If you are like me you may have not known about the recent (3, 4 May 2006) brutality suffered by the gente de San Salvador de Atenco, Mexico at the hands of the military/police (read: the government). Brownfemipower, who has saved my ignorant ass too many times to note now, first alerted me to the atrocities (also see her next post on this subject). After doing a bit of research I thought I would relay what I have found. Here's the deal, as far as I understand it (relying on reports and commentary from Narco News, Global Voices Online, and IndyMedia). The people of San Salvador de Atenco (Atenco for short) are involved in a "subversive" (word used by military commanders) campaign to gain control of their land as part of the People’s Front in Defense of the Land (Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra; FPDT).
The confrontation began with the expulsion of eight flower vendors from the flower market. This was followed by a confrontation between campesinos (peasant famers) and "security" forces (quotation marks my own for ironic purposes). The Atenquenses blocked a road and the military responded with brutal force, including invading homes, beating women and children, the use of torture, rape and sexual abuse of male and female prisoners. The Atenquenses used molotov cocktails, wielded machetes and 50 officers were injured. Somewhere between 50 and 400 people were arrested. One boy was killed by the gunfire, but it's unclear if it was military/police fire or that of the protestors. La Otra Campaña* and Subcommandante Marcos have also become involved and are leading the protests.
Today the Women's Sector of La Otra Campaña has issued the following:
Of the Lacandon Jungle and The Other Campaign
To the adherents and sympathizers of the Other Campaign, feminist groups, collectives, social organizations, the international community, workers of the world, those from below to the left in all corners of the planet.
We the compañeras of the women's sector of the Other Campaign energetically denounce and condemn the brutal acts and crimes of lesser humanity perpetrated against those detained the 3rd and 4th of May, 2006 in the municipalities of Texcoco and San Salvador Atenco by elements of the federal, state and municipal police.
For this we manifest that on the 3rd of May, 101 people were detained, 23 of them women who suffered serious sexual aggressions, violations of their human rights, amongst which included torture, beatings, ill-treatment of their bodies, as well as constant psychological violence.
The day following these events, the 4th of may, 2006, the occupation of the town of San Salvador Atenco took place through the implementation of the military operative "tapete" (known operative used by all of the fascist governments as a form of State-sponsored terrorism) by 4,500 police agents. The majority of the inhabitants of the town were in their homes and only a few of them maintained guard in a peaceful manner when the brutal attack was unleashed by the "forces of public order", at which point the withdrawal of the community guards that were in the plaza of the town of Atenco began. It is here that the first arbitrary and indiscriminate detentions of any person that transited the site took place. Also, with the pretext of locating the supposed kidnapped agents, the forces illegally entered the different homes (that were pointed out by helicopters and neighboring homes) where they looted, beat, terrorized, threatened and detained the people they found. The result was the detention of 110 more people, amongst them women and children; of these 110 people, 29 of them were women of different identities, sectors of the population and nationalities; also highlighted are the reports of rape and multiple aggressions against women inhabitants who were not detained.
The result of these police attacks was the incarceration of 52 women whom were treated in a brutal manner and subjected to sexual crimes. Many of them were housewives, mothers, indigenous women, students, workers, flower vendors, and farming inhabitants of the municipalities of Texcoco and San Salvador Atenco.
Considering these events, we denounce:
1) The tumultuary (performed by more than one person, sometimes at the same time, on one person) rapes of different women during the takeover of San Salvador Atenco and during the transfer of the detainees to the prison of Santiaguito de Almoloya.
2) The brutal beating, torture, and psychological abuse that they received.
3) The lack of medical and psychological attention, which constitutes in yet another violation of their human rights as well as violates their sexual, reproductive and emotional health.
4) The lack of communication that they have been subjected to since their illegal detention up until this moment.
5) The sexual crimes committed against the women are not products of isolated acts, but are part of the systematic training of the police in order to repress, plant terror, and deactivate the autonomous political and social movements, especially the women's struggle.
6) The acts, specifically those here mentioned, in which we as women are taken as loot of war, in this case a fascist war used to plant the terror of the State.
7) The repression in San Salvador Atenco, particularly against the women, put to manifest the fascist character of the Mexican government and refers to the methods used by the Pinochet in Chile, Videla in Argentina, and the rest of the authoritarian governments that have devastated our continent.
8) The violation and neglect by the Mexican State of the international agreements and conventions against the discrimination, abuse and practice of violence against women.
9) The null participation, indifference, and lack of credibility of the governmental institutions dedicated to the defense of human rights, to women, and to the attention of their denunciations, such as the commission of Gender Equality of the federal and state Houses of Representatives.
10) The crimes of lesser humanity committed against the compañeras who were incarcerated (as well as those who were not) who lived the most atrocious experiences and damages of their lives. Although these atrocities are impossible to repair, we CANNOT leave them unpunished.
For that which has been expressed, we emphatically demand:
1) Impeachment and political trial of the President of the Government of Mexico, Vicente Fox Quezada; Secretary of Federal Public Security, Manuel Medina Mora; Governor of the State of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto; Secretary of State Government, Humberto Benitez Treviño; Head of the Greater State of the PFP (federal preventative police), Ardelio Vargas Fosado; Commissioner of the Agency of State Security, Wilfrido Robledo; and Municipal President of Texcoco, Dr. Higinio Martinez Miranda.
2) The destitution, assigning of responsibilities and punishment of the police involved in the rape and aggression against the women.
3) The veto of the Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of United Nations of the recent naming of Mexico as one of it's founding members, as well as sanctions derived from the violation and neglect of the agreements and conventions against the discrimination, abuse and practice of violence against women, signed by the Mexican government.
4) The appropriate medical and psychological attention on behalf of professional independent teams that respond to the necessities of the incarcerated compañeras and that guarantee their health and emotional and physical integrity.
5) The immediate end of the low-intensity war and terrorist tactics by the Mexican State against social fighters of the Other Campaign and other social movements.
6) The immediate stop of the violence that the State has practiced against women in Mexico and systematically covered up, that which is translated as tumultuary rapes, femicide throughout the height and length of the country, feminization of poverty, incarceration, disappearances, and murders of social fighters and human rights activists.
7) That given the severity of the rapes, they be considered a crime of lesser humanity by the corresponding petitions.
La Otra Campaña: VA!
The women, from below to the left, with all heart
To learn more about La Otra Campaña, read here:
*La Otra Campaña, (The Other Campaign) From John Ross (at Counterpunch)
The Other Campaign is the brainchild of the largely indigenous Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) whose Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (the "Sexta") issued in June called for a new approach to doing national politics. The Chiapas-based Mayan rebels plan to carry the Other Campaign to the rest of the country from "the Rio Bravo to the Suchiate" during the 2006 electoral process in a drive to consolidate the non-electoral, anti-capitalist left. Instead of running candidates, the Other Campaign calls for the enactment of a new national constitution that would bar privatization of public resources and other neo-liberal outrages, and insure indigenous autonomy for Mexico's 57 distinct Indian peoples. The Other Campaign will also provide the EZLN with a platform from which to build an organization of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in every state in the Mexican union.
In prototypical rebel style, the direction of the Other Campaign was determined by a series of xix meetings between the Zapatista high command and the EZLN's diverse constituencies Indians, farmers, workers, social movements, the organized left, NGOs and autonomous collectives, and individuals – held in August and September in insurgent villages in the canyons leading down to the Lacandon jungle. The weekend gabfests, protracted interactions between generations, ideologies, cultures, and social classes, culminated in plenary sessions September 16th and 17th, attended by thousands (including the longabsent rebel leader Comandanta Ramona) in the autonomous municipality of Francisco Gomez. For those who could not physically make it to the jungle, the proceedings were broadcast live worldwide on the Internet.
As of October 2nd, the last received totals, 181 indigenous associations, 68 left formations, 197 social organizations, 474 NGOs and collectives, and 1898 individuals and families had subscribed to La Otra Campana and committed themselves to making it work.
The Other Campaign will kick off January 1st, 2006, the 12th anniversary of the rebels' 1994 uprising, when Subcomandante Marcos, the EZLN's charismatic spokesperson, plus an as-yet unselected 16-member "Sexta" commission will begin a six month swing around the nation. The Sup will travel unarmed or at least "only with the arms God gave me" but will remain masked and carry with him his trusty laptop and a selection from his extensive collection of Sherlock Holms' pipes. Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal has assured the EZLN that the Other Campaign will enjoy full freedom of transit. Who will provide security for the comandantes is one of many logistical issues still to be hashed out with the "mal gobierno" (bed government.)
The Other Campaign marks the fifth time the EZLN has sallied forth to try and convince the rest of Mexico of the righteousness of its cause. The last time the Zapatistas ventured from their Chiapas stronghold was for the March of Those Who Are The Color of the Earth in 2001 when the rebels were rebuffed by the Mexican congress's gutting of an Indian Rights law for which the Zapatistas had long struggled. But the Other Campaign is far and away the most ambitious and protracted excursion to the outside world the EZLN has ever launched and is sure to generate as much opposition as it does empathy for the Indians.
"We must prepare ourselves for repression" the Subcomandante wrote to his comrades recently, "we could be jailed, we could be killed. We may never return home"
The itinerary of the Other Campaign is as meticulously plotted as Lopez Obrador's presidential campaign. The rebels will spend the first week of January building ties to struggle organizations in other regions of Chiapas, then move on to Tabasco, the Yucatan, and Veracruz before crossing the isthmus to Oaxaca, Mexico's most Indian state. From Oaxaca, the Other Campaign reaches into the central Mexican altiplano, arriving in Morelos, the home state of their namesake Emiliano Zapata on April 10th, his death day and the most hallowed date on the Zapata calendar. This first part of the Other Campaign's route was previously explored by the Zapatista comandantes during the Indian Dignity march of 2001.
After spending the last two weeks in April in Mexico City and environs, the Other Campaign will head north state by state, working its way to the border by early June where meetings will be held with U.S. Mexican and Chicano activists who are preparing "La Otra Campana" on "El Otro Lado" (the Other Side.) Marcos has pledged that Mexicans in the U.S. will be a part of the Other Campaign.
On June 24th, the EZLN will close the first phase of "La Otra" with a mass meeting in Mexico City before Marcos and his crew return to Chiapas to sort out the election results in July.
If the above trajectory and the synchronization of dates with the electoral calendar lead the reader to confuse the Other Campaign with an electoral campaign, you may be excused. Actually, La Otra is much more of an anti-electoral campaign the Other Campaign vs. Politics as Usual. The Zapatistas and their supporters will dog the political parties of which they have long been contemptuous the EZLN thinks elections are for sale to the highest bidder and are not an accurate measure of democracy.
Inevitably, somewhere out there on the campaign trail, the Other Campaign will cross paths with one or more big party candidates and the fireworks are sure to begin. Because La Otra is basically a battle for the hearts and minds of the Mexican left, the Zapatistas have lavished a lot of energy attacking Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the PRD. The EZLN, in turn, has been sharply rebuked for what AMLO's fans term "sectarianism" and worse, bettering the PRI's chances of returning to the presidency by draining votes from Lopez Obrador the same argument U.S. Democrats used against Ralph Nadar in 2000.
"We are not telling anyone who to vote for or whether to vote at all" Subcomandante Marcos argues, "this is not an electoral campaign."
The Other Campaign will focus equal energies on exposing PRI and PAN chicanery in the upcoming elections. Indeed, the dirty tricks and backstabbing scandals that are integral to the PRI, PAN, and PRD internal dramas could make the Other Campaign an appealing alternative to big party politics for many voters.
A PRI return to power is a particularly alarming scenario for the EZLN not only would it signal the vanishing point for Mexico's glacial "transition to democracy" but it is sure to bolster the standing of Zapatista-hating paramilitaries and hardliners inside the military.
But the Other Campaign will not fold up its tents after the July 2006 presidential vote is in. Unlike the political parties, the Zapatistas have a longer-range political goal than taking power organizing Mexico for a new constitution. After evaluating the July election results, a second set of comandantes will embark from Chiapas in September 2006 and not return until March 2007 at which point the successes and failures of the Other Campaign will be weighed.
The Other Campaign is not just another kind of political campaign it is literally a campaign of others. Diversity, bringing together the most marginated Indians, gays and lesbians, the disabled, punks and anarchists – is the EZLN's source of unity and strength. Because the Zapatistas attract the most disaffected the outsiders it is literally a campaign of the "Others."
The Zapatista ethos of building power down below but eschewing taking state power has currency in Latin America today. The triumphs of the electoral left as a response to the savage capitalism of the neo-liberals have failed to live up to their expectations. Unable to shake off the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and the White House, Lula and Kirschner, Tabare Vazquez and next Evo Morales and Lopez Obrador have not and will not be able to deliver meaningful change. Hugo Chavez rules from the top down while the Zapatistas build from the bottom up.