|English | Español||November 19, 2017 | Issue #40|
“Repression Will Not Stop the Other Campaign”
Responding to Arrest in Chiapas, Campaign Participants Denounce Nation-Wide Rise in Acts of Intimidation and Political Persecution
By Bertha Rodríguez Santos
The information booth where Damasco Villanueva works.
During a press conference held in the facilities of the Center for Indigenous Integration and Development (CIDESI), a young man who identified himself as Claudio, and who had been with Villanueva when he was detained, reported that around 10:30 in the morning on Friday, February 24, three men dressed in municipal police uniforms told him that they had a warrant for his arrest.
Without letting him read the warrant, the police handcuffed him and, despite the fact that Villanueva did not resist, pushed him into a vehicle.
An information booth about the Zapatista movement has been set up in San Cristóbal’s central plaza since 1995. For several years, Dámasco Villanueva has participated actively in this work to disseminate information.
After his arrest this morning, several of his compañeros from the Other Campaign headed to the Palace of Justice to investigate his whereabouts. In the office of the Second Penal Court, officials denied them access to Villanueva’s file, claiming they could find it at the Center for Social Re-Adaptation.
After a frustrating search for information, and faced with the refusal of authorities at every level to provide any facts about the case, they finally discovered that there was a “Preliminary Inquiry” filed on October 16, 2004 (“Av. Prev. AL40/54-1241/2004”) and later an arrest warrant issued on October 19 2005 (“orden 165/2005”) and executed on February 24, 2006.
The legal complaint against him was submitted by the Pegaso telecommunications company for alleged damage to private property, accusing Villanueva of toppling a cellular telephone antenna tower. The fine for this supposed crime is approximately $2,300,000 pesos ($220,000 dollars).
Members of groups like the Fray Bartolomé Human Rights Center, the Committee for Popular Defense, and the Center for Women’s Rights, among others, said that the Mexican state is using the justice system to persecute social fighters as part of its repression and intimidation against those who participate in the Other Campaign.
They also said that as the state distances itself from the paramilitary groups that were part of the “low-intensity war” it fought against the Zapatistas, it now uses private companies and the legal system to criminalize and incarcerate members of groups, collectives and families that are working for the Other Campaign.
Aside from Dámaso Villanueva’s arrest, the groups feel that other events, such as the assassination attempt against social fighter Gustavo Jiménez Pérez, and the cancellation of the well-known Enlace Civil group’s bank accounts by Bancomer and HSBC, are part of the campaign of persecution and political repression against the Zapatista movement.
Speaking of Villanueva’s arrest, Other Campaign promoter Erasto Molina Urbina said that campaign participants feel “outraged and offended, but we are not intimidated.” Far from slowing down the movement backing the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, the social organizations will add their forces to the “national movement for the liberation of all political prisoners and for the end of repression throughout the country.”
The outrage and protests over Dámaso Villanueva’s detention provoked hundreds of people to demonstrate in the central plaza of San Cristóbal. At night the protest moved to City Hall, where demonstrators plan to hold a permanent vigil until they win Villanueva’s freedom. Villanueva, aside from his work at the information booth promoting the Other Campaign, is a representative for his community in the San Cristóbal Organization of Southern Neighborhoods. During “Delegate Zero’s” (Subcomandante Marcos’) visit, he worked in one of the Zapatista leader’s security escorts.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism