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Marathon to Free Magdalena García Durán and Atenco Prisoners

by carolina s Sunday, Sep. 16, 2007 at 8:27 PM

Things are moving faster in the struggle to free the Mazahua indigenous rights leader Magdalena García Duran, recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, and all the political prisoners arrested in San Salvador Atenco in central Mexico on May 3 and 4, 2006.

Marathon to Free Mag...
magdalena_garcia_duran.jpg, image/jpeg, 320x213

A little after dawn on September 11, about ten runners took off from the Molina de Flores prison in a marathon to win the freedom of the Mazahua prisoner Magdalena García Durán and the political prisoners arrested on May 3 and 4, 2006 in San Salvador Allende, mainly belonging to the People’s Front for the Defense of the Land (FPDT) and the Other Campaign.

Their destination? The Supreme Court of Injustice building in Mexico City, about 30 miles away.

Before they left, there was a ceremony in which each runner was given a piece of obsidian and a Commission was charged with delivering a codex to the President of the Supreme Court signed by more than 200 representatives of the Mazahua, Triqui, Otomí, Yaqui, and Purépecha cultures, among others. The document demands García Durán’s immediate release, as well as justice for her and the other prisoners. It also demands that the charges be dropped against those who are out on bail and that all disappeared people in the country be presented alive.

Amidst curious stares, shouts of support, horns honking, and curses, several Mazahua teen-agers and men and women from the Molino camp and the Other Campaign ran along the highway all morning. On the way they ran into a pilgrimage in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe, whose members shared their water with them. Even though their way was blocked when they got to the center of the city, sweaty and out of breath, they got a warm welcome from people waiting for them at the Supreme Court building.

Magdalena García Durán is a defender of indigenous rights. Like many members of the Other Campaign, she went to Atenco on May 4 to show her support for the FPDT, the organization under attack for having courageously (and successfully) defending their lands against a major airport expropriation and for defending the right of flower vendors to work in Texcoco.

Magdalena is one of the 214 people who were cruelly tortured, raped, and arrested without a warrant by the same police who killed Javier Cortés Santiago and Alexis Benhumea that day.

Of the original number, 28 are still being held in extermination camps––19 in Molino de Flores, 6 in Santiaguito and 3 in the Altiplano maximum security prison, formerly La Palma. Those who are our on bail with charges pending bring the total to 172. Most of them, like Magdalena, are accused of “attacking a highway” and “aggravated kidnapping” although there is no evidence that proves individual responsibility. The charges are generic.

Magdalena is recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. In an obvious attempt to cover up their crimes, however, the state of Mexico authorities refused to let the organization’s Secretary General see the prisoner during her stay in Mexico last August. The maneuver backfired though when Irene Khan sent Magdalena a letter reiterating Amnesty’s support for her “immediate, unconditional release”. Khan also made a scathing public denunciation against the rape of women in Atenco and Oaxaca, as well as the torture, illegal arrests, disappearances, abuse of indigenous people, and impunity persisting in Mexico.

The marathon / rally was successful in enabling the Commission to deliver the codex and meet with Supreme Court President Guillermo I. Ortiz and the three magistrates in charge of the Atenco investigation. The President informed the Commission that the magistrates who began to investigate the violation of individual rights in Atenco last February 21 would have more time to conclude their investigation. Is this a true response to international demands for justice or just another pretext for dragging out the process and keeping innocent people in prison?

Picking up the pace

After a year and four months of intentional delays in the hearings where the testimony of policemen and other witnesses was heard, there are important developments. It seems that sentences will soon be handed down in the cases of the 19 prisoners held in Molina de Flores.

Most ominous is the ratification of the 67 year sentence––in effect, a life sentence––for FPDT leaders Ignacio del Valle, Felipe Álvarez, and Héctor Galindo for two aggravated kidnapping charges in February and April of 2006. On September 12, the magistrates in Toluca upheld last May’s decision pronounced by Judge José Blas. The guilty verdict put an end to an appeal that had already been presented.

The verdict was handed down just two weeks after a resolution passed last August 28 nullified arrest warrants for Martha Pérez Pineda, Ulises Del Valle Ramírez, and David Pájaro, allowing them to come out of hiding. Nevertheless, America del Valle –Ignacio del Valle’s daughter– was granted a protective writ for certain offenses but there is still an arrest warrant out for her for kidnapping.

Marathon against impunity

State of Mexico Governor Enrique Peña Nieto, who’s already started to campaign for President, has proudly stated, “I ordered the Atenco operation.”

In a New York jaunt to garner investment in his state, he said the operation was necessary in order to “reestablish order.”

The testimonies of women deported to their own countries and of Mexican women formerly held in the Santiago prison recount their personal experiences of the “reestablishment of order.” They tell of rape, of being hooded, their clothes torn off, of being called “bitches” and “whores”, of being cruelly beaten, of having their breasts pinched and bitten savagely, of vaginal and anal penetration with objects or a penis, of being forced to perform oral sex. Both men and women tell of being piled on top of each other in a bus for several hours on the way to Toluca, of being physically and psychologically tortured––of being beaten continuously, humiliated, threatened with death.

As of now, not one single policeman has spent a day in jail. Only 21 of the 3,500 agents participating in the May 4 operation have been charged with “abuse of authority” and one with “libidinous acts,” all misdemeanors. They are all out on bail.

The rapes and other forms of torture perpetrated at Atenco were not the spontaneous libidinous, sadistic acts of a few evil men (that is to say, they might be sadistic and evil but that’s not all). They were actions planned, programmed, and authorized by the high commanders to break people, destroy their dignity, dominate them, and create a climate of fear in the society so that there’ll no resistance at all against the powers-that-be. Several months later the very same commanders ordered the very same tortures (and some that were even worse) in Oaxaca.

And what is Governor Peña Nieto’s response to the accusations of rape and torture? He blames “the radicals,” saying, “It’s well-known that the manuals put out by radical groups say that women should maintain that they’ve been raped and that men should say they’ve been abused and mistreated.”

Manuals put out by radical groups? What is he talking about? Has a single “radical” reader ever run across this kind of manual? It’s safe to say that the answer is no.

It is true, though, that several manuals for training torturers exist, such as the “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation-1963,” which served as a model for other manuals used in the School of the Americas until the 90s. It’s no doubt been one of the main texts studied by the top commanders of the Atenco operation: Wilfrido Robledo head of the Mexican State Security Agency (ASES) and Ardelio Vargas, head of the Federal Preventive Police (PFP), not to mention their collaborator Genaro García Luna, director of the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI) and an anti-terrorist expert.

These are the people who belong in jail.

Freedom Day

On Saturday, September 15, there’ll be festivities in San Salvador Atenco to welcome the three people who no longer have arrest warrants. Also, from 9 ‘til 3 at the Molino de Flores camp there’ll be a day of resistance and rebellion with music, photos, videos, and poetry.

Every Saturday there’s a flea market to sell things to raise money for the prisoners. There’s also a radio broadcast, activities, and visits with the prisoners when permitted. Every Sunday, camp members go to Texcoco to leaflet and talk to people about the prisoners. There’s a need to bring supplies for the prisoners and supplies for the people who are there night and day in spite of rain, cold, or AFI surveillance.

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encampment outside Molina de Flores prison

by carolina s Sunday, Sep. 16, 2007 at 8:27 PM

encampment outside M...
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