|English | Español||February 24, 2017 | Issue #40|
The Political Prisoners of Ixcotél Join “The Other Campaign”
By RJ Maccani
Outside the Ixcotél prison: “Freedom for Political Prisoners!”
Photo: D.R. 2006 RJ Maccani
Sitting in the restaurant where she works in Oaxaca City, Donaciana Antonio Almaráz told me the story of the home to which she cannot return. About a six hour drive south of Oaxaca City in the Sierra Sur, the Loxicha region is home to 5,000 indigenous Zapotecos living in 32 communities. It was in 1965 that the “caciques” came to Loxicha. Burning homes and shooting down community members with impunity, they tried to seize the fertile land of Loxicha and control the coffee production of the region. It was neither the Mexican federal or the Oaxacan state government but rather the indigenous of Loxicha themselves who were left with the work of bringing justice to the situation. Within five years, in 1970, they kicked the caciques out and began to rebuild their communities. By 1980 the Zapotecos of Loxicha had effectively recovered their traditional form of government and elected their own municipal president in assembly, without political parties, through an indigenous form of government known here as “usos y costumbres.”
But when an armed organization known as the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) appeared in 1996 in the neighboring region of Crucesito Huatulco, the caciques and their friends in government took it as an opportunity to reassert their control over Loxicha. Under the pretext of pursuing the EPR, they returned with helicopters and tanks to break the Zapotecos and retake control of the coffee of Loxicha. Initially arresting teachers and representatives of the indigenous government, including then-municipal president Agustín Luna Valencia, the Oaxacan state took more than 100 residents of Loxicha prisoner by 1997. Nine of them are now in there ninth and tenth years of imprisonment in Ixcotél. Other prisons also hold Loxicha prisoners, other members of their communities have been arrested more recently and joined them. The caciques and their gunmen remain free and continue to operate with relative impunity, “disappearing” up to 50 people in the years that followed the attack.
The repression has continued in Loxicha and began to get worst during the last year. Donaciana’s brother was organizing his community to reject the political parties once more and peacefully reclaim the municipal government through assembly and “usos y costumbres” when he was murdered on September 30, 2005… two days before the municipal elections. Donaciana has been living as a refugee since the murder of her brother, working in Oaxaca City, threatened with kidnapping if she returns to her home.
“We are with the Zapatistas because we are in the same situation,” she told me. Loxicha community members recently produced a radio show linking their community to the community of Acteal in Chiapas, where 45 men, women and children were murdered by paramilitaries while attending church in late 1997. Regarding the Other Campaign, Donaciana reflected that “The (political) parties are dogs, they are all the same… all of them buy votes and the worst are the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico for over 70 years).”
Photo: D.R. 2006 RJ Maccani
In his report back to the demonstrators and media gathered outside of Ixcotél, Delegate Zero asserted the centrality of prisoners’ struggles and alluded to one of the ways that the Other Campaign will perhaps connect to the “intergalactic” aspect of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle:
“We are going to bring their cases and the cases of other political prisoners to the tribunals and get rid of this false image that says nothing is happening here in Mexico. Anywhere that a representative of the Mexican government puts down their foot or speaks in an international forum, with him will fall the shadow that is those political prisoners of this country… We are committed as Zapatistas and we invite the rest of the organizations and all members of the Other Campaign to put give top priority in this first tour to the struggle for the liberation of all political prisoners and the cancellation of all arrest warrants — be they municipal, state, or federal — that there are against fighters for social justice.”
The political prisoners of Ixcotél have not only adhered to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle but have also committed to a series of events and actions that will unfold in the weeks that follow. In this manner, they have set a brave example for the rest of their compañeros who struggle inside and outside of the prisons in this most repressive state of Oaxaca.
The We Are All Prisoners Collective (Kolectivo Tod@s Somos Pres@s) can be contacte at email@example.com.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism