Posts by scott

Education students radicalize their actions in Oaxaca

By Santiago Navarro F.
Agencia SubVersiones
March 17, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell

After nearly a month of protests, members of the Oaxaca State Coordinating Body of Education Students (CENEO) have radicalized their actions. On February 3, they presented a list of 21 demands to educational authorities, not one of which has been resolved.

The protests have included: marches, blockades of streets and main thoroughfares, the taking of toll booths to allow motorists to pass freely, the commandeering of public buses – which they use to transport themselves – as well as of trucks carrying goods from multinational corporations, whose products have been distributed to people nearby and to those waiting for their sick relatives outside of public hospitals.

On March 13, negotiations were to be held between the education students and members of the Oaxaca State Institute of Public Education. The students warned the authorities that if negotiations were cancelled, the students would intensify their actions. As that is exactly what happened, the students took over the institute’s building, kicking out of the workers and spraying graffiti on the inside of the buildings and on official vehicles, as well as burning tires and documents.

Among the main demands of the eleven education schools which comprise the CENEO, is that of “mileage scholarships,” which is to say, financial support for students in their final years to pay for transportation to the communities where they carry out their work.

They are also against the education reform, as the standards for evaluation don’t take into account the majority of students in Oaxaca, most of whom are indigenous and whose first language is not Spanish. Similarly, they mention the material conditions mandated by this reform, whereas in Oaxaca there are schools with teachers who teach multiple grades, where only one teacher gives classes to several groups of students and at the same time is the school’s principal.

“We are in disagreement with this reform, and not because we are afraid of being evaluated. There are students who don’t even speak Spanish and they want to introduce English. There is marginalization and poverty. It’s not the same to evaluate a student from Monterrey as it is a student from an indigenous community in Oaxaca,” says Miriam Martínez, spokeswoman for the press and propaganda portfolio – or commission – of the CENEO.

Likewise, another student from the Tamazulapan rural education school, who didn’t want to give her name, tells the SubVersiones team that they are unhappy with the reform because the government has not bothered to inform the public, that there are indigenous communities that don’t know what a reform is and therefore don’t know that at some point they will have to pay for the education of their children, referencing the euphemistically-called “autonomous self-management.” The students are concerned that information about the reform is not flowing and therefore people still can’t grasp that they will have to pay for their children’s education; when there are communities where teachers have had to convince parents to send their children to school.

“There are two graduated classes of compañeros who are already working under this reform, which deals with matters in a way that is inconsistent for communities where there isn’t even electricity and there is a lot of attrition because the students have to go to work in the fields,” says Miriam, who also notes that the majority of the education students have firsthand knowledge of these conditions, as a good part of them come from rural communities where there is extreme poverty.

The students remain on alert for possible repression and act with caution around the media; they don’t approach any journalist without first covering their faces, as they know that when there is repression there is also persecution and selective harassment.

The more than 3,000 students say that if there is not an immediate solution, they are going to intensify their actions even further. For the moment, in the Regional Center of Education Schools of Oaxaca, more than 15 trucks belonging to different companies such as Bimbo, Sabritas, Danone, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and two ADO buses are being held. At the last minute they alerted us that there is already an eviction order against them and they are prepared with various security details to prevent the entry of anyone who is not a CENEO student.

Community leader Nestora Salgado’s life behind bars

By Gloria Muñoz Ramírez
March 17, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell

Day and night, Nestora Salgado García inhabits a dark world of artificial light. Fifteen days pass without seeing a ray of sunlight. She has no physical contact with anyone, she is only allowed a hug and cannot touch her daughter or her sister when they visit. Not even the guards speak to her. Instead of the four hours every 12 days for visits that she has the right to, after her family members pass the ordeal of security checks, they are left with only two and a half hours. She doesn’t have the recommended medication for the spinal problem she has suffered from for 12 years. In prison, Nestora lives in punishment for her bravery.

Nestora is an activist, a community leader who loudly and unabashedly denounced the local authorities of the municipality of Olinalá, in the mountains of Guerrero, of complicity with organized crime. Her role as coordinator of the Community Police was conferred upon her in an assembly. This legitimate law-enforcement mandate, recognized by the very government of Guerrero, led her to order, on August 16, 2013, the arrest of comptroller Armando Patrón Jiménez, accused of cattle rustling and of presumed participation in the killing of two farmers. The local official was transferred to the regional House of Justice to be processed according to a community system legitimized in the region for the past 18 years. This isn’t an apparatus of self-defense groups, but an entire system of security, prosecution and administration of community justice, upon which the state government has conferred legality and even financial support.

However, the arrest of the comptroller caused people close to him to accuse her of kidnapping. Five days later, the force of the state arrived aboard 15 military vehicles. The soldiers handed her over to the Marines, who then put her on a plane and immediately afterward Nestora would see the doors of Tepic prison opening. Hours of uncertainly passed, she wasn’t given any information or even allowed to use the bathroom.

Life in prison is doubly hard for a woman with the life and qualities of Nestora. Saira, her daughter, says that in spite of everything her mother remains strong and steadfast after nearly seven months of confinement. “She is alone in her cell, but my mother is strong and she tells me that she will not allow the suffering to kill her, that she will not give her attackers that pleasure.”

After four months of bureaucratic red tape prevented her from visiting her mother, Saira has been able to see her twice. She travels to the jail every 12 days, complying with all the prison’s security regulations. The relatives of other prisoners, she says, are allowed into the visiting area at 12 or 12:30pm. She is let in at 2 or 2:30pm. The difference in treatment is clear, as it cuts almost in half the time to see her, which is from 1 to 5pm.

After walking past the “mocking laughter of the guards,” Saira goes through the security checkpoints. Nestora is not held in the building where she meets with her daughter and other family members. She is taken handcuffed out of her cell and put into a truck. She doesn’t know exactly where she is. When they finally meet they are allowed a quick hug, the rest of the time they are prohibited from touching, a plastic table with a Coca Cola logo separating them. The visit happens on a basketball court with five seating sections.

After the visit, the guards take Nestora away in handcuffs. Only she comes and goes in shackles. The rest of the prisoners go unrestrained. “They don’t even treat the murderers like they treat my mother,” laments Saira. They violate all her rights, she says.

Nestora wakes up at five in the morning every day for her first roll call. She is alone in her four meter by four meter cell. There she eats breakfast and spends the rest of the day without the guards speaking a single word to her. When she is taken to be with the rest of the population, she is prohibited from speaking with the other prisoners. Nestora can make one phone call every nine days and receive visits of up to three people every 12 days.

They keep her away from the others, she can’t have books and, for example, from February 27 to March 11, she did not see natural light. “With tears in her eyes she told me that it was her first contact with the breeze,” says Saira of their recent meeting. Rarely, they let her go out in the sun for one hour a week. They don’t allow her to play sports or any other activity, as the others do. They just began to provide her with clean water, as she had to drink from the tap, which “includes rocks” and she has severe pain in her kidneys. Medication? None.

Nestora Salgado is the sixth of seven children. She married at 14 and had the first of three daughters at 15. They motivated her to go alone to the US, where she gained citizenship as “she didn’t even have a traffic ticket.” She came and went from the US, “always helping the people in the mountains to meet their needs,” until in October 2002 a car accident injured her spine and led her to spend more time in the US to receive medical attention.

The head of the Olinalá Community Police is not just any woman. As soon as she had healed, she returned to her town and due to the growing wave of crime perpetrated by organized crime, she decided to accept the leadership role in the community and to involve herself in the process. She quickly stood out due to her determined attitude and her willingness to denounce criminals as well the officials who acted in complicity with them. The cost has been high, but, Saira insists, “She says that when she is free, she will return to her work with the Community Police.”

She now spends her days again studying grade school, reading the three “worksheets they allow her as her only activity.” As a US citizen, the US embassy has been following her case, but even so, the conditions of her imprisonment are inhumane. “They are punishing her for her struggle, because of that she is a political prisoner,” Saira insists.

Gunmen attack assembly in Álvaro Obregón

Fuera de la Barra Santa Teresa

By Scott Campbell
El Enemigo Común

For more than a year, the indigenous Binnizá community of Álvaro Obregón, in the Isthmus of Oaxaca, have defended their lands against the imposition of a wind park by the multinational Spanish firm Mareña Renovables. As part of that struggle, “the community became aware that the parties and political leaders have only used them for political and personal ends.” In August of 2013, the community held an assembly and decided to return to the traditional indigenous usos y costumbres form of governance, where community leaders are selected via general assembly, without the participation of political parties.

With 1,236 people participating, the general assembly to select the community’s leaders was held on December 8, 2013. Yet on February 8, 2014, Saúl Vicente Vázquez, the Municipal President of Juchitán, which includes Álvaro Obregón, announced that new elections, involving political parties, would be held in Álvaro Obregón on March 2, ignoring the popular and expressed will of the people. Ironically, Vicente Vázquez until recently served as an expert on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. 

In a statement released on March 1, the General Assembly of Álvaro Obregón, the Assembly of Elders of Álvaro Obregón, the Community Police and the Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly of the Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory presciently warned of what may happen on March 2 in what would amount to an attempted coup against the community of Álvaro Obregón.

On March 2, community members assembled in the central plaza of Álvaro Obregón to defend the decisions of their general assembly. Around 2:15 PM, gunmen reinforced by the municipal police of Juchitán, opened fire at those who were assembled. There are reports that two people have been wounded by the gunfire and that the Marines have arrived in the community. The situation is very tense. There is no more news coming out at the moment. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.

Statement from the Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly of the Isthmus in Defense of the Land and Territory.

March 2, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell


Individuals linked to the municipal president of Juchitán, Saúl Vicente Vázquez, and to COCEI and PRI leaders, today attacked the Community General Assembly of Álvaro Obregón and its community council. Since yesterday, March 1, 2014, it was learned that five political functionaries from the COCEI and from the municipal president’S office arrived at the house of one of the supposed candidates for local office, Rosalino Martínez Herran, two of whom were recognized as Obet Fuentes Trujillo and Filiberto López, both from Juchitán.

These individuals were paying out 500 pesos to people in exchange for their voter ID cards, promising another 1,500 pesos the next day when the people were to show up at the election called for by Saúl Vicente this past February 8, where a political party-linked authority would be named. Today, March 2, after a meeting in a private home, this sham election began at 1PM.

Meanwhile, in the central square, the Community General Assembly of Álvaro Obregón was being held, where the compañeros of the community council were reaffirmed. At about 2:15PM, a group of people at the election called for by Saúl Vicente launched an attack with bullets, stones and sticks against those in the square. They tried to take the municipal building by force and a confrontation ensued as the people in the community assembly repelled the attack, leaving several compañeros wounded.

Following the attack, the provocations continued, as at approximately 3:30PM one of these individuals went to the house of the commander of the Community Police to spray gasoline on it, with the intention of setting it on fire. Later, they tried to kidnap the son of the head of the community council. Around 4:30, Marines arrived to meet with the head of the community council, who informed them of the events.

For the moment there is an uneasy calm, as it is expected that these individuals and gunmen will continue with their provocations and will try to enter the municipal building during the night or at dawn.

We hold Saúl Vicente Vázquez and the Interior Ministry responsible for the physical and emotional integrity of our compañeros in Álvaro Obregón, the Community Council, the Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly in Defense of the Land and Territory, and their family members. And we demand they guarantee their physical security and integrity.

It is important to mention that the municipal president of Juchitán was a representative of the indigenous peoples of Latin America as an expert for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for 2011-2013 and is trying to hold the same post for 2014-2016, and yet is now violating the rights of the indigenous people of Álvaro Obregón for having decided to begin a process of community reform and a reclamation of their indigenous means of governance.

We denounce that these actions are part of the general strategy of the government and businesses to control this community, which is protecting the Barra Santa Teresa against the wind farm megaprojects in the Isthmus.





Self-defense groups and their critics

By Scott Campbell
El Enemigo Común

Since mid-January, when armed self-defense groups launched an offensive against the Knights Templar cartel in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán, Mexico, much ink has been spilled evaluating the pros and cons of the self-defense movement. Critiques and speculations have been leveled from the left and right, yet what has largely been absent is an appreciation for the events in situ.

From the right (including the government and mass media), the self-defense groups have been labelled as vigilantes, taking the law into their own hands, armed by an opposing cartel, and threatening to turn into paramilitary death squads a la the AUC in Colombia. Such meritless talking points are not of concern here.

What is of concern is the predominant response from the left, where the self-defense groups have received a lukewarm reception at best. Held at arm’s length, the self-defense movement is chastened for not being like the autonomous municipality of Cherán in Michoacán or the CRAC community police in Guerrero. For not being indigenous, for not having a comprehensive platform, or for cooperating with the government. From behind computer screens, those who are dodging the bullets of the Knights Templar (and occasionally of the state) are patronizingly told what they are not and what they should be doing.

Fortunately for the self-defense groups, they did not wait for nor did they petition the support of the left. For years, communities in the Tierra Caliente have faced murder, rape, kidnapping, extortion and terror at the hands of the Knights Templar cartel, which operated with impunity in the region. Faced with state inaction, or complicity, toward the cartel, the communities decided, via assemblies, to form self-defense groups. Emerging from these community assemblies, they can only be considered legitimate manifestations of the people’s will. The inclusion of landowners and businesspeople in the self-defense groups does negate their popular origin, as all members of the community were targets of the cartel’s actions.

Similarly, the sole goal of ridding Michoacán of organized crime does not make them unworthy of support. Perhaps they are not, as armed formations, environmentalist, anti-capitalist or anti-authoritarian, though many among their ranks may be so. The focus on the cartels is clearly understandable, as it is the cartels who are the main impediment to a life with dignity for these communities. The focus on the Knights Templar specifically, as opposed to other cartels, is likewise easily comprehensible. Far from it meaning that the self-defense groups are armed and financed by rival cartels, it is simply the fact that it is the Knights Templar terrorizing the Tierra Caliente, so naturally they would be the primary target of groups originating from the Tierra Caliente. In numerous interviews, self-defense spokespeople have indicated their groups’ opposition to all organized crime operating in Michoacán and in Mexico.

That the groups are not like Cherán or the CRAC is also a misguided critique. Part of it is based on the fact that the self-defense groups are not wholly indigenous and not wholly rural. Instead of embracing the emergence of urban, mestizo self-organization, somehow this is held up as a point of criticism. Such a perspective is indigenist in the extreme, and a denial of agency based on ethnicity and locality. An oppressed people have the right to organize and rise up, regardless of that group’s composition, and regardless of if it mimics the predominant model of armed formations in Mexico. Finally, many participants are indigenous, it is just not the primary focus of the organization.

Also held up as a distinguishing factor is that the self-defense groups, unlike Cherán or the CRAC, cooperate with the police and army. This is both true and false. Yes, the self-defense groups have agreed to be integrated into the state’s forces. At the same time, the groups have previously shown their willingness to act in opposition to the state, which is precisely what brought so much focus of the plight of the Tierra Caliente and pushed the state into acting against the Knights Templar. Some may critique the move as naïve, but if the main goal is to rid the area of organized crime, the groups remain empowered to do so, and remain armed. The agreement can be seen as a tactical move to achieve their goal. If it becomes a hindrance to doing so, there is no evidence that the groups would not break with the state and pursue their objectives on their own yet again.

Cooperation with state forces, no matter how objectionable, is common to the self-defense groups, Cherán and the CRAC, blurring the lines of any criticism which uses state cooperation as the standard for support or not. Cherán has invited both the Federal Police and the military to set up bases near their community to aid in fending off organized crime. The CRAC recently joined with a rival organization, UPOEG, and became a state-approved formation. Whether this is good or bad is another matter. The point is that the issue is not so cut and dry when it comes to the relationship of the state with self-organized armed groups and communities in Mexico.

The crux of the situation is that the self-defense groups should be evaluated on what they are, not what one would wish them to be or what one would desire they do. And what they are is an authentic people’s movement organized against an oppressive force. To hold them to a standard of purity not even existent among the movements they are critiqued against and held up to is not only intellectually dishonest but also unconstructive. Evaluated based on their own process of formation, their proposals and their actions, the self-defense groups have not given cause to merit recrimination. Ultimately, they will act regardless of what those of us from afar say or write about them. The minimum they deserve is a disinterested, fair evaluation.

Social activist wounded on December 1 inauguration of Peña dies

By Fernando Camacho Servín
La Jornada
January 25, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell

The activist and theater director Juan Francisco Kuykendall, who suffered a fractured skull during the December 1, 2012 protests against Enrique Peña Nieto’s inauguration, died early Saturday morning after suffering a cardiac arrest.

“Kuy died at 5:05am. They have still not given me the death certificate and we don’t know what they are going to say the clinical cause was, but since 2:30 in the morning he was in cardiac arrest,” said Eva Palma, the victim’s partner.

The health of Kuykendall Leal – who for the past three months was at the Zone 30 General Hospital of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) – was critical for a long time, she explained.

“He was very malnourished, with deep scars and since he used tubes to urinate and to eat, infections began to attack him. Just yesterday when I went to see him I could tell he was having a lot of difficulty breathing,” said Palma in an interview.

She said that since Kuykendall’s injury, suffered during the protests against the inauguration of Enrique Peña Nieto, the activist was treated at several IMSS clinics, including at the XXI Century National Medical Center, where he was discharged for supposedly being in “stable” condition.

“The thought that sticks with me is that men as productive and concerned with culture as Kuy, who was an activist since the ‘70s, don’t deserve to end up like him, because of the state, because of men like Peña Nieto, Osorio Chong or Manuel Mondragón, who were the ones who ordered the operation.

“The capitalist system is very unjust and in the end, my partner fell in battle, but he leaves us his example, his legacy and we are going to claim him as an adherent to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. He fell in battle for his ideals,” Palma emphasized.

After being hit in the head with a projectile – it is believed it was a rubber bullet – Juan Francisco Kuykendall suffered a cranial fracture causing him to lose part of his brain mass.

It is expected that this Saturday afternoon a wake will be held for the activist at a funeral home in the Doctores neighborhood in Mexico City.

Originally from Tamaulipas

The 67 year old, originally from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, migrated to the Federal District in 1967 with the goal of being an actor. He achieved that at the National Institute of Fine Arts, where he studied drama.

His wife, Eva Leticia Palma Pastrana, remembers that 1968 was a year of political turmoil that “also impacted Kuy,” as he is known among friends and family. On October 2, he joined the students’ protest, but during the arrests he was saved by a Cuban doctor who hid him in her apartment.

Many years later, after becoming a playwright, set designer, theater teacher and supporter of organizations and collectives such as the Other Campaign, we wanted to go to the May 2006 protests in San Salvador Atenco, but we got lost. We were saved many times, says Palma Pastrana. The same did not occur on a Saturday, when Kuy, 67 years old and a resident of Coyoacán, went with his friend Teodulfo Torres to the protest around the Chamber of Deputies.

“We entered on Eduardo Molina Avenue, because everywhere else was closed. We were heading to see what happened, I took out my video camera and then I heard a thud. I turned to see Kuy, but he was already on the ground.”

Complaint filed at the PGR

On January 18, a group of friends and family of the teacher Juan Francisco Kuykendall filed a complaint with the Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) to demand clarification of what happened and punishment for those responsible for the attack.

Joined by members of the student movement #YoSoy132, the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land, and other social organizations, Rodrigo and Fernanda Kuykendall, children of the academic, entered the premises of the PGR to file their lawsuit, which also requests full compensation for the injury.

First Statement from the Self-Defense Group of Aquila, Michoacán

Aquila_1-300x200Photo by Juan José Estrada Serafín

Aquila, Michoacán
January 18, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell

From the Self-Defense Group of Aquila, Michoacán to the general public:

Today, the residents of the municipal seat of Aquila, tired of the extortions, rapes, killings, kidnappings and all sorts of criminal acts committed by the Knights Templar; given the complete abandonment of the citizenry by the municipal and state governments who for 12 years did not provide the security needed for our people to have a peaceful and dignified life; we have decided to organize our self-defense group in order to expel organized crime from our town, and we invite the rest of the people of the municipality to rise up against crime, so they never again feel fear or pay protection fees.

As is known from the national and international media, our municipality previously attempted to remove the yoke of organized crime. This movement was led by members of the indigenous community of San Miguel Aquila. This community is one of the four that comprises the municipality, and is owner of an iron mine whose resources are exploited by the transnational mining company Ternium. This company pays a royalty to the indigenous community for the extracted iron, which it hauls from Aquila, Michoacán to Tecomán, Colima, and organized crime charges them a monthly quota. That is to say, they ask the residents to part with the money they receive. If they don’t pay, they kill them. So the indigenous from this community decided to form their community guard in order to protect their heritage, life and dignity. They invited us to join them, but we, as prisoners of fear of the reprisals from organized crime, decided not to support them.

The illegitimate municipal president, Juan Hernández Ramírez, was invited to join the movement and to stop paying fees to the criminals in the region, but instead decided to flee and to leave his people at the mercy of organized crime. It is known that this president obtained his post as a result of fraudulent elections, during which the Knights Templar cartel undertook to intimidate people into voting for Juan Hernández. They also burned ballot boxes where he had a clear disadvantage. But all of their tricks were not enough, as the rival candidate won the elections. So the criminals threatened him with death so he would not take the position. And that was how Hernández Ramírez became municipal president at the hands of the Templars. The period of July 24 to August 13, 2013 – when the community guard of the indigenous from the community of San Miguel Aquila operated in the area – was one of immense calm. The rapes, kidnappings and payments of protection fees disappeared as the criminals fled. Seeing the results of the community movement, we became inspired to support the cause of the community. However, on August 14, a joint state and municipal government operation, together with the Marines, entered Aquila and dismantled the community movement. They took 45 prisoners. The Special Operations Group (GOES) and State Judicial Police killed two and also beat women, children and elderly who called for them to return the men who were defending them from organized crime. When the community guard was dismantled, the Knights Templar, under the auspices of the state and municipal governments, decided to “exterminate” all the residents of San Miguel Aquila. Miguel Alcalá Alcalá, Emilio Martínez López and Miguel Martínez López were tortured and murdered by Templar criminals. Later, Ignacio Martínez de la Cruz, Francisco Javier Ramos Walle and Carlos Zapien Díaz were disappeared on November 25, 2013 and haven’t been heard from since. The remaining residents were displaced, prisoners of panic and sadness as their government did nothing to protect them.

Once the community guard was completely dismantled by the tripartite alliance of the Knights Templar-State Government-Municipal Government, the Knights Templar decided to charge fees from the entire population, which particularly impacted our humble neighbors who are of limited means. We thought that if we didn’t support the community guard, the Templars would have compassion on us and wouldn’t charge us fees, or at least would not increase them, nor hassle our families. However, they returned more ambitious and bloodthirsty. The Templars increased the fees because they lost income from those who were jailed, murdered, disappeared and displaced. Only some in the community hand over payment to the Templars, but they are the ones who have ties to them. They are José Cortes Méndez, Miguel Zapien Godínez, Fidel Villanueva Espinosa, Juan Carlos Martínez Ramos, Juan Zapien Sandoval, among others.

The self-defense phenomenon in Michoacán has great momentum, every day there are more people who decide to expel the criminals from their regions, which has caused the Templars to migrate to neighboring regions, in particular into our area, increasing the wave of violence in Aquila. So we are faced with the panorama of violence which we are returning to live in again, with the complicity of our state and municipal government and the apathy of our federal government. It is for these reasons that the residents of the municipal seat of Michoacán opened our eyes and decided to organize as a self-defense group in order to expel all criminals from the area. Our social struggle will not end just when Federico González, alias “El Lico,” the boss of the Knights Templar cartel in the Aquila-Coahuayana region, falls, but when all his partners and gunmen do.

Our self-defense movement organized by the residents and people in general of the Aquila area is inclusive. Because of this we gave a vote of confidence to municipal president Juan Hernández Ramírez and invited him to join the struggle against crime. But the mayor once again showed his Templar leanings, he decided to leave the area. As such, our self-defense group and the people who support the movement condemn the criminal and indifferent attitude of Juan Hernández Ramírez. Let it be clear that our self-defense movement was born of social necessity, against organized crime. It seeks to reestablish peace and order for our people. We invite other towns, villages and communities in the municipality of Aquila to join our struggle, as we seek only well-being and social peace.

The Self-Defense Council of Aquila, Michoacán

The regime launches a crackdown against community self-defense groups in Michoacán

By Adrián Alvarado
Kaos en la Red
January 15, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell

The taking of the municipality of Nueva Italia by self-defense and community guardians, and the attempt to advance on Apatzingán, important drug trafficking territory in Michoacán, set off red alarm lights for the regime. Immediately, the federal government announced the “Accord for Federal Support for the Security of Michoacán,” whose main objective is: “to rigorously and indiscriminately enforce the law against those carrying arms illegally.” The first action of the accord was to disarm the community guardians and self-defense groups, sparking clashes with the federal forces. The result: not one drug trafficker was detained or bothered, it is reported that four members of self-defense groups are dead at the hands of the army.

The significance of self-defense groups and community guardians

On February 24, 2013 the self-defense groups and community guardians appeared and spread throughout the state of Michoacán. According to their leaders, they used the Cherán and the Community Police in Guerrero as models by which to confront the drug trafficking thugs and killers.

The residents of the municipalities of Tierra Caliente for years were at the mercy of organized crime. Ranchers, farmers, professionals, workers, and businesspeople endured kidnappings, murders, extortion. The state’s response was nothing but complicity. The political struggle unleashed between politicians from the PRI and the PAN, in particular the sister of former President Felipe Calderón and the current PRI governor Fausto Vallejo, revealed that high and low-level government officials in Michoacán are in collusion with organized crime.

The community’s discontent expressed itself with the emergence of community guardians and self-defense committees. Initially armed with rifles, machetes and sticks, they tried to restore peace and quiet for their families and communities. We can read the statements of some regional leaders of the community guardians, and we can understand the emergence and rapid expansion of them: “We are tired of living in humiliation,” is said over and over again in interviews and statements. Rapidly these groups were formed and grew to include 14 municipalities. The quick advance of armed sectors of the population set off the government’s red alarm lights.

The residents and communities in arms questioned the exclusive monopoly of the bourgeois State to exercise violence and authority, even if the State’s “authority” was incapable of ending organized crime in Michoacán or at the national level. The armed people, through self-defense groups and community guardians did much more to combat organized crime in less than a year than the government’s police and military operations did during the previous 12 years.

From this, a logical conclusion can be drawn: If the people and the communities in arms can resolve their problems, beginning with the state of insecurity, without the intervention of the bourgeois State, as it has been an obstacle to living with dignity, then we don’t need it. The regime understands this, hence its response to the self-defense groups and community guardians.

Much has been written about this, including some who have asked if it is not a strategy by the PRI government to form paramilitary groups. The answer can be found in reality itself and not by making erroneous comparisons with events in different countries. These comments come from a place of distrust for our people and the possibility that as communities, students or workers we can self-organize and deal with this rot. As this is thought impossible, then all types of fanciful musings and bureaucratic maneuvers from above are imagined.

Certainly the self-defense movement is contradictory, many sectors of society are involved in it. They themselves have stated that they are made up of farmers, agricultural producers, businesspeople, workers, students, and including some community and municipal authorities. The main objective is to combat organized crime. They have taken over municipalities and community, have held popular assemblies, have taken weapons from the thugs and with these have armed the people. At first there was a certain confidence in the State, in the army, federal police and in some authorities. Their own experience has led them to important conclusions: to trust in their own forces. The police, army and local authorities betrayed them, municipal presidents have held marches against the self-defense groups, and they have left the criminals to act with impunity against the groups.

Although it is a movement against organized crime and not against the regime, the residents of Tierra Caliente have learned much in these months about what the State is and about the effectiveness of popular organizing, and these are dangerous lessons for the regime and valuable lessons for the people and workers. The response from the armed populous to the state and federal government is clear: we will not stop and we will not disarm.

What side is the government on 

The Accord for Federal Support for the Security of Michaocán includes five basic points:

  • The federal government is responsible for protecting the people of Michoacán.
  • There will be an investment of 250 million pesos towards security in the state.
  • New police will be trained and self-defense groups and community guardians are invited to join.
  • The law will be rigorously and indiscriminately enforced against those who carry arms illegally.
  • There will be a significant army and Federal Police presence.

The “Accord” is a clear message to the armed populous, not to the criminals, as the first action was to try to disarm the community guardians, which provoked clashes and left some dead. No action has been taken against the criminals who have burned buses, businesses, blocked highways; they have not detained a single reputed drug trafficker. The “accord” has a target and an objective: the disarmament and crushing of the self-defense groups and community guardians.

The government will certainly try to payoff and corrupt some of the leaders, in order to provoke division and demoralization among the communities – the call to join the police is the first evidence of this. Any approach or deal with the federal government will do away with what has been gained these past months and the violence, crime, kidnappings, extortions, killings will return. The criminal gangs will seek revenge against those who dared defy them and the local, state and federal governments will leave the people of Tierra Caliente at the mercy of organized crime.

Which way forward

The refusal to surrender weapons is positive, and to refuse to compromise with the federal government, to continue trusting in the strength of the movement, in the people and the communities, to regain lost ground and to recover the initial plan, to advance to Apatzingán and Morelia, to do away with organized crime and the government that protects it. To convert the natural feeling of hate towards organized crime and towards those who protect them into a program that assures the end of drug trafficking and all that it represents. To seize the assets and properties of the narcos, the politicians and businesspeople who protect them, to denounce and replace authorities linked to organized crime with popular representatives chosen from community assemblies. To link up with social and popular movements at the local and national level, to be wary of any deal with the local or federal government, to trust, just as now, in the people.

Drug trafficking is intrinsically linked to political and economic power in some regions, it can’t be done away with without shaking up power. When the government speaks of peace and order, it is referring to the peace of the cemeteries, where the people continue burying victims in silence.

The self-defense groups and community guardians have taught us a great lesson: only the people can save the people, and they are an expression of the great social events in which our people and workers will be the main actors.

“The with the imposition of gas station, they want to change our way of life”

By Jaime Quintana Guerrero
January 5, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell

Federal District, Mexico. In the middle of Christmas, and after two years of opposition to the construction of a gas station on their land, the people of San Pedro Mártir were evicted from their protest encampment. But they guarantee that not even with the impressive police operation – when more than 2,000 of the capital’s forces encircled the town – will they stop their struggle against its construction that, they say, is illegal and represents the entry point of changing their traditional way of life.

Located in the Tlalpan district, south of Mexico City, the inhabitants maintain that “the gas station represents an imposition by businesses on our way of life,” says one of the opposition activists. “What is to come is a legal and peaceful struggle until the gas station is decommissioned and demolished,” announced a member of the Movement of Neighborhoods and Peoples of the South, which is part of the opposition.

A young woman recounts that, alongside the peaceful and legal protest, the repression they were exposed to is spreading. “Our idea is to remain strong and we are convinced that our stance is legal,” she says.

The inhabitants of San Pedro Mártir say that the construction of the gas station, which began in 2011, “violates land use and environmental regulations. The permits were obtained in collusion with officials from the Tlalpan district, the Ministry of Development and Housing (SEDUVI), the Federal District’s Ministry of the Environment (SEDEMA) and Mexican Petroleum (PEMEX),” a woman said.

The gas station belongs to the Mexican Corporation of Gas Stations (CorpoGas), a company founded in 1982 and is the group that sells the most fuel in the country. In the first half of 2011, it sold 632 million liters of fuel. The commercial director of CorpoGas is Juan Carlos Niembro Núñez, also the owner of Bicentennial Parking Attendant (OEB), which will own 23,320 parking spaces for ten years in Mexico City.

“The construction of the gas station has a deeper meaning. Being an indigenous people, it has to do with our heritage of customs and traditions,” explains a young man from the movement. “Here we decide what can be built and what can’t,” according to the people’s decision, he notes, adding that the government permits a large amount of illegal building. San Pedro Mártir belongs to the indigenous peoples who still retain their own organizational characteristics, language and customs that were present at the beginning of colonization.

The commission of three people from the Movement of Neighborhoods and Peoples of the South – which during this time marked 40 years of existence – told Desinformémonos that they fear that the construction of the gas station will mean the beginning of more construction that is distinct from their way of life. “This means to deny us as a people,” says the young man.

Land use laws in this area do not permit this type of construction, the commission adds. “They use streets, the public roads, and that is prohibited. It is not feasible to build on- and off-ramps, which is dangerous because it is on the Mexico-Cuernavaca highway,” explains the woman. As well, there is the danger of having fuel in the area, as “here we are very religious, with parties and fireworks, and it is feared that a disaster might occur.”

We want to live as we want

“Today it starts with the gas station and then come the shopping malls. It’s a process of annihilation of the peoples,” explains the young woman. “The illegality with which they impose these projects – such as the gas station – is a message that they don’t care about the peoples, their way of life, their sense of community and the earth. We want to live our way, and they want to impose changes on us by force.”

An older woman from the community – who also declined to give her name – recalls San Pedro Mártir’s history of struggle. She says that the most important chapter happened 40 years ago, when they opposed the construction of the Military College: “The people took to the streets. At that time it was the men who began to organize and demanded to be heard.” The schools, the water and the bridges that the people have today are as a result of their struggles, the woman adds. “The government didn’t just come and put those things here, they were demanded by the people.”

Another front in San Pedro Mártir’s battle is the scarcity of water. “We saw how the Peña Pobre paper mill took the water and left the fields without trees, and the struggle began. There have been intense struggles which have impacted the people of San Pedro Mártir, and what is coming will be the same,” the resident says.

The defectiveness of the law and repression

On December 25, when the Ixtliyolotl encampment was dismantled, “they encircled us from La Joya, which is several kilometers from here. The town was surrounded,” says the young woman. The activist says the deployment of police forces was massive. “All we were asking was that they follow the law.”

It’s been two years and three months of legal, civil and peaceful struggle, says the commission. They explain the authorities violated the protective measures granted on May 14, 2013 by the Human Rights Commission of the Federal District, even as the matter is still before the courts – with injunction 777/2013 issued in favor of the town against the last ruling of the Superior Court of the Administrative Tribunal of the Federal District (TCADF).

Residents complain that the very company removed the seals marking it as closed. “There is no law. The company showed us a number of documents that they sent to various agencies, which does not mean that they have permission for the gas station to operate. They never showed us a permit or approval from the authorities. We don’t understand why they sent in the police,” says the young man.

The activists gave the district head of Tlalpan, Maricela Contreras, documents regarding the two rulings in their favor, but she did nothing, says the young woman. “That’s complicity and they’re leaving the people to do the work the authorities should be doing. What we got from the district head of Tlalpan is silence and repression. The encampment had legal protective measures, and a few days prior we won an injunction, and they send in the police.”

A June 27, 2011, administrative decision ruled that land use permit 59177-181-SOKA10, issued for the gas station on October 28, 2010, is contrary to Tlalpan’s Land Use Program. Zoning resolution 037661, issued on November 27, 1991, stopped, therefore, having effect on vested rights, as well as environmental impact authorizations and construction permits. An injunction against the zoning resolution was obtained, and the environmental and urban impact reports were issued based on the land use permit.

The Ministry of the Environment determined that the gas station did not meet the necessary requirements, as the land use permit requested was for 300 square meters, but in reality the station occupies 2,300 meters. Their construction permit expired on December 5, 2011, however, they continued building, reports the Movement’s commission.

The inhabitants of San Pedro Mártir filed three lawsuits, with rulings in favor of the town. They include two rulings for annulment (I-52703/2011 and I-71002/2011) and one for public action (IV-10810/2012). The first chamber of the Administrative Tribunal annulled the land use zoning certificate issued by SEDUVI. Revoked were the November 22, 2010 urban impact report DGAU.10/DEIU/030/2010; the December 6, 2010 type C construction permit RG/TL/3033/2010; and the environmental impact authorization SMA/DGRA/DEIA/000425/2010 issued by the Federal District’s Ministry of the Environment.

The fist of the “left”

“The mayor of Mexico City, Miguel Ángel Mancera, beats the people down using his district officials,” explains the woman. “To not recognize that we have communal ways of doing things in the streets, in the church and with the land is to attack us.”

The young man from the commission explains that the majority of those who maintained the encampment were women and that they were repressed. “The district head Maricela Contreras feigns having a feminist government in favor of the people, but allowed the repression and preferred the voice of the businesspeople. She stayed silent. These kinds of politicians also serve the corporations, and they make use of their public offices to benefit the private sector.”

“A government that violates rights and represses cannot be said to be leftist. Mancera’s government is not leftist nor progressive, it is a repressor,” says the young woman.

Mancera “sees us as ignorant and believes that the people don’t know what they are doing. And of course we know,” exclaimed, angry, the adult woman. “What they are doing impacts the poor in Mexico. We are not ignorant and we don’t want bread and circuses.”

“This struggle is for dignity. Although it is a huge corporation and we have more than two years in the fight, we haven’t accepted bribes. To fight with dignity is what defines us,” explains the young man in the resistance. “They come to ask us what we want, and we respond that we want them to remove the gas station,” he concludes.

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Continue reading at Angry White Kid …

Five years in prison for activist who filmed October 2 march

Alejandro-bautista-arrestBy Arturo Rodríguez García
December 6, 2013
Translated by Scott Campbell

Mexico, Federal District (apro). – Alejandro Bautista, one of those detained this past October 2, was sentenced today to five years and nine months in prison by a Mexico City criminal court.

Bautista, an actor and comedian who in recent years has been strongly opposed to the Super Highway and the South Arch in Mexico City, was accused of offenses against authority, with a gang enhancement, for which the crime was judged a felony.

The sentence was imposed despite the fact that using video footage, Alejandro was able to show that the police who accused him were not the same ones who detained him; as well, he proved that the prosecution’s description of events did not match the time, place, or his actions at the point of his arrest.

In an interview last week with APRO, Bautista explained he attended the commemoration of the 1968 student massacre with the goal of documenting the events, including the excessive use of force by police, as he had been for some time, and distributing it through social networks.

However, at the intersection of Reforma and Bucareli, he was detained by unidentified civilians. Stripped of his camera, he was taken to Juárez Avenue and, hours later, was selected from police holding to be brought before prosecutors.

In recent years, Alejandro Bautista has participated in the indigenous resistance in the south of Mexico City, in opposition to the planned urban megaprojects of the Marcelo Ebrard administration. He personally brought at least 15 criminal complaints for corruption against Ebrard when he was still mayor, as well as against other officials and local politicians, complaints which were not sustained.

The sentence against Alejandro Bautista was received with dismay in the Northern Prison, where there are others who are on trial for allegedly participating in the disturbances.

In a telephone interview, Daniel Palacios Cruz, a guitarist with the rock bands Cavernarios and Telekrimen, expressed his discontent with the conduct of the capital’s justice system.

“Through the judicial process, they can’t prove anything. But if there is political motivation to keep us in jail, as seems to be the case with Alejandro, it causes desperation in us,” said Palacios, who faces sentencing on December 9.