The political prisoners of Santiago Xanica: What do they want? Freedom!

by carolina

Abraham Ramírez Vásquez, Juventino García Cruz and Noel García Cruz, the first political prisoners of the Ulises Ruiz regime in Oaxaca, are from the Zapotec town of Santiago Xanica. The three members of the Committee for the Defense of Indigenous Rights (CODEDI) and the Popular Anti-neoliberal Oaxacan Magonista Coordinating Body (COMPA) were arrested on January 15, 2005, after hundreds of preventive and judicial police opened a crossfire on a group of 80 men, women, children and old people who were unloading bricks from a truck as part of a community work project. Abraham, Noel and Juventino were seriously wounded by gunshots. The people responded to the attack with sticks and stones, but more police came in, dragged the three wounded people out of the clinic, and took them to a house to be tortured by the police. After a few days, they were taken to the Ixcotel prison and then to the prison at Pochutla. Despite their serious wounds, they received no medical treatment until 36 hours after being admitted to the Pochutla hospital.

The comrades were jailed under prefabricated charges of homicide, attempted homicide, kidnapping, and felonious assault. In truth, they were being punished for daring to choose their own local officials according to their own customs and traditional decision-making process, and for protecting the rivers, forests, and ecosystem from the destruction caused by the big Huatulco hotel chains.

Several hours after the January 15 shooting, around 300 police showed up in Xanica and stayed for six months. Townspeople were subjected to constant searches, interrogations and surveillance. The police profaned their houses, held children at gunpoint, and harassed the men when they went out to work in the fields. Arrest warrants were issued for many people, who have lived with the constant threat of being detained. When Subcomandante Marcos was on his way to the area with the Other Campaign in 2006, Sergio Ramírez Vásquez, Leoncio Cruz and César Luis Díaz were arrested while putting up posters to announce an event. Policemen and their civil henchmen tortured Sergio and tried to hang César, who was rescued by the women and children of Xanica.

2009 was no exception to five years of mistreatment and abuse. At the first of the year, Abraham Ramírez Vásquez submitted a denunciation of torture to the National Human Rights Commission and sent this message to the public: “…Today, January 15, 2009, marks the fourth year we’ve been held captive by tyrants protected by laws that give them the right to kidnap, kill, and disappear our brothers and sisters who go against their projects. We say to the neoliberal puppets headed by the killer Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) and to his scroungy dogs turned loose on a crime spree to fill the prisons with innocent people, that our people’s only crime is demanding their rights. As these killers well know, our rebellion comes from the heart and we’ll never just sit back and watch this injustice go on. All their chains and cells and walls aren’t strong enough to keep our voice from being heard… They sell our resources to the highest bidder while our people bear the brunt of the direst poverty, and then they act like they’re so concerned about how terrible the economic crisis is….”

On January 31, 2009, a heavily armed police commando made a surprise appearance at the San Pedro Pochutla prison to move Abraham Ramírez Vásquez to the higher security Miahuatlán prison. Calls for urgent action in his support were sent out by CODEDI, Indian Organizations for Human Rights in Oaxaca (OIDHO) and the Magonist Autonomous Collective (CAMA); the three groups make up the Zapatista-Magonista Alliance. On Tuesday, February 10, CAMA called a press conference and rally at the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico City.

In a letter sent to Josefina Jaime Quiroz on March 5, 2009, Abraham wrote: “When they took me out of the Pochutla prison, I wasn’t informed of anything. They didn’t give me time to get my things together, and my wife along with my three children, who are four, six and eleven years old, were left inside, putting their lives and physical integrity at risk. What do you have to say about the rights of women and the rights of children that sound so nice in the articles of our Constitution? The psychological damage inflicted on my children is irreparable, as is the loss of my belongings, kitchen equipment, products used in food preparation, refrigerator, grills, gas tanks, paintings and handicrafts that were thrown out into the street. All this simply reflects the scorn that you have for the life of your fellow man”.

On March 19, 2009, Abraham began a short hunger strike to demand his release from the punishment area of the security prison where he is isolated and barely fed, where his family members are unable to visit him, and where he is only allowed to go outside for exercise one hour a day.

On Friday, March 20, around 30 members of Nodo Solidale demonstrated outside the Mexican Embassy in Rome, Italy. They reported: “Despite the presence of an overly large deployment of police and guards, we shouted out our rage and demanded the immediate freedom of the comrades for more than two hours.”

At the beginning of May, the family members and APPO militants who make up the Xanica Prisoners Committee, set up camp to demand freedom for the three political prisoners.

On May 19, 2009, Carolina Cruz of CODEDI sent out a denunciation of a foiled search of the town of Xanica on the night of April 25: “Once again the intimidation of the marginalized peoples in our state is on the rise. They send us military troops, supposedly to disarm the citizens when the reality is that entire families have nothing to eat. Many children didn’t eat breakfast before going to school today, and the federal government is shoring up its battalions sent out to intimidate Mexican people. Troops came to Santiago Xanica on April 25 to do a general house search in the town that night. Under federal orders they had searched towns in the surrounding area in the early morning hours the day before. In a show of power, they went in raping people, stealing their money and jewels, and they came to Xanica the next day with the same intentions. They weren’t able to do what they wanted, thanks to the intervention of citizens and comrades, but they stayed in the town for three days. Today they went up into the mountains, and we ask: What is their next plan? The children are terrorized. They’re afraid. When will they come back? Are they nearby? What will they do to us? In this region, everybody lives with this fear….”

On June 10, 2009, members of the Xanica Prisoners Committee demonstrated outside the 4th Criminal Court to demand freedom for Abraham, Noel and Juventino.

On August 4, 2009, the First Penal Court at Santa María Huatulco dictated a prison sentence of 8 years for Juventino and Noel García Cruz.

On October 2009, a Pulque Fair was organized by CAMA at the Libertarian Social Center to raise funds for the political prisoners of the Zapatista-Magonista Alliance.

On November 5, 2009, the Xanica Prisoners Committee demonstrated outside the State Human Rights Commission to demand the intervention of the state Ombudsman in the case. Their representative Yolanda Ramírez Vásquez, Abraham’s sister and also member of the Sentenced Prisoners Committee for Absolute Freedom, denounced the Commission’s failure to act.

On November 11, 2009, Yolanda Ramírez Vásquez stated that even though Juventino and Noel’s sentence was dictated on August 4, it was only recently that one of the parties was notified of this sentence. She said: “They were forced to sign a document that was their sentence although they didn’t know it, thereby leaving the youth with no right to appeal. Neither their family members nor lawyers were informed of the decision.”

On November 23, 2009, members of the Xanica Prisoners Committed demonstrated outside the Court at Santa María Huatulco to pressure the Judge Magaly Medina to release Abraham Ramírez Vázquez and the two brothers, Noel and Juventino García Cruz. A banner and graffiti demanded freedom for the three and an end to the hostile acts against Abraham.

On December 12, 2009, the State Assembly of the Section 22 Teachers Union issued a statement “supporting freedom for the Xanica prisoners: Abraham Ramírez Vásquez and Noel and Juventino García Cruz and repudiating the unjust sentence of 8 years in prison for the latter two”.

In closing, we go back to Abraham Ramírez Vásquez’s message of January 15, 2009: “We must always remember, people, that if we bow down to this treatment, our children will suffer the consequences. We were born free. We love freedom. So seeing as how all those puppets still don’t wear chains, we’ll never slack off in our struggle. And since so many of us have been killed, disappeared, or locked up, we can’t take one step backward.”

To support the prisoners of Santiago Xanica, come to the dance on February 18 at 6:00 pm at the Multiforo Cultural Alicia, Av. Cuauhtemoc 91- A, Col. Roma. $40 pesos. Groups include Santocho Antifa (on their second anniversary), Salario Mínimo, Son Solidaridad and the Tlaxiqueros. Sponsors: Colectivo Autónomo Magonista, Cruz Negra Anarquista and Alianza Magonista Zapatista.