<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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After the Repression in Atenco and More than Six Months Setting up the Protest Camp, Only Five People Maintain It

“There’s No Hope for Them Through the Legal Path... Don’t Leave Us Alone, at Least Come to Visit,” Exclaims Jesus from the Camp Outside Santiaguito Penitentiary


By Juan Trujillo
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

February 1, 2007

“It could be that this is a cycle
and, if like many people say,
coming in here is the end,
this means that the beginning
will come back
and that it won’t be like starting from scratch,
we’ll only have to take it back up
and take up the struggle which, from here,
Can many times seem incomplete.”
– extract from the poem ‘Principio y fin’ (Beggining and End)
by Norma Jiménez, polítical prisoner in Atenco

Santiaguito, Penal de Almoloya de Juárez, Estado México, November 2006: A bit less than two hours from Mexico’s capital, minutes run by while the clothes and flags move along with the wind’s caress coming up the highway. Minutes escape and cars and buses travel from corner to corner within the penitentiary. Warm days say their goodbyes as the cold winter arrives. These months outside the jail are lived vividly by Jesus and five other activists from the Other Campaign that wait to, someday, see their struggle companions free.


Almoloya de Juárez Prison, México State
Photo: D.R. 2007 Juan Trujillo
The recent events of May 3 and 4 are fresh in Jesus’s memory. In those days, a counterinsurgency operation occupied the town of San Salvador Atenco, causing the deaths of Javier Cortés Santiago and Ollin Alexis Benhumea, along with multiple illegal detentions, torture, unlawful entries in private homes, illegal searches, burglaries, incommunication of the detainees and cases of rape. The orders and their fulfillment ran in charge of state governor Enrique Peña Nieto, the security team of ex-president Vicente Fox and the high official of the police agency in the state, Wilfrido Robles Madrid. The carrying out was completed by members of at least three police corps: members of the third brigade of the Military Police (of the Ministry of National Defense – this brigade from the town of San Juan de los Jagueyes), 700 elements of the Federal Preventive Police (PFP, in its Spanish initials), one thousand 815 elements from the State Security Agency (ASE, in its Spanish initials), and many municipal police from different parts of the state. The result in numbers of this operations was savagery and death mixed together: two deaths, 207 illegal detentions (many of them tortured and beaten) and 27 women brutally raped. Justice has been disdained by state and federal authorities, ever since the days immediately after the events up to now, considering that the recommendations made by the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH, in its Spanish initials) haven’t been taken in.

Life for Jesus runs in between cold, reading, reflection and the bus trips from the penitentiary to Mexico City. About the camp installed days after the repression, he assures that, after the public demonstrations of the Other Campaign and other human rights organizations, the amount of supporters present “has been decreasing: we used to be 70 and now there’s 5 of us…”. He himself was in Atenco, where he collaborated the early morning of May 4 in the actions of resistance and support to the Front of Peoples in Defense of the Land (FPDT, in its Spanish initials), along with his fellow member of the Socialist and Libertarian Encounter Student Brigade (BELS, in its Spanish initials), Norma Haidé Jimenez Osorio, who was raped moments after and is now held on the other wide of this penitentiary wall.

Today is a November afternoon like any other, there’s people who have a family member inside and walk in directly. At the camp, the marquees cluttered on the ground serve some to sleep, others are only used as storage, some have been left there, and some of them, had they feet, would be gone already. Jesus, 25, is not only a member of the Other Campaign, he is also a student at the High School of Science and Humanities (CCH) and of the Socialist and Libertarian Encounter Student Brigade, organization adherent to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle that came to light on July of 2005 through the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, in its Spanish initials).

Atenco: Chronicle of a Failed Resistance

The talk with Jesus is a paused one: here, there’s no rush to catch and consume the time of the city. The long wait and reduced hope provokes in him into this slow way of talking, as one of the habits that have adapted into his life. It’s already been seven months since Atenco, and the only thing constant is “the feeling of impotence that we have, we have done demonstrations. There’s even been activities, concerts with Salario Minimo (a famous band) and workers and artists of the Other Campaign” Jesus exclaims.

About the participants of this movement, he adds that neither Subcomandante Marcos nor the indigenous EZLN commanders of the Sixth Commission for “the Atenco Case” have come to the camp. In fact, “we have gone to National Assemblies to say that there’s people in jail… it’s not to say that we are all alone… there are some people here, only five, or ten, or fifteen. It’s like telling them how the camp is going… and going to pull their ears and say to them what’s up…” he explains.

Life for Jesus and his fellow activist Norma has changed radically after May 4. He went to high school and she studied photography at a Fine Arts School in Mexico City. Even in jail, she continues to write poetry. Now the both of them, one inside and one outside, waiting and hoping for encouraging signs in the judiciary process.


Illustration: D.R. 2007 Norma Jiménez
The present times lead the conversation to search deep into the story of May 3r and 4. At the plaza of the Three Cultures in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, on the afternoon of the 3rd, Delegate Zero-Subcomandante Marcos was holding a rally as part of the activities of the Other Campaign on its way through this part of the country. In a matter of moments, the news of the encounter between municipal police and members of the FPDT in Texcoco, and the apprehension of the latter’s leader, Ignacio del Valle was made public. According to Jesus, it was when “Delegate Zero called to support our friends in Atenco” that he decided, along with Norma, to go to the University in Chapingo, close to the town of Atenco.

But the petition of Subcomandante Marcos to the regional and sub-regional coordinating committees of the Other Campaign had a view of “agreeing on and executing actions and demonstrations of support to the Front of Peoples in Defense of the Land from 800 hours, eight in the morning, of tomorrow, may the 4th of 2006.”

In this way, in behalf of the Sixth Commission of the EZLN, he added: “We are waiting for instructions from the Front of Peoples in Defense of the Land. If they need us to be there physically, there we will go. If not, we’ll participate in whatever actions you program for tomorrow… We are not going to listen to any information that doesn’t come from them. For us, they are the Other Campaign in those lands. We respect their decisions, we will go as far as they tell us to go,” concluded delegate Zero.

In this matter there was a similar rally at Tlatelolco, where América del Valle (Ignacio del Valle’s daughter), on behalf of the FPDT, called on the adherents of the other campaign to concentrate at 8 in the morning of May 4 at Chapingo University in Ecatepec county, both right outside the town of San Salvador Atenco.

Jesus and Norma, along with others, headed for Chapingo where, Jesus narrates, some activists didn’t wait until morning, but went directly to Atenco early on the 4th. Between 9 and 10 at night, they arrive to Chapingo and find a meeting of activists who, for the most part, agreed on not going into Atenco. Nonetheless, according to Jesus, it was a person known as “El patas verdes” (green feet) who not only insisted on going to Atenco, but later offered “for his part” a bus to take them there.

Jesus and Norma arrived at the town between 2 and 3 in the morning of the 4th. “We didn’t expect the repression, there weren’t a lot of people in Atenco… like 80 or 90, there were activists who came from the Plaza of the Three Cultures in Tlalteloco”. He tells that, moments later, the resistance became organized and he was sent, along with Norma, to the barricade in Acuexomac that managed to resist with only 30 or 40 people. “Most were activists, they were confident there wouldn’t be repression” he notes.

But as the minutes went by the adrenaline would climb up. And remembering the tragic moments and the results of the police raid, he comments: “They took us unprepared, we didn’t know how big (the repression) would be, the FPDT´s ambulance came by and told us that 400 cops were about 4 kilometers away.”

At that moment, and while Jesus watches cars drive by the penitentiary, he explains the steps improvised by the resistance: “We got divided in two barricades, one in Chinconcuac and others on the Mexico-Texcoco (highway), ever since then I didn’t hear about her (Norma),” until three days later.

So, at dawn of the 4th of May, from the barricade with 15 others, he watched the “rows and rows of cops.” And just then “50 meters away we saw that it was impossible to defend this; we didn’t know of the town, so we went back. They gave us refuge in a house, I think it was one of Trinidad’s sisters (Ignacio del Valle´s wife)… they turned off the lights and gave us water to clean off the gas”

From there, Jesus had stopped seeing and thinking about his friend and struggle partner. It was until almost 14:30 in the afternoon when Jesus says that were able to leave the house where they were hiding, even though a helicopter was still patrolling the skies over Atenco. “We went out like that, when the helicopter couldn’t see us, five by five,” he remembers.

The Camp and the Electoral Fraud

The cold wind in these lands bites into the tents, clothes, flags and signs installed at the camp. Since May 8th, although he comes and goes to the City whenever he can, Jesus’s life happens within these few square meters, on the outside side of the wall. It’s been a little over six months since the activist anchored his life in this camp. He remembers, with his memory torn by the tragic events that “Norma was raped, and it’s up to her to forget it.” To the question of whether he knows more about this, he concludes that in telephone conversations “she hasn’t felt like talking about this. She told me she wasn’t going to tell me about this.”

On the actual situation of the Other Campaign, and on the solidarity of its members after 6 months of sit-in, after the electoral fraud, Jesus comments: “(the compañeros), after coming to help out here, would go to the Lopez Obrador sit-in and we said, “what’s up with that?”, they don’t come here, and don’t consider the demands we have, it was a claim to them, there’s others that have never been here. Not even to put up a sign or to find out how it’s going. They were the student sector, and ever since then I have had much criticism for them,” he notes.

The backdrop for this conversation is a wooden table, an unfinished puzzle, potato fries, a bit of water, a jar of honey and a can, to collect funds, with a few coins in it.

The Way of Impunity: The Judges and the Prisoners

On the future of the camp, the situation of the ones held in jail, and the Other Campaign, Jesus is firm on his statement: My attitude is not one is disenchantment with the Other, I put in my word for a reason.” And about Norma, he assures that she “has many projects to strengthen the Other (Campaign) and its organization work, like editing the videos we shot, doing work on violence on women, art exhibitions, etc.”

-What hopes are there for Norma to come out?

-Since months ago it sounded like they wouldn’t come out. But there was an appeal, well organized, that put all the prisoner’s cases together. But the judge here revised it and decreed formal jail.


Photo: D.R. 2007 Juan Trujillo
The above recalls that the federal judge at Texcoco considered that the penitentiary there wasn’t competent to judge those implicated during the events of May 4. Nonetheless, judge Jaime Maldonado ratified the reclusion of them all. According to a statement made to La Jornada newspaper on October 17 by lawyer Bárbara Zamora, who is in charge of the defense of most cases, “beginning months ago, judge Jaime Maldonado at Almoloya penitentiary is insisting on having jurisdiction where he doesn’t have it, given that the events took place in Texcoco. This demonstrates that he is a judge subordinated to the interests of the State government.” In the past, Zamora adds: “a federal judge granted them an appeal for the fact that judge Maldonado does not have province over this issue, given that it is out of his jurisdiction.” She pointed out that this judge kept assuring he had authority and gave the imprisonment decree against the supposedly guilty “in the same juridical terms as the first one.”

In this penitentiary, along with Norma are 27 prisoners from Atenco. In the maximum security jail of La Palma, the leaders of the FPDT are held: Ignacio del Valle, Héctor Galindo, and Felipe Álvarez.

For Jesús, the juridical process is long as he would have never expected. Because of the wounds on the victims, result of torture, rape and beatings, “we thought they could come out.” But reality has been different and now the conscience of this young man is also different: These compas (prisoners) are a guarantee, having them here in Santiaguito allows for the ones in La Palma to still be held, because if they let some go… everything falls apart, they are all on the same ship… they are a guarantee (the prisoners here), that the leaders won’t come out while these are here,” he concludes while, after eating some chips, cleans his mouth with a piece of newspaper.

For lawyer Bárbara Zamora, the “stubbornness” of judge Maldonado of not dropping the case “demonstrates that his justice is subordinated to the local government, because, in any other way, it is incomprehensible how a federal judge declares him without province and he, a local judge, insists.”

Another one of the flaws in the case resides on the fact that this same judge tries to delay the processes, always harming the accused, which is why he has refused to call upon more than 100 cops who should testify as witnesses of the penal cause. “The judge is summoning them to court in groups of five, and we are talking about more than a hundred cops; imagine how the process will be delayed.” In spite of the November 12 observations of the National Commission for Human Rights, (CNDH) nothing moves, not one of the twenty detainees come out, and the 199 judicial processes continue at a turtle’s pace.

“There’s No Hope for Them to Come Out Through the Legal Path”

Jesus, with a disheartened look, says that “there’s no hope for them to come out of this jail through the legal path.” Although, on the other hand, he comments that one of the alternatives could be the constitutional appeals that could be emitted at the Supreme Court of the Nation. And, as if it was a psychological reference, he talks again about his partner and her unjust imprisonment: Norma didn’t have a lot of political work, she was on the Commission for the political prisoners of the Other Campaign, but she didn’t have much work.”

To the question of whether he feels any regrets about his involvement in Atenco on May 4, Jesus answers surely that “the only thing I regret is having left her (Norma) alone on the barricade. I don’t regret what I did in Atenco.” And in the tone of a message for the Other Campaign, Jesus holds on to the solidarity of his compañeros, exclaiming humbly: “They shouldn’t be bastards, they should come to strengthen the camp, don’t leave us alone, at least come and check it out, maybe they’ll even like it.”

But the horizon for justice and liberty is devastating, from Atenco to Oaxaca and the scenarios to come. On the last days of this month, when the political crisis in the southern state bittered up, the Teacher Movement’s and the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) have gained prisoners. The last information published by La Jornada points out the possibility of release, at least in the short term, of these prisoners of conscience is less than plausible.

In the thinking about this camp in particular, a certain way of looking at things, after the months of physical and psychological wear out, comes up: In spite of the compañeros held within the jail, is it worth to have others immobilized outside the walls? It is necessary to think that the situation of jailings and repression will continue, and the judiciary process too? The politics that will open up the cells has to, perhaps, be pushed in through other encounters and discussion spaces, but, most of all, through spaces of mobilization.

Originally published in Spanish, January 22

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