<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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Dámaso Villanueva Arrested Friday at the Zapatista Information Booth in San Cristóbal, Chiapas

Known to Travelers Throughout the World Who Visit the City Square, He Is the Latest Political Prisoner in the Other Campaign


By Al Giordano
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Chiapas

February 24, 2006

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, CHIAPAS; FEBRUARY 24, 2006: It is national “Flag Day” in Mexico and this morning, in the city square of this international tourist center, the soldiers and brass of the Armed Forces held their ceremony: drums, bugles and salutes. Across the street, in the shadow of the city’s historic cathedral, the man who raises the Mexican flag daily in this plaza, Dámaso Villanueva, and his team had begun to erect the Zapatista Information Booth, with the tri-color flag of the nation and the red-and-black banner with the initials EZLN: Zapatista Army of National Liberation. Before he was done, three officers of the city police handcuffed him and took him to prison.


The Zapatista Information Booth in San Crisóbal
Here, across from the balcony where in 1994 Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos read the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle after seizing City Hall, Dámaso receives visitors from throughout Mexico and the world, handing out a daily summary of news about the Zapatista Other Campaign and Marcos’ six-month voyage throughout Mexico. He points compañeros to the offices of human rights groups and explains the struggle to curious visitors. He sells tee shirts, books, key rings and dolls representing Marcos and the late Comandanta Ramona. He even sells DVDs of the video newsreels of the Other Journalism with the Other Campaign… all to benefit the cause.

Twelve hours after his arrest, authorities have refused to explain why he was arrested, except that it has to do with a two-year-old complaint filed by the Pegaso company and its Movistar cell phone network, one of the largest in Mexico. Pegaso-Movistar seems to blame Dámaso – also a social fighter in his neighborhood in the southern barrios of this city – for $2,300,000 pesos (about $220,000 dollars) of damage to a cell phone tower in that neighborhood. (In many cases throughout the country, residents of neighborhoods have opposed these microwave towers, concerned about their potential health effects.)

Yet the timing of the arrest – as the Zapatista Other Campaign gains traction and has begun to rattle the windows of the country’s corrupt mercantile and political classes; as Marcos, on the stump, increasingly calls for imprisoning leading business magnates and politicians, often by name for specific crimes, and his message is takes root among workers and farmers alike – doesn’t quite add up. After all, Dámaso, practically a tourist attraction and “patrimony of humanity” himself, wasn’t hiding: He was out there, exposed, daily in the city square, where anyone could find him, day after day. The confluence with the military’s Flag Day ceremony, with a pattern of harassment – legal and extra-legal – against Other Campaigners in Chiapas and other Mexican states, with Brasilian HSBC bank’s unexplained closing of the accounts of the non-governmental human rights organization Enlace Civil in Chiapas, among other factors, suggests that Dámaso’s arrest is a political act, meant to intimidate and silence an Other Campaign for a national battle against capitalism that grows louder by the day.

But the Other Campaigners in Chiapas were not silenced today. They jumped into action to defend their colleague and free him. Correspondent Bertha Rodríguez Santos of the Other Journalism with the Other Campaign is on the story in Chiapas, digging up the facts. Lens-woman Sarahy Flores Sosa is shooting video. Translators in six languages – Spanish, English, Italian, French, German and Portuguese – are warming up their keypads to send word of Dámaso’s curious arrest far and wide. This afternoon, signs began to appear throughout the city that shout: Dámaso Villanueva, Political Prisoner. After all, a man who has dedicated every waking hour for years to spreading the word about other political prisoners and about the Other Campaign is not going to be kidnapped in the dark. The lights are being turned on. Stay tuned for more, kind readers. To be continued…

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America