|English | Español||January 22, 2018 | Issue #41|
East to West and North to South, the Other Campaign in National March Demanded Liberty and Justice
More Than 10,000 People March Past Symbols of Power to Demand Justice for Atenco
By Juan Trujillo
Photo: D.R. 2006 Carlos Servín
After 10:30am, leaving from the Angel of Independence on Reforma Avenue, the strength of the participants, adherents, and sympathizers of the Other Campaign began drawing the adrenaline and movement of the marchers’ vocal cords. Those present (not necessarily adherents to the movement headed by the Sixth Commission of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, EZLN in its Spanish initials) also united in solidarity with the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Earth (FPDT), the raped women, the dead and the jailed (who are still in the Santiaguito prison).
Those that give shape to Commander Ramona’s quilt are in their world of life: indigenous, farmers, laborers, artisans, scientists, students, intellectuals, tenants, businessmen, committed Christians, the religious, artists, housewives, sex workers, homosexuals, lesbians, transgendered people… in the end, simple and humble people angered by the repression on May 3rd and 4th. From east to west and north to south, people from every part of Mexico’s geography in resistance, in rebellion, on the march, a demonstration of action and politics from below.
The drums of rebellion fiercely rang and the chanting by the youth of the “Subversion” collective was in tempo when they passed the U.S. embassy, heavily guarded by soldiers and riot police. Theatre made itself present staging symbolic action and challenging conventional forms of making politics with another group of young students that recreated, along the entire march, the repression by the Federal Preventive Police against the female gender.
From the vanguard to the rearguard of the march, the multicolor fabric brought together the anger of a Mexico reduced in participation but visible in organization, which would reach Mexico City’s Plaza de la Constitucion, where the main event took place: members of the National Indigenous Congress, the Emiliano Zapata Farmers’ Union of Michoacán, the “Liberators of América” Student House, various punk and goth collectives, collectives from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, members of the Committee of Aspiring Educators, groups from the Metropolitan Autonomous University of Xochimilco, Azcapozalco and Iztapalapa, the Autonomous Zapatista Movement, the Union of Indigenous Women and Farmers from the town of Otomi in Queretaro, the Indigenous Zapatista Artisans Movement from Oaxaca, the Francisco Villa Independent Popular Front from Federal District, and people from from Guelatao and Iztapalapa. The capital police watch everything, and some standing some close to the performance even seem visibly disconcerted. A few valiant and rebellious women speak and inform the crowd about the rapes by the police. These human beings remain immobile, but not deaf, and some seemed to be emotionally touched.
The clock ticked past 12:30pm and the march maintained its pacific character without incident. The cry of “Zapata vive, la lucha sigue” (“Zapata lives, the struggle continues”) grew with the women in particular leading. During the march, this reporter shared glances and words with the Emiliano Zapata Popular Union, members of the National Education Workers’ Union, section 22, the Revolutionary Front of Hidalgo, collectives from Veracruz, members of the Xochitl Ijilalistzi Organization, members of the National Polytechnic Institute Union, the Socialist Union for an Equitable System of Life, communists, and members of the Mexican Electricians Union.
Photo: D.R. 2006 Citlali Zermeño
The Palace of Fine Arts appears in the distance and with it, also, the Civic Front for the Casino de la Selva of Morelos, the Communist Development Workshop, the opponents of the La Parota dam in Guerrero, and the return of the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Earth of Atenco and their entourage of seven buses. Meanwhile, the photojournalist Jesus Villaseca’s work in Atenco draws the glances of hundreds of demonstrators.
The list may seem endless, but it is necessary to name them all, to name the unnamable that other media ignore, that the politicians do not want to hear because it is not politically correct to represent them up there, on the presidential candidates’ platforms: the collectives of the Other Campaign from Zacatecas, Puebla, Tlaxcala; the Neighborhood Coordinating Committee from Ecatepec in the State of Mexico, the Commission on Runoff Water from the Volcanoes (Popocatepetl and Iztlazihuatl). The shouts from afar produce laughter and solidarity, “Fuck the president, he’s a corrupt bastard.”
The chanting and marching of the demonstrators begins to stand out at the entrance to the plaza where the country’s political and religious power are concentrated: the “Zócalo,” where the national . Prehispanic music and dance recreate modernity’s arrival to Mexico-Tenochtitlan. Up on the plank of the zocalo, a senior member of an independent collective form Tlaxcala visibly tired, humped and with a cane, continues to walk, and walk.
Photo: D.R. 2006 Nelly Salas
The speakers are turned on and amongst the speeches, those of former political prisoner Italia Mendes, the letter sent by América del Valle, daughter of FPDT leader of Ignacio del Valle and fugitive from “justice,” the letter sent by Valentina Palma, the Chilean student raped by the police and illegally deported, the letter by Angel Benhumea, father of Alexis, the student still in the hospital and diagnosed as brain dead. For his part, Delegate Zero- Subcomandante Marcos spoke about “the new cycle of mobilizations and action by the Other Campaign.”
With precision and strength, Trinidad Ramirez, Ignacio Del Valle’s wife, criticized the governments educational, social and economic policies: “We ask for your solidarity with the people of Atenco; fight for a town free of oppression. We have to create a single front so the voice of our demands is heard louder, and to transform that pain we feel into strength; to convert the rage into the courage to face all the “justice” we live from day to day. I say this from the bottom of my heart, for the women who were hurt, raped, and humiliated.
Return of the machetes
Photo: D.R. 2006 Carlos Servín
An unidentified representative of FPDT explains in detail the history of her organization, from the fight against the airport mega-project in 2001-2002, to the battle of Texcoco and the brutal repression in Atenco the 3rd and 4th of May. She also spoke of the two-faced discourse and the lies of the three governmental bodies: the municipal, state and federal. She emphasized that “dignity has no price” and reaffirmed the continuance of organization, calling for the people’s unity for the next march on June 2nd from San Salvador Atenco to Toluca to “demand that Governor Peña Nieto release those in prison and punish those responsible for the repression of our people.” She stated that now more than ever, unity, support, and solidarity are necessary en masse and gave the FPDT bank account with Bancomer, in name of Javier Ordonez Flores, number 1411636715, to make donations that will go to the political prisoners. She finished by saying that “the FPDT is grateful for the support and solidarity of our national and international sister organizations because their capacity to mobilize has strengthen us and made our government’s incapacity for dialogue clear, which leaves the people no other alternative than unity and organization to demand the solution to our just demands.”
With a firm voice she said, “We came to demand from the state government: (1) the immediate and absolute liberty of all political prisoners, cancellation of all court proceedings against compañeros released on bail, (2) desisting of arrest warrants, especially against América Del Valle and others, (3) Immediate dismissal of the police leadership, punishment for Wilfrido Robledo and all other intellectual authors, and a political trial for Fox and Peña Nieto.”
While the spring sun bathed the plaza with its warmth, three representatives participated in the event from the regional coordinators of the Other Campaign: the central zone, south-southeast zone, and northern zone. In general, they demanded the release of all political prisoners, they expressed their solidarity, and they called for new mobilizations and political events.
One of the participants, invited to attend the First National Encounter for the liberation of all the country’s political prisoners, the living return of the disappeared and the cancellation of all arrest warrants against social activists. The Encounter will be held on the 17th and 18th of June in Mexico City.
Evita Castañeda de la Unión de Comuneros Emiliano Zapata de Michoacán
Photo: D.R. 2006 Carlos Servín
For his part, the representative for the Other Campaign in the north, from Tijuana, strongly criticized the militarization of the northern border with the United States and the subordination to that country by Vicente Fox. He also mentioned the repression and growing force of drug trafficking on the northern states; he denounced the USA-lead plan to install a series of regasification plants on the coasts of Baja California, which will provoke ecological destruction and threaten biodiversity. None of these issues, he said, are being mentioned by mainstream media. He also made public that the northern indigenous peoples are suffering a “war of extermination” and that they are being killed off in various ways: by being kicked off their land, and through unemployment and migration. Finally, he expressed his solidarity: “Atenco is not alone; the north is with them! We want more politicians in prison and less political prisoners.”
In a brief speech the representative from the south-southeast zone emphasized that “the job of the Other Campaign is the liberty of political prisoners” and reaffirmed the “agreements we reach” for solidarity with other struggles like those of Atenco and to construct a national program for struggle.
Italia Mendez, who was jailed in Santiaguito prison, expressed with revelry and dignity, “All of us who dream of a different world, a world with equality, dignity, respect, collectivity and liberty are here. The State, the power, the system… unloaded on us all the unreasonableness of their existence.” The purpose of the police attack on Atenco in this woman’s eyes was “ pushing aside the people, all of us support all who are in solidarity, trying to rip, destroy, provoke, defame, they beat us, torture us, rape us; they tried to seed in our liberal hearts fear and desperation (…) the tried to make us run and to mute out voices and our rebel hearts so that history would not be filled with them, they want to tear the rebellion from our eyes so we could not dream of liberty. They want us to stop dreaming of a world that’s ours and for everyone, equally; they want us to conform to their lies, with their elections and their stupid candidates. They want us to feel satisfied with their soap operas and their soccer, that our hearts die wilting in the emptiness of apathy, silence, forgetfulness, and conformity. They want us to live our lives empty so that our history can be empty, they want to fill the towns with fear and oblivion, they want history to be full of silence. But they couldn’t and can’t brothers and sisters! Because after all we have been subject to… our hearts are here standing tall, full of rage, anger, rebellion and love, because this struggle is precisely so that no one suffers… so that history is ours, for everyone and equally for all.”
Mendez’ voice broke for a moment, but her strong but injured soul permitted her to continue: “Today our compañeros and compañeras are still in jail… today we continue with the judicial process and we are here and we won’t stop until we are all free, punishment to all who beat us, tortured us, and jailed us… we demand immediate and absolute liberty for all our compañeros. Freedom for all political prisoners!”
Photo: D.R. 2006 Juan Manuel Gómez
Also, he reiterated his solidarity with the foreigners deported from the country and announced that “we will not stop and no matter what happens we will continue and if necessary give our lives… it does not matter, as long as our cause be just, we only ask for justice and liberty. All of us who are in here are innocent… we will continue and die if necessary, waiting for what comes.” They ended and signed the letter “compañeros in cells 1, 2, 3, thank you for your support. If there is not freedom there are no elections!”
In another note written and sent to the event, Angel Benhumea, father of UNAM economics student Alexis, made reference will contextual detail to what happened in the Atenco operation for a premeditated strike against those who acted in defense of their legitimate rights. He also stated that the repressive context in the different levels of government in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, and the injustice to miners in Pasta de Conchos, Coauila. He confirmed that there exists a low-intensity war in the country and the evident establishment of fascism in the government and the manipulation of mass communication. He insisted that the Other Campaign’s response is theoretical action and organized mobilization of the working class and of the Mexican people. He demanded punishment for the material and intellectual culprits of the crimes perpetrated against his son Ollin Alexis Benhumea who is brain dead and close to total death.
For her part, in an incendiary, penetrating and firm speach, América del Valle from FPDT stated that, “From somewhere in our country, I reiterate they will not make me yield… the responsibility (of what happened in Atenco) again falls on the political class, including the PAN, PRI and PRD, to all those that would rather invest in jail, dogs, repressors, and rapists like Wilfrido Robledo than invest in health, education, jobs, and nutrition for all, that would resolve many great problems that we have in the country… What happened on the 3rd and 4th of May is part of the governments’ plan… and they have wanted to sent a message to the people, those below. To those from below they warn that those who oppose their dictums don’t fit into the political system, but rather in the government prisons… and it’s business as usual. Enrique Pena Nieto, like a good son of the ‘Atlacomulco mafia,’ doing whatever he can to further his political career within the corrupt PRI elite.”
She said that the blow against Atenco was a blow against everyone and that one cannot isolate that act from the political context the country is living through. He sustained that “our mobilizations and our actions should maintain and grow without letting any threat or provocations overcome our central objective, which is taking liberty for ourselves.”
According to America del Valle’s calculations with respect to the future, “their next plan is to leave our prisoners in jail, detain more of our companions and to continue giving impunity to those that orchestrated this infamous repression… We demand the resignation of the three traitors of our country (Fox, Pena Nieto, and Robledo), that they leave, we will not allow them to continue to cause harm to our Mexico… we still see how some people have dared to spread disinformation, to put the rapes in doubt and call them “alleged rapes” … We have to continue struggling until the people and the prisoners of the world find out about it all.”
Always with a strong voice, del Valle clarified that “it has been shown that it is the people that save the people… in this struggle that is everyone’s, not the walls, nor the borders enough to prevent the voice of solidarity from reaching all corners of the world.”
Towards the event’s end, the participation of Insurgent Subcomandante Marcos, began with his presenting and explaining the reason behind the march. “Through my voice speaks the Zapatista Army for Nation Liberation. Today we are here, one part of those that decided we will not tolerate an injustice, that keeps our companions in the Other Campaign behind bars. With us are also those that fight for the liberty of the men and women taken hostage by the government of San Salvador Atenco on the 3rd and 4th of May.”
Photo: D.R. 2006 Juan Manuel Gómez
Speaking about the innumerable paradoxes that exist when contrasting the politics of the governing and the dominated classes, Marcos said that “the pain grows with every step we take becoming aware of the injustices committed in the name of justice… little by little in the bodies of the prisoners we become aware of the power prevalence is capable of. The repression of Atenco was not only illegitimate, but, as has been shown as the days pass, it was illegal and done to hide illegal acts. The government wants to turn the page on that crime and just make us endure the pain, but as the pain grows so does our outrage.”
In his devastating criticism of the Mexican political class, Delegate Zero attacked Enrique Pena Nieto, Vicente Fox, Wilfrido Robledo and “the senators and representatives in the chorus of hyenas and turkeys. And let us listen to Mr. Calderon, candidate for president under the National Action Party, applauding the rape of detained women and presenting the violation of human rights and the Catholic fascism dressed in blue and sponsored by the public treasury as a basic part of his program for governance. And Mr. Madrazo from the PRI, promising everyone that what the police did in Atenco, would be the treatment that his government would give the women from below, and then calls his colleagues of the National Action fascists. And to Mr. Lopez Obrador we listen, after calculating the impact on the polls, keeps complacently silent, while legislators from his party applaud the imposition of order and the progress on the blood drenched dream of San Salvador Atenco.”
Concerning the elections on June 2nd and the evident ascendance of fascism that emanates from the ultra-right and “El Yunque” (“The Anvil,” an elite right-wing Catholic group said to have strong connections to the PAN) in the high quarters of public charge for the federal government, Delegate Zero said, “The Mexican political class demonstrated once again that it finds itself thrilled given to it in the media, but it does not know that this image unmasks its avarice, its mercantilism, its disdain for the people. The Mexican political class only has eyes and ears for the political posts that they turn into business, for the money that they will get from spoils from the little that this country’s poor have… the scorn that they have for us has no limits…
“We found out that the police officers who beat and raped on orders will receive, as punishment, an evaluation by a psychologist, to find out why they beat a dog. For the rapist policemen, psychologists; for the raped women, jail cells… this is the justice and liberty in which the federal elections in our country will be held on the June 2. Elections in which the midget admirer of Hitler, Felipe Calderon, is tarnished by the support of the Fox government. To this is added the repression in Atenco. Based on an agreement up above, they imposed an electoral calendar on the entire nation which is really an auction of public posts. Up there, they kidnapped politics and demanded that everything be calm and in silence so that they… can argue over who gets which post among those who sell ruin, the ruins which our country has become.”
And on the political class’ obvious simulations, the lies and doublespeak, the Sixth Commission of the EZLN said: “They ask for peace and tranquility, but they will have neigther, not without liberty and justice for Atenco. Some maintain the simulation that they govern, others the simulation that they will govern; everyone simulating that there is law for everyone. Not peace or tranquility, both rest on liberty and justice… and today Atenco represents the imprisonment of one and the prostitution of the other. Let us name Alexis Benhumea, let us name our jailed compañeros on hunger strike, let us name Ignacio Del Valle.”
Evidently, the Zapatista Other Campaign is now taking on a national character, in a new stage in which strategy and creativity are the to be consistent elements, which Marcos explained: “Today a new cycle of mobilizations begins, in Mexico and in the world, for liberation of all political prisoners from Atenco. This movement will keep growing everywhere and will well up in many civil and pacific forms with the cleverness and creativity of who we are, here from below and to the left. In every place and at all times we will denounce that injustice. That calendar, which was managed to their taste and sole benefit, will now turn against them and we will denounce all the injustice committed against us.”
And while the voice of the spokesperson of the EZLN turned a bit sentimental, he finished by saying, “We, the Other Campaign, the best thing that these Mexican lands have produced and which lives and fights on this and on the other side of the border and with us, men and women of other lands and skies, will raise their voices and their heads to demand liberty and justice for Atenco.” With these words and before the multicolor gaze the network Comandanta Ramona wove, one can step back and see the humble and simple people, the people enjoying their diversity, walking together, shouting, suffering, talking, deliberating, knowing, kissing, enjoying… but above all demanding liberty and justice with dignity.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism