“We’re the hope of all the rest”: Political prisoners on hunger strike in Chiapas

Informative meeting and rally in Mexico City to demand freedom for the prisoners and denounce the transfer of Alberto Patishtán

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They pulled up at 2:35 in the morning, October 20, 2011 to do their dirty work. The mission of the federal agents? To take Professor Alberto Patishtán Gomez to a maximum security prison far from home. They think that’s the way they can demoralize the political prisoners who’ve been on hunger strike in Chiapas since September 29 and their family members who’ve been camped out in their support since October 8.

One day before they took him away, Patishtán wrote these words: “All the bad rulers and authorities in Mexico are walking backwards for one reason only– the Lie they call Truth and the Truth they call Lie. And that’s what’s led them to trample on the rights of the people and do special harm to those of us who are unjustly imprisoned…”

The details of the professor’s transfer, the hunger strike and the family camp were explained in an informational meeting held on October 20 in the Multiforo Alicia organized by Anarchist Black Cross of Mexico, with the participation of three comrades from the family camp, who also came on behalf of the No Estamos Todxs (All of us Aren’t Present) collective and the Anti-Repression Network of Chiapas, along with Gloria Muñoz of the Desinformémonos magazine.

The next day, several individuals and collectives of the Other Campaign, in conjunction with the Anti-Repression Network held a rally at the Chiapas state government house in Mexico City to demand freedom for the 11 hunger striking prisoners.

During the discussion at El Alicia, Rosario Díaz Méndez’s wife spoke on behalf of the family encampment: “I’ve come to tell you our story, the story of the political prisoners of the Voz del Amate, the Solidarity Prisoners of the Voz del Amate, the Voces Inocentes, and the wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons who are camped ou.” The comrade named the eleven prisoners who have spent five months, four years, nine years, eleven years and up to thirteen years in prison. They are Alberto Pastishtán, Rosario Díaz Méndez, Alfredo López Méndez, Pedro López Jiménez, Rosa López Díaz, José Díaz López, Andrés Nuñez Hernández, Alejandro Díaz Sántiz, Juan Diaz López, Juan Collazo Jiménez, and Enrique Gomez Hernández. She underscored the unflagging efforts to win their immediate freedom and emphasized that the will of the prisoners and their families is strong en spite of many years of suffering. All of the prisoners have been tortured and have serious health problems. The only woman on hunger strike, Rosa López Díaz, was severely beaten on her belly while pregnant and suffered sexual torture and reprisals to the degree that her son was born with brain damage. “We’ve gone through some hard times at the camp. It’s cold and it’s been raining a lot… Our children have been affected by all this as well. They’re no longer in school due to a lack of resources.” The freedom of the prisoners is a matter of life or death, she said, but freedom is not their only goal. “We want to build a society without jails,” said the compañera, and read a message from the prisoners on hunger strike in CERSS no. 5 in San Cristobal de las Casas. They say “Our free spirit is with you… and the neoliberal imperial power will never beat us down… We are the hope of all the rest.”

It was announced that professor Patishtán was transferred to the Guasave prison in Sinaloa and that 49 other prisoners (41 men and 8 women) were also transferred to several different prisons throughout the country. They’re all being held incomunicado.

The comrade from No Estamos Todxs gave more specific information about the cases of the different prisoners and talked about the government’s efforts to demoralize them. She said that some of the sentences are as long as 60 years, as is the case with Profe Patishtán, unjustly accused of eight homicides and possession of arms. She stressed that by transferring him, “the soul of the movement”, the authorities are trying to silence the clearest and strongest voice of the prisoners. She also commented that the government tried to clear away the family camp during the World Summit on Adventure Tourism in San Cristobal because “it looks real bad.”

Gloria Muñoz recalled that one of the first actions of the EZLN was to open the prison doors and free the prisoners. Since then, a process of politicization has gone on in the prisons and the authorities have tried to put an end to all forms of organization. She said that the supposedly leftist PRD state government of Juan Sabines is an accomplice to all the arbitrary transfers even though he insists that it’s a federal matter. “It would be laughable except for the fact that Sabines is after a position in the United Nations,” said Gloria. “What they don’t sign with the right hand, they sign with the left” .

A comrade from the Anti-Repression Network of Chiapas spoke about the way torture is applied as a method of investigation and bringing charges against people. Arrests are usually made in the early morning hours and the prisoners are taken away blindfolded under repeated death threats to a number of different sites in order to confuse them. The physical torture is usually performed in a clandestine center and consists of sessions of suffocation, drowning, removal of nails, kicking, beating and electric shocks, among other techniques. The tortures continue while the prisoners are held incommunicado in preventive detention. Furthermore, food is insufficient and medical attention may be delayed for 6 months, even for serious illnesses like typhoid fever.

At the rally, Alberto’s daughter Gabriela Patishtán spoke: “Good afternoon everyone, I’m from Chiapas and I’ve come on behalf of the comrades who’ve been on hunger strike for 23 days and the family members who’ve kept a solidarity encampment going for 14 days in the Main Plaza of San Cristobal de las Casas to demand freedom for our political prisoners. I’m Alberto Patishtán Gomez’s daughter, and my dad was arrested in 2000 and sentenced to 60 years in prison for crimes prefabricated by the bad government. He’s now been in jail for 11 years. Yesterday in the early morning hours he was moved to the federal prison in Sinaloa. I ask all of you to join in the effort to bring him back home because I’m the only family member and since he’s so far away I can’t be with him. I need him to be brought back and I need immediate freedom for my dad.”

Pedro from the Zapatista Lawyers Collective stressed that Alberto Patishtán’s transfer is totally illegal and unjustifiable. The Constitution establishes that when “a person is deprived of his freedom, the State has the obligation to hold him in the place nearest to his home.” He said, “They haven’t presented any legal justification for the transfer of Patishtán. But in Mexico you don’t have to be a criminal to go to jail. Anybody can be locked up thanks to the complicity that exists between the state government and the public prosecutor’s office… .Alberto’s only crime is keeping on in the struggle and being the voice of the political prisoners…. We’re here to demand that the Chiapas state government order the immediate return of our comrade.”

A compañera of the prisoner solidarity movement shared some information about their current situation. She said they now have stomach problems, cramps, headaches, chest pain, and weakness. “Even so, their convictions to keep up the struggle are strong. They left their cells 23 days ago and set up a camp out in the open where they’re exposed to the elements. They rigged up a tin roof and put some sheets of plastic on the sides, but the climate there in the region of Los Altos is really cold. It’s been rainy for the last few weeks, and the harsh climate conditions have taken a toll on their health. But every time we visit them they assure us that they’re innocent and that they’ll keep up the struggle because their cause is just. What they always ask is that we continue to visit them and support their family members in the camp and that we write letters to demand their freedom.”

The compañera says that in a way, their struggle is symbolic “because the jails in Chiapas are full of prisoners unjustly locked up, and the overwhelming majority are indigenous people…It’s an expression of the sickness of our society that indigenous people and poor people are jailed while the extortionists and the true criminals who are looting the entire country go free.”

She gave more information about the World Summit Meeting on Adventure Tourism held in San Cristobal last week and about the tremendous amount of money squandered to bring in businessmen to by tourist services. “They said our family camp was a shameful eyesore for the state government and suggested that we pack up and leave for a few days and then come back when the Summit was over. It’s ridiculous how the age-old racism of the authorities is still alive and well. Behind everything they say and do there’s racism against the original people of this land and against the poorest of the poor. This Summit will have consequences, and those consequences will be plunder. The plunder of our ancestral places. The plunder of our sacred hills. The plunder of our Mother Earth who feeds us.”

“Our struggle now is for our prisoners who are on hunger strike, but it’s also a struggle for all people who are unjustly jailed. As Gabriela said, we’re really pissed off and really worried about the life, safety and health of Profe Alberto. He’s been the true moral leader of the strikers’ movement in Chiapas. Three years ago he did a hunger strike for 41 days and won freedom for more than 130 people. His life has been one of commitment to the struggle inside the jails to dignify those spaces…and to make them places of struggle, centers of study and reflection. This is what Profe Alberto has achieved. He’s given vitality back to youth who had fallen into depression, to young alcoholics. He’s taught people to read and write so they can defend themselves. This is the dignity, the spirituality, the political conviction of Alberto. We’re missing him. We’re worried. He has glaucoma. He’s losing his sight because of his unjust eleven-year imprisonment. Eleven years that his family has been deprived of his presence and his people in the village of El Bosque have been deprived of his light, his word…Professor Alberto Patishtán Gómez must return to Chiapas and be released immediately. We demand freedom for all the political prisoners in the country. We demand freedom for all the political prisoners who are now on hunger strike in Chiapas. Free all political prisoners!

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Write to the following authorities to demand:

1. Information about Alberto Patistán Gómez and the reasons for his transfer,

2. His immediate return Chiapas, medical attention and access to family and friends,

3. Attention to the just demands of the prisoners on hunger strike and respect for the rights of all people deprived of their freedom,

4. Respect for the rights of family members to hold demonstrations and meetings and to practice freedom of expression.

Addresses:

Lic. Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de la República

Residencia Oficial de los Pinos, Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850, México DF
Tel: (52.55) 2789.1100 Fax: (52.55) 5277.2376
Correo: [email protected]
Cuenta de Twitter: @FelipeCalderon y @GobFed

Lic. José Francisco Blake Mora
Secretario de Gobernación

Bucareli 99, 1er. Piso, Col. Juárez, Del. Cuauhtémoc,
C.P. 06600 México D.F. Fax: (52.55) 50933414;
Correo: [email protected], [email protected]
Cuenta de Twitter: @FBlakeM y @SEGOB_mx

Lic. Juan José Sabines Guerrero
Gobernador Constitucional del Estado de Chiapas

Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas, 1er Piso
Av. Central y Primera Oriente, Colonia Centro, C.P. 29009 ?
Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México
Fax: +52 961 61 88088 – + 52 961 6188056; Extensión 21120. 21122;
Correo: [email protected]
Cuenta de Twitter: @Juansabinesg y @gubernaturachis

Dr. Noé Castañón León
Secretario General de Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas

Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas, 2do Piso
Av. Central y Primera Oriente, Colonia Centro, C.P. 29009
Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México
Conmutador: + 52 (961) 61 2-90-47, 61 8-74-60. Extensión: 20003;
Correo: [email protected]
Cuenta de Twitter: @gobiernochiapas

Lic. Raciel López Salazar
Procuraduría General de Justicia de Chiapas

Libramiento Norte Y Rosa Del Oriente, No. 2010, Col. El Bosque
C.P. 29049 Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas
Conmutador: 01 (961) 6-17-23-00.
Teléfono: + 52 (961) 61 6-53-74, 61 6-53-76, 61 6-57-24, 61 6-34-50.
Correo: [email protected]
Cuenta de Twitter: @pgjechiapas

Send a copy to:

Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, A.C.
Calle Brasil 14, Barrio Méxicanos,
29240 San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México
Tel: 967 6787395, 967 6787396, Fax: 967 6783548
Correo: [email protected]
Cuenta de Twitter: @CdhFrayba
1 Principio IX, No. 4

This post is also available in: Spanish