<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
 English | Español September 2, 2014 | Issue #41


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“My Friends Are in Trouble, and I Need Your Help to Defend Them”

A Filmmaker and Friend of Imprisoned Atenco Leader Ignacio del Valle Asks for Your Support to Bring the True Story Out


By Greg Berger
Documentary Director for the Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Mexico

June 13, 2006

Dear Readers,

My friends are in trouble, and I need your help to defend them.


Ignacio del Valle
Photo: D.R. 2005 Greg Berger
On the afternoon of May 3, as I sat editing a video in El Barrio in New York City, word arrived that State and Federal police were attacking the town of Atenco, in Mexico State. Several people, including my friend Nacho del Valle, were hauled in by the cops and beaten. Days later they were sent to a maximum-security lock up reserved for Mexico’s most violent criminals (though be assured that the true criminals in this country roam the halls of power with impunity). In the days that followed, hundreds more residents of the area were arbitrarily arrested and at least 30 women were systematically raped or sexually abused. Anyone who knows Nacho and the thousands of other brave residents of Atenco understood, as soon as we got word of this attack, why this was happening. The Mexican government was exacting revenge on a man and his community who have dared to exercise their right to defend the lands their grandparents died to defend. But perhaps what frightened the corrupt political class of Mexico even more is the fact that Nacho and the “Atencos” not only have defended their own town, but have for years stuck their own necks out to provide solidarity and support for communities around South Central Mexico that have also dared to fight back against abuse and injustice.

In 2001 and 2002 I got to know many people from the town of Atenco. I shared meals with them, slept in their houses, and went to their kids’ baptisms and First Communions. I was making two films on the town’s struggle to stop an ambitious and overblown airport project, and Atenco became a home away from home for me. Were it not for the successful struggle of its people, Atenco would have ceased to exist as land speculators snatched their houses and farmlands to plow them under and make way for a hotel zone adjacent to a new airport. The commercial media repeatedly demonized the townspeople as violence-driven thugs intent on stopping progress. Had they bothered to get to know Nacho and the rest of the residents of Atenco, they would have seen the truth about these good people and would have seen that the real thugs were the politicians attempting to illegally steal their lands.

In recent years, my friendship with Nacho and his neighbors has grown. We have stood side by side in Texcoco and Tlalnepantla, on the battle lines of social movements taking up causes as just as that of Atenco. The weapon of the Atencos has always been the machete, but not as an offensive weapon. Merely brandishing the machete is a symbolic gesture that carries with it the memory of centuries of indigenous and rural resistance to repression from conquistadors of all stripes. Just as the Atencos carry their machetes, I have always brandished my weapon, a video camera, which I use to convey the stories and images that the slaves of global capital don’t want you to see. And with weapons in hand, Nacho, the Atencos and I have been beaten and showered with tear gas together. We are comrades in arms in the same struggle.

Last August I stayed in Nacho’s house after we screened our films in the town square in commemoration of the third anniversary of the victory of Atenco. Nacho and his daughter América (who is now a fugitive issuing communiqués from the underground, accused of trumped-up charges), must have made me at least six cups of fresh herb tea that night to help get rid of my horrible sore throat. I told him he’d make a good Jewish bubbie, and gave him a couple of basic Yiddish lessons. The tea came from the same place in Nacho’s heart as his will to carry a machete. Nacho and his family have dedicated their lives to struggle because they are people with a strong sense of compassion and caring. And it was that night that I clearly remember feeling even more than before that Atenco is a part of my family, a part of who I am. At 2 a.m., before I went to bed, Nacho and several other people took their machetes and red bandanas and loaded up a Suburban. Then they drove off into the rainy night to make a 17-hour trip to the jungle canyons of Chiapas state. Their mission was to attend the first of many meetings of the Zapatista Other Campaign. Little did we know that this commitment to the Zapatistas’ new political initiative would lead to the unprovoked and unspeakable horrors committed by the Mexican government last month. For have no doubt that the Atencos’ successful record of opposition to State power combined with their new commitment to the Other Campaign is the reason that the Mexican political elite has tried to destroy them.

It was less than two months ago that I last saw Nacho in the state of Morelos, on the anniversary of Emiliano Zapata’s assassination. He had his machete in his hand; I had my camera in mine. We gave each other a hug, and each did our job. His job was to help defend a group of environmentalists threatened by police. My job was different; while Nacho and his compañeros moved in and put themselves in harm’s way, my compañeros from the Narco News Road Team and I moved in with camera, notepads, and audio recording devices in hand, not to fight, but to report the facts as best we could from our vantage point. As the month progressed, the Atencos became the unofficial bodyguards and standard bearers of Subcomandante Marcos and the Other Campaign as it toured Mexico City and the surrounding area. This alliance of popular political movements was too much for the Mexican State to endure, and that state set a trap for the Atencos, the details of which you have been reading about in this newspaper.

The good news is that the fight to free Nacho and the dozens of others who remain prisoners has only just begun. Many residents of Atenco, despite having recently experienced torture and rape, are once again holding their machetes high and marching to demand the release of their compañeros. They are supported by thousands and thousands of people both in Mexico and in the over two dozen countries around the world where actions in solidarity with Atenco have been held.

Since January, I have been working with Narco News to file video dispatches from the front lines of the Other Campaign. Narco News has provided the only consistent and thorough English language coverage of this new historical social movement in Mexico. You can see our video dispatches online. My commitment to this project is now more personal than ever. My friend Nacho has been vilified by the commercial press and has been kept incommunicado in Mexico’s most horrific prison. Neither I nor Narco News as a media organization will stop covering these events until he is free.

That is why I need your help. None of us receive a single penny for working with Narco News, but the costs of making our newsreels is high and we distribute them free of charge. This is not an appeal for funds to help in the legal fees needed for Nacho’s defense. This is merely an appeal for support so that we can do our jobs as journalists. We believe that once enough people see things from our perspective as journalists in the field, that popular outrage will make the political prisoners of Atenco’s liberty a political inevitability.

Please, make a donation online to The Fund for Authentic Journalism to support this work, by clicking on this link:

http://www.authenticjournalism.org

Or send a check, made out to “The Fund for Authentic Journalism,” to this address:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O. Box 241
Natick, MA 01760

Nacho would help us if we were in prison, and so we cannot stop reporting on the ongoing fight to free him and to usher in a new era in Mexican politics.

Please give us your support.

Greg Berger

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