustained, innovative forms of manifesting popular discontent, the government responds making disproportionate and illegitimate use of force.

The persistent difficulty in accessing justice and the fact that the cases of human rights violations won't be handled with the priority that they require, it becomes necessary to continue searching for paths that make justice possible for the victims.

Communications and Analysis Department of the Centro Prodh
E-mail: comunicacion(at)centroprodh(dot)org(dot)mx

Friday, May 2, 2008

CCH Vallejo Students and Regeneracion Radio End Occupation of Director´s Office

Pending the fulfillment of an agreement reached with school authorities on April 15, CCH Vallejo students and their community radio station, Regeneracion Radio, ended a six-day occupation of the CCH Vallejo director's office.

The agreement was reached after CCH Vallejo authorities called a school-wide assembly of approximately 2000 students. In the assembly, CCH Vallejo director Lucía Laura Muñoz Corona claimed to have never received the widely-publicized list of the students' demands. In response, students participating in the occupation presented her with their list of demands in the presence of the entire assembly.

During the assembly, school authorities and professors encouraged participants to re-take the director's office by attacking the students participating in the occupation. Students and radio collective members stated that the assembly was stacked with pro-authority students and porros. Porros are government-supported thugs who mug students and violently attack progressive student movements. They enjoy legal impunity, and students have definitive proof that the 3 de Marzo porro organization is allied with CCH Vallejo authorities. Adding to the already tense climate, more porros hung out just outside the campus during the assembly, accompanied by chief of campus security José Refugio Téllez.

A central demand of the student movement was that Director Muñoz resign or be fired. In response, Director Muñoz called an impromptu referendum of the anti-occupation assembly participants over whether she should continue as director or resign. Predictably, the majority voted in her favor.

However, when she moved on to the next demand put forth by the student movement, the firing of chief of campus security José Refugio Téllez, assembly participants were not as supportive. Seeing that the majority of the participants sought his dismissal, Director Muñoz stated that this was an issue that the student community could not vote on, so she would form a commission to review the complaints levied against him.

As part of the agreement between school authorities and students, the director will not take punitive action against participants and supporters of the occupation. In accordance with this agreement, the expulsion and suspension of six activist students have been revoked.

Also included in the accords is the creation of an "Anti-Porro Forum" and commission that will report to federal authorities to demand that porros not be permitted to congregate on federal property, such as the bus terminal in northern Mexico City near CCH Vallejo where between 150-200 porros currently meet nightly.

A mixed council of students, school authorities, and professors will be formed to make decisions that affect the student community, and students will elect their representatives.

School authorities also agreed to improve and de-beauracratize the current system of student aid and exam payments. Beginning in the 2008-2009 school year, students will be able to pay for their final exams on-campus, as opposed to going to an off-campus office as they currently have to do.

Regarding the students' demand that CCH graduates automatically be admitted to the UNAM at the university level, an unfulfilled agreement that came out of the 1999-2000 UNAM student strike, CCH Vallejo authorities claim they have no control over UNAM admissions, but that they will support the students and bring this demand to the appropriate authorities.

School authorities rejected the students' demand for the creation of a popular eatery on campus as an alternative to the high cost of the cafeterias. However, they did agree to review hygiene within the cafeterias, another common student complaint. They also agreed to relocate the cafeteria in the "R" building within 15 days so that it is no longer next to the boys' bathroom. Fifteen days have passed and the cafeteria remains next to the bathroom.

As part of the agreement, professors will no longer be allowed to condition students' grades on the sale of theater tickets and books. To reinforce this point, school authorities will no longer allow book publishers and other vendors to offer a percentage of their sales to professors.

Students on the evening shift of classes voted on the agreements reached during the day shift, and added the demand that the majority of the promises made by the director had to be fulfilled within 15 days. Director Muñoz orally agreed to tender her resignation if she did not meet the fifteen-day deadline, and the students have an audio recording of this promise. Fifteen days have now passed and students who took part in the occupation and protest report that school authorities have taken no action on the April 15 accords aside from revoking activist students' suspensions and expulsions. Director Muñoz denies that she agreed to the deadline.