<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 August 15, 2018 | Issue #41

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Spanish Women Tell of Abuse at the Hands of Mexican Police

“They did everything to us, but our faces were covered”

By Armando G. Tejeda
La Jornada

May 9, 2006

MADRID, MAY 7: María Sastres y Cristina Valls are two Spanish citizens who, last Wednesday, found themselves in San Salvador de Atenco, when the conflict there sparked brutal repression by state and federal police forces. In addition to the tragic death of 14-year-old, Francisco Javier Cortés, the police operative was also shadowed by reports of human rights’ violations and disregard for due process, as is the case in this testimony.

María Sastres and Cristina Valls
Photo: Eduard Bayer / Semanario Directa (La Jornada)
Sastres and Valls denounced having been victims of insults and threats while in police custody, as well as having received no information as to their legal situation or their reason for being deported, despite being in the country legally, with active tourist visas.

At the end of their long trip from Mexico to Paris, and finally to Barcelona, where they live, the two Spaniards confessed to feeling “outraged” and “profoundly affected” by what happened last Wednesday, in San Salvador de Atenco.

Their testimony begins at dawn, on Wednesday, when they found themselves in Atenco: “We came to Mexico to work with indigenous communities in Chiapas, and later joined the Other Campaign, to work as human rights observers and photographers. When we found out what was happening in Atenco, we went there. We arrived at night and saw that the town was already surrounded by barricades. The police entered at about 6:00 AM.

According to Sastres and Valls, when word went out that the police had begun to attack the residents, fear and chaos spread throughout the town: “There were 3,000 police, and there were 300 of us. They came after us with everything: tear gas, bullets, everything. We ran all over town, trying to get away from the police, but there wasn’t a single street without police. But finally, a woman opened her door and let us hide in her house with eight other people.

The two Spaniards hid in the house for two hours listening to the police attack in the streets outside. Eventually, they were detained: “We could hear that the police were starting to bang on doors, supposedly looking for the police who had been taking hostage. That’s how they finally found us and grabbed us. They pushed our faces into the dirt. They covered our faces with hoods, and they bound our hands right there in the yard. They were asking for our names, they recorded us on video, and that’s when the first insults and beatings began.

The worst abuses came when they were put in a truck together with several dozen other people. “They put us in a truck, where they started beating us the whole time, hitting us with clubs and kicking us. They insulted us a lot, because we were Spanish, saying that we were with the ETA, calling us whores and many other things. Later they moved us to a bigger truck, where they accounted for all of us – I think there were 38 of us – and they abused the women sexually.

In reference to the sexual abuse that they suffered, Maria Sastres said: “They did everything to us, and since our faces were covered, we couldn’t see who they were. We could see the ground was covered in blood and we could hear people crying out in pain. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about the sexual assault, but they took off our clothes, they tore them off us, lots of police put their hands all over us, and I would rather not say anything more. All of this happened in the truck on the way from Atenco to Toluca. If we tried to talk to anyone, they hit us, insulted us, and laughed at us.”

When they arrived in Toluca, the 40 people who had been in the truck were taken into Santiaguito prison, where – according to testimonies- the foreigners were separated from the Mexicans and divided by gender. Within five minutes of entering the prison, they uncovered our faces and took off the handcuffs, and since they had made my nose bleed, they also cleaned my face. But I arrived with my pants all torn, without a bra, with my shirt torn open, and with beatings all over my body,” said Maria Sastres.

After spending several hours in the prison, in the state of Mexico, all the foreigners were sent to the immigration office in Iztapalapa, where they were held for several hours without receiving any information about their situation. “We told the people at the prison, as well as the people at immigration, about how we had been treated, but they told us it wasn’t their problem, and they tried to be a little nicer. Nevertheless, they kept lying to us, and threatening us, saying we were going to have spend a year in prison.

“They didn’t tell us anything. Lawyers kept coming by who told us the same thing, that we were going to spend a long time in prison. So we started to think that they were going to invent something with which to frame us, and that we weren’t going to get out of prison.”

At the immigration office, the Spaniards were visited by the Spanish consul, to whom they also told of the abuses they had suffered, and who said he “would look into it.” But he didn’t get them any kind of legal assistance, except for informing their families in Spain, since up until that time they had not been able to make a single phone call.

“There was a point, at about 5:00 in the afternoon, when they took us out of the room to a car. We asked where we were going and they told us we were going to an office in Polanco, but the car took off and went straight to the airport. They told us that the police in Atenco had stolen all of our things, but they were laughing at us.”

Without any kind of legal assistance, Sastres and Valls were held in a kind of airport jail cell for several hours, where they were filmed and threatened again. Finally they were put on a plane to Paris: “The plane left at 11:00 at night, but we were accompanied by two police until we arrived in Barcelona.”

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