Acting to free Alberto Patishtán and Francisco Sántiz

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Freedom for Chiapas political prisoners, Francisco Sántiz López  and Alberto Patishtán Gómez is what spurs the week of actions “Bringing Down Prison Walls” carried out in various parts of the world from May 15-22. Called by the Movement for Justice in the Barrio in New York, this solidarity campaign is supported by family members of the two prisoners and the Zapatista Good Government Council of Oventic,  Chiapas.

See video subtitled in English:

Who are they?

Francisco Santiz López, a farmer and fruit and vegetable vendor from the Tzeltal indigenous community of Tenejapa, Chiapas, belongs to the support base for the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), and participates in the resistance against the bad government and the construction of autonomy in his community. He was arrested on December 4, 2011, and originally charged with provoking a conflict in which Pedro Méndez López, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was killed after he and fifty more members of his party bearing clubs, machetes and firearms attacked families in the Banavil ejido. Francisco has witnesses who swear that he was working at his fruit and vegetable stand in Tenejapa at the time of the attack and was finally acquitted of the murder charge in absence of evidence against him, but at the moment he was about to walk out of prison, a federal charge was slapped on him for the illegal possession of weapons for the exclusive use of the Army even though his arrest report says he was not carrying any weapon. The Good Government Council of Oventic calls the “attitudes of judges, prosecutors and bad state and federal governments insupportable and unacceptable; corrupt and manipulative, they are accustomed to fabricating crimes and condemning innocent people”.  The Council supports Francisco as “an honest person who fulfills his responsibilities to the community and the organization” and demands his freedom, while pointing out that his unjust imprisonment is part of the ongoing war waged by the federal government of Mexico and the state government of Chiapas against the Zapatista communities through arbitrary arrests and attacks by paramilitary groups or organizations affiliated with political parties.

Alberto Patishtán Gómez, an elementary school teacher from the Tzotzil indigenous community of El Bosque, has spent 12 years in prison, falsely incriminated for killing 8 policemen who died in an ambush on June 12, 2000. In reality “el profe” was framed for standing up to the corrupt, repressive municipal government imposed against the will of the people. During his years in prison, Alberto has pushed for the organization of prisoners and has been instrumental in  founding two prisoner groups: La Voz del Amate in prison # 14 at Cintalapa and Solidarios con La Voz del Amate in prison #5 near San Cristobal de las Casas. These groups have occupied the prison yards for long periods of time beginning in January of 2006 in the Amate prison, when Subcomandante Marcos was visiting political prisoners in various prisons in the country. Patishtán and the two groups have engaged in several hunger strikes that have resulted in the freedom of more than 130 indigenous prisoners. On October 20, he was furtively transferred in the early morning hours to the maximum security prison Guasave in Sinaloa, 2,000 kilometers away from home, in reprisal for fomenting the hunger strike that was in course at the time.  At the new prison, he is denied treatment for his glaucoma, which is advancing rapidly. His lawyers won a protective writ last February 26, which deems the transfer unjustifiable and orders his return to Chiapas, but the Department of Public Security headed by Genaro García Luna is appealing the decision. In a letter dated April 25, 2012, Alberto denounces torture in the Guasave prison, charging that the authorities “are subjecting us to being locked down 7 days a week with only 3 hours [out of our cells]. In so doing, they continue to torture us psychologically and have brought on several illnesses [among the prisoners]”. Urgent demands include his immediate transfer back to Chiapas and medical attention. If these demands are not met, he runs two very serious risks: going blind, and/or being sent to the super maximum prison at Islas Marías, as recommended by the PRD Chiapas state government of Juan Sabines.

Forum against political prison and for the freedom of Alberto Patishtán Gómez

The week of solidarity comes on the heels of a Forum held on May 12 and 13 at Cideci/Unitierra in San Cristobal de las Casas, where 200 people listened to the words of Alberto Patishtán and 16 other prisoners in recordings, videos, letters, or reports given by family members about their cases. The prisoners and their collectives are as follows: La Voz del Amate: Alberto Patishtán Gómez, prisoner in federal prison #8 en Guasave Sinaloa,  Rosario Díaz, in state prison #5 de San Cristóbal de Las Casas. Solidari@s de la Voz del Amate in state prison #5: Pedro López, Juan Collazo, Alfredo López, Rosa López, Alejandro Díaz, Juan Díaz, plus Enrique Gómez in state prison #14 el Amate. EZLN support base: Francisco Sántiz in state prision #5. Prisoners from San Sebastián Bachajón: Antonio Estrada in state prison #17 at Playas de Catazajá, Miguel Vazquez  in  state prision #16 at Ocosingo,  Miguel Demeza in state prision #14, el Amate. Prisoners in the state of Guerrero held at Tecpan de Galeana: Máximo Mojica, María de los Angeles Hernandez, Santiago Nazario. La Voz de Loxicha: Alvaro Sebastian Ramírez.

Experiences were also shared by ex political prisoners Abraham Ramírez Vásquez of CODEDI-Xanica and  Victor Herrera Govea of Mexico City, as well as by Andrés Núñez and Jorge Díaz, Solidarios de la Voz del Amate, and  Ignacio del Valle of the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land in San Salvador Atenco. Messages were read from La Pirata, Cruz Negra  Anarquista and the CGT, among other groups.

Information and audios by Koman Ilel:

Photos and audios by Radio Pozol:

Audios by Radio Zapatista:

Photos and audios by Multimedios Cronopios: [offline]

To Alberto and Francisco:  “If you’re locked up, it’s because of something you did for your people”

In a press conference videotaped on May 14, Alberto Patishtán’s son Héctor; the schoolteacher Martín Ramírez from El Bosque , and Nacho del Valle from San Salvador Atenco call on people to participate in the week of activities to win freedom for the two political prisoners from Chiapas.  Héctor thanks everyone for their support for his father, a man of faith, and comments that after traveling 2,000 km to visit his dad, he was denied entry. Only his sister Gaby was allowed to go in, and only for 30 minutes. She reports that her dad was smiling and in good spirits even though he’s subjected to horrendous conditions where he’s only allowed out of his cell to see the light of day 15 minutes every 24 hours. Martín Ramírez speaks of  Alberto Patishtán as a person who’s always looking out for people and helping others to get organized. That’s why so many people began to follow him when he stood up to the bad government in El Bosque in 2000. He says: “I’m sure Patishtán is going to walk free very soon and it won’t be long before he’s working in his own town once again. Those of us from El Bosque are not just standing around waiting for the government to let him go. We’re struggling night and day. Men and women shout out, old folks, young folks, too”. Nacho del Valle, who spent 4 years in a maximum security prison and finally walked free, stresses that the goal of prison is to break people mentally and physically, and says it’s also true that in spite of all attempts to fill you with fear and do away with you, it’s possible to keep on with the struggle when a person is conscious. He says:  “Compañeros, brothers, maybe we don’t know each other in person, but it’s not necessary. You, Alberto, and you, Francisco, I know you because of what you do, I know you because you resist. If you’re locked up, it’s because of something you did for your people, raising your voice, saying ‘enough is enough’, taking the initiative, and creating consciousness. With your resistance, you give us an example of dignity…”

Shackdwellers in South Africa take up demands

In a videotaped message from South Africa, Mzwake, President of the Shackdwellers Movement, expresses his solidarity and announces that last April 27, they held a march to demand democracy, something that doesn’t exist in neoliberal South Africa, and that day they raised the demands for the liberation of the prisoners in Chiapas.

Two videos

Two videos made by the Koman Ilel collective that were screened in the Forum on May 12 and 13 are an excellent way to get to know professor Patishtán and understand his current situation a little better.

Alberto and his people is a portrait of an assembly held on March 17, 2012 in  El Bosque, where family members and neighbors remember the way the elementary school teacher did everything in his power to rescue the community from the situation of abandonment it was in in 2000, and the way in which his efforts aroused the rancor of town president Manuel Gómez Ruiz. Another teacher, Martín Ramírez,  states that townspeople back Alberto as a political prisoner imprisoned for defending his people. He mentions that more than ten statements and testimonies verify the presence of Patishtán in another town the day of the ambush. He also refers to the incongruous testimony of Rosemberg Gómez, the son of the municipal president, making people laugh out loud as he describes the trajectory of an alleged killer bullet that makes an interesting loop. It should be remembered that Rosemberg  has often stated when he goes on drunken binges, that his reward for lying against  Patishtán was a brand new Ford pickup.

A Visit with Alberto is about the 2,000 km trip set out upon by Patishtán’s daughter Gaby, his son Héctor, and friends, to the maximum security prison at Guasave, Sinaloa, where he has been locked up since his unjustified transfer on October 20, 2011. As the visitors look at the construction of new units in an enormous prison complex, Gaby reflects about how being held in almost total isolation can psychologically endanger people who live there. After a short, half-hour visit, she says: “In spite of everything, I was surprised by the enthusiasm and high spirits of my Dad. It was just the opposite of what I expected. He cheered me up and sends his greetings to everyone”. But she also observed that his glaucoma is getting worse all the time and that the need for medical treatment is urgent.

Week of actions

The week of actions to free Francisco and Alberto has included a march in the community of El Bosque, Chiapas, on Friday, May 18, attended by more than a thousand people, plus mobilizations in New York, San Francisco, Madrid, Paris and other cities in England, Scotland, Catalonia, Argentina, South Africa, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, New Zealand and Holland.

Three different events were held in Mexico City. The first, called by the Zentro Region of the Other Campaign took place on May 16 outside the Office of Federal Prisons in the Zona Rosa. The second action was held outside Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior on May 18 with the participation of the Workers Sector of the Other Campaign and the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. And the third was integrated into a longer campaign in support of the Zapatista communities under attack, featuring the presentation of a new album, “Rola la Lucha Zapatista”, in the esplanade of the Bellas Artes Palace, with the participation of Lengua Alerta,  Mc Lokoter, Ideología Vigente,  Instituto del Habla & Ajixar, Cienpies, The Páramos. Golpe Líriko, Aníbal Méndez, Teokalli, Rivolta, I-Jerome, Chava y sus Rolas, Sicario Sound Machine, and SangreMaíz. The first cut of the album can be heard on Regeneración Radio:

What to do?

Organize a public show of solidarity wherever you are.

Add your signature to a letter in support of Alberto Patishtán Gómez:

Send a letter to federal and state officials demanding freedom for Francisco Sántiz López.

Write a letter to Alberto. Letters must be handwritten and cannot include photos, images, stickers, drawings or objects. His address is: