The Narco News Bulletin
August 15, 2018 | Issue #52
narconews.com - Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America
In what has been declared a stunning but partial victory for the Other Campaign, the Chiapas government freed thirty political prisoners last night in response to years of protests for their freedom, but not before giving some of them one last thorough beating. Seventeen prisoners remain incarcerated in Chiapas and Tabasco, thirteen of whom are on a hunger strike that has lasted 37 days so far. Prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families and supporters are gearing up for an increasingly tense battle for the freedom of the remaining political prisoners. Outside medical experts say that the symptoms the hunger strikers report and the amount of time they've gone without food has put their lives in danger, and that they may begin to die as early as Sunday. The state government, however, declared that it refuses to negotiate over the remaining prisoners.
D.R. 2008 Photos: Kristin Bricker
The prisoners belong to a variety of organizations, including EZLN bases of support, adherents to the Zapatistas' Other Campaign, an evangelical Christian organization, and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD in its Spanish initials). The amount of time they've spent in jail varies: the two Zapatista prisoners in Tabasco have been imprisoned for twelve years, other prisoners for one year.
Other prisoners, such as Julio Cesar Perez Ruiz, who became an adherent to the Other Campaign in prison, were imprisoned because a crime was committed and the government needed to jail someone for it, and any poor indian would do. While Perez was working in his cornfield with his father, a homicide occurred 40 km away. Despite his alibi and witness accounts of other suspects entering the area of the homicide, the government, having no desire to do the necessary work to solve the murder of a poor campesino, decided to jail another poor campesino and wash its hands of the whole matter. Perez was not released last night and remains on hunger strike.
Most of the ex-prisoners report that they had inadequate legal defense and did not understand court proceedings because the government did not provide a translator into their native languages of Tsotsil and Tzeltal. In this sense, the common thread that links all of the political prisoners is that they are poor indians.
Two years ago, members of the prisoners organization "La Voz del Amate" in el Amate prison began a plantón within the prison. They camped out day and night on the prison grounds in a vocal protest of their unjust imprisonment, petitioned the state government for their release, and organized outside support through their families and activists who visited them in prison. Through their various organizational affiliations and outside support, they organized across four different prisons, including the Carcel Publica Municipal in Tacotalpa, Tabasco, where two Zapatistas are imprisoned. On February 12, 2008, Zacario Hernandez Hernandez, a member of La Voz del Amate, stepped up the protest and declared a hunger strike to demand their freedom. This sparked an escalation in the prisoners' tactics, and in the following weeks dozens more prisoners in the four jails joined the huger strike and plantónes. At its peak, 37 prisoners participated in the hunger strike with twelve more joining the plantón who couldn't hunger strike for health reasons. Many other prisoners supported the plantónistas and protected them from the prison guards.
On March 31 the government announced that it planned to release 137 prisoners at a press conference that evening, including some of the hunger strikers and plantónistas. In a staged media spectacle called "Freedom to Do Justice," the government released the prisoners and unilaterally ended negotiations over the remaining prisoners due to its claim that all unjustly imprisoned Chiapans were now free. This contradicts Gov. Juan Sabines' position up until said press conference, wherein he denied that there were any political prisoners in Chiapas. In the press conference the government laid out fruit and yogurt for the prisoners, hoping that the media would snap pictures of hunger strikers accepting food and reconciliation from the government. Refusing to be pawns in the government's public relations strategy, the released hunger strikers refused all government food and only ate once they were released and joined the plantón. Family members of the prisoners protested the press conference, repeatedly interrupting government officials with chants of, "We're not all here! Other prisoners are missing!" and "Sabines! Listen up! The prisoners don't sell out!"
Journalists and activists want the list of all 137 pardoned prisoners because they suspect that the government used this opportunity to free many paramilitary members.
The Other Campaign in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, has also vowed to continue their protests until all prisoners are freed. Given the striking prisoners' grave health situation and the notice that this might be the last week to act before prisoners begin to die of starvation, the Other Campaign will hold a march and procession of coffins to the central plaza in San Cristobal on Thursday, April 3. The Other Campaign declared Thursday, April 3, an international day of action for the freedom of the striking prisoners and calls on activists outside Mexico to stage protests and actions at Mexican embassies and consulates.
Más - Videos en Español: Testimonios de los Familiares de los Presos Políticos al Plantón Parte 1 y Parte 2 por Eva Blanca Produccion