Police Brutality in Atenco: Reports of Rape and Murder as the Number of Political Prisoners and Disappeared Passes 400
The Other Campaign Announces Mobilizations Across the Country and a National Popular Assembly for Saturday
By Bertha Rodríguez Santos
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in San Salvador Atenco
May 6, 2006
SAN SALVADOR ATENCO, MAY 5, 2006: Around 400 arrested – of which the authorities have only recognized 109, and which include three injured — 18 people disappeared and five women raped. These new figures must be added to the hundreds of injured and one boy murdered as a result of the brutal repression against the flower vendors of Texcoco and peasant farmers of San Salvador Atenco, perpetrated by municipal, state and federal police from May 3 onward. Political prisoner Gloria Arenas Ajís relayed these numbers from her tiny cell in Santiaguito prison (where most of those arrested were taken) to be read to thousands of demonstrators marching in solidarity with the people of Atenco and Texcoco.
The grief, courage and outrage of thousands of people after the violent repression against the flower growers and members of the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT) exploded this afternoon in a long protest march that left from the University of Chapingo and continued until it reached San Salvador Antenco, almost six miles away. The marchers showed their solidarity through the slogans the chanted: “Brother Atenco, the people extend their hand to you!”; “Atenco, listen, the people are part of your struggle!”; “Atenco is not a barracks, get the army out of it!”; “The damn government doesn’t like our style, but they’re fucked, because we are all Atenco!”
Not to mention the tears of many women farmers from Atenco who came out to the street to cheer on the crowd, which cried out “Justice! Justice!” and “You are not alone!” again and again.
They were thousands — some calculated more than six thousand — who came from different parts of the country, especially from neighboring cities like Mexico City, and mobilized to support the towns of Texcoco and Atenco. Aside from the delegation from the Sixth Commission of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN in its Spanish initials) led by Insurgent Subcomandante Marcos, hundreds of students from the University of Chapingo, the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the National Polytechnic Institute marched down the Lechería-Texcoco highway.
For more than three hours, members of the Emiliano Zapata Popular Revolutionary Union (UPREZ), the Francisco Villa Popular Independent Front (FPFVI), the National Peasant-Farmer Front (FNC), the National Coordinating Committee of the Plan de Ayala and the Promotora Nacional Contra el Neoliberalismo (“National Promoter Against Neoliberalism”) also marched.
From prison, Gloria Arenas — accused of belonging to the guerrilla Insurgent People’s Revolutionary Army (ERPI) — sent a communiqué in which she argues that the repression unleashed against the two towns in the Texcoco valley is a direct aggression against the Other Campaign and the peaceful movement led by different social movements linked together through the EZLN Sixth Commission’s tour that began in January in Chiapas.
Arenas wrote that the repressive policies of the governments run by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD, to which Texcoco municipal mayor Nazario Gutiérrez Martínez belongs), of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, to which Mexico state governor Enrique Peña Nieto belongs) and the National Action Party (the PAN of President Vicente Fox) will continue against the adherents of the Other Campaign and predicted that “the prisons will keep filling up.” For this reason, wrote Arenas, the national and international mobilizations that began yesterday must be continued and reinforced.
She announced that she had begun a hunger strike at 5 o’clock that afternoon inside the prison. She called on all women prisoners around the country to join the hunger strike until all political prisoners are released.
A representative from Atenco in the municipal government was the first to take the microphone during the demonstration. He was blunt: “We oppose the police entering people’s homes and breaking things; they hit women and showed no respect for the children.”
Another San Salvador Atenco resident explained indignantly during a conversation on the street how on May 4, from 7:00 a.m. on, some three thousand Federal Preventive Police agents and state police officers violently barged into several Atenco homes. A helicopter also participated in the operation, nearly scraping the houses’ roofs as it flew overhead. A masked man rode in the helicopter, pointing out specific houses below which police on foot then forced their way in to.
The man was riding his bike but as he realized how much danger lay in the streets he returned home, and from his rooftop witnessed the savage beating the police gave a group of students who had taken refuge in a house across the street.
He said the group looked to be about 20 college students who traveled to the town’s auditorium to show their solidarity with the people under siege. It is assumed that the students planned to run into the abandoned lot behind the building. But some 50 police broke down the door to the house and entered violently.
They dragged all the youths, men and women out of the house and threw them to the ground, pulling peoples’ shirts up to cover their own faces. The policed forced some people a squatting position and put everyone in a single line. One of the police began counting them by hitting them in the head one by one with a club. As he reached the end, he said, “Ay, I’ve lost count, let’s go back to the beginning,” and indicated to his partner to repeat the whole operation. But in the end, the other policeman said that he couldn’t count either, and so now they needed to count down in reverse order, beating the prisoners as hard as they could. The prisoners, especially the girls, cried out for them to stop the beating, but rather than listening to them the police kicked them without mercy, shouting, “shut up, you troublemaking assholes!”
“Many had lost consciousness, and the police kept beating them,” lamented the Atenco resident, who guessed that the operation lasted until 2:00 p.m. “If as many people as are here today had been there, we would have all come out of our houses, but we were very few. What’s more, when the police saw that we were watching everything they did, they pointed their teargas guns at us and ordered us to get inside because if we didn’t they would come for us.”
The brute force of the police temporarily silenced this town. Many houses and businesses that were trashed have locked their doors. During the event at the end of the march, an elderly woman complained of the barbarity committed by the police under orders from all three levels of government (municipal, state and federal), saying that her son was on his way to work when he was arrested, just like many of those in jail today. “We mothers suffer. We are full of rage and pain,” burst out another woman, who said her son had only gone outside to see what was happening when they took him.
In addition to holding protests, including marches and road blockades all across the country, several organizations will hold sit-ins in front of the Almoloya Maximum Security Prison in Juárez (where FPDT leader Ignacio del Valle — “Nacho” as the people of Atenco call him — is being held), as well as in front of the Santiaguito prison where hundreds more are detained.
América del Valle, Nacho’s daughter and sister of César, one of the disappeared, spoke to the demonstrators by telephone, saying: “Don’t bend to their pressure; don’t give up.”
She warned the municipal, state and federal governments that the use of force in the town of San Salvador Atenco “has not defeated us.” After pointing out that “yesterday, organized people defeated the police,” she said that this is not the only place in struggle, as “there are many Atencos throughout Mexico.”
Ameríca del Valle warned the Televisa and TV Azteca television networks — who only broadcast images of the injured police, giving the impression that these were victims of the townspeople’s’ “madness,” and whose news anchors incited and then applauded greater police intervention — that “your poison will not kill us.”
She said that now the people are less willing then ever to give up their rights. “We have a great responsibility and we are going to fight for our children, for our women, for our elders, for the workers, for the indigenous and the peasant farmers. We are going to fight for all of them to the ultimate consequences.”
The young woman, who has an arrest warrant hanging over her, thanked “the Mexican people” from her unknown location. She thanked them for their solidarity before “the criminals from above” from whom she demanded “the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, the living return of the disappeared and for all police forces to leave Atenco and Texcoco.
As part of the immediate actions that the Other Campaign adherents have put in motion to achieve these goals, a Popular National Assembly has been programmed for May 6 in San Salvador Atenco, beginning at noon.
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