(Political prisoners and the disappeared: rebel memory)
There is a bit of sorrow and courage when the hand and the eyes reach October and Guerrero. But there is no futile bitterness nor resigned defeat in the hand when it becomes cloud, nor in the eyes when they become stone. Because this is the state of Guerrero, name and history which combine much sadness and much courage, but also many memories and not a few rebellions.
Guerrero. More than 3 million inhabitants and more than half a million Amuzgo, Mixtec, Nahua and Tlapaneco indigenous.
The blue cloud is in flight. That, which can be seen to the west, close to Puebla and Oaxaca, is the Mountain. It has its high part and its low part. The majority of its residents are Tlapanecos, Nahuas and Mixtecos. When they requested food, economic and health programs and infrastructure so they could develop, the Fox government responded with...maquilas! Yes, just like all over the Mexican countryside which is being destroyed by neoliberal policies, there is an abundance of cheap labor and lands in the Mountain of Guerrero. Both are plunder for businessmen and government officials. And, as in many parts of the Mexican countryside, migrants constitute the main product in this region. From the sugarcane and bean growing regions of Cuautla, to New York City, passing through the farmlands of northeast Mexico, Guerrero campesinos are emigrating in search of sustenance for their families. At least thirty thousand migrants leave their fields and homes during each agricultural cycle.
But the maquilas of Fox's March To the South plan (a name which is undeniably evocative of the Conquest) do not arrive by themselves. The federal army and the police accompany them. Yes, along with the maquilas come more army and police barracks, checkpoints, abuses, repression. And with the soldiers come prostitution, alcoholism, drug trafficking. They expropriate the campesinos' land in order to build barracks and military roads. And there is a concomitant increase in conflicts between the communities. "What history unites, capital divides," seems to be the motto of neoliberal governments.
The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center has denounced that there is a veritable military "preserve" in Guerrero, "as a means of containing the social movement." "In this context, there are many community conflicts, militarization in the region has increased, we think in order to protect the maquila areas or in order to create conditions for guaranteeing the investments of maquila capital."
In Tlapa, according to the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, "a point which continues to concern us is precisely this tendency to militarize this indigenous area. As if the solutions of dialogue, of social coordination, of community development, are subordinate to a military strategy. Militarization (is being) justified as a means for guaranteeing stability in those areas without attacking the causes of the extreme poverty, the destitution, the massive migration (...)"
And it concludes:
"The fact that the legislative proposal on indigenous rights and culture was not approved left it quite clear to indigenous organizations in Guerrero that it had been a very well planned effort, in the sense of having an indigenous law in keeping with the needs of transnational capital. The communities are not going to be able to make decisions inside their own territories, nor, above all, are they going to be able to draw up plans which are more in keeping with ethnic development, nor will it be the communities which decide."
And the take from the destruction of the countryside is so profitable that the governor of Guerrero, Rene' Jua'rez (alias "Zedillo's spoiled slave"), is seeking commercial and investment agreements outside the Federation, especially in the arena of minerals, with Canada and Japan. It is a known fact that there are many new minerals in the Mountain of Guerrero which will be useful for future technologies. "There are four regions of metallic minerals in Guerrero, rich in gold, silver, copper, lead, iron, zinc, mercury, antimony and tungsten, and only Taxco and Mezcala are being exploited. There are also three areas with non-metallic potential in barium, fluorite, graphite, quartz, calcite, dolomite, puzol, toba, marble, gypsum, amethyst, limestone, granite and titanium, as well as cobalt, nickel, chromium, potassium and salt. This wealth is spread across 38% of Guerrero territory. Today, the federal and state governments, as well as several transnational companies, consider! Guerrero to be one of the states with the greatest potential for mineral development in Mexico. The state government has announced in forums and publications, with great fanfare, that it is planning to make Guerrero a national mineral power, generating more income than traditional tourism activities. Currently, at least 11 Japanese, US and Canadian mineral companies are carrying out exploratory activities in Guerrero." (Rolando Espinosa and Vero'nica Villa in Ojarasca, La Jornada, 2002.)
Se~or Florencio Salazar, formerly in charge of the Plan Puebla-Panama, is from Guerrero, and, just so there might be no doubt as to what is behind that plan, he moved over to the Department of Government in the so-called "Area of Protests and Social Movements Affairs" (that is, the "area of co-optation and repression of social movements").
But there are those who do not let themselves be co-opted and who resist repression.
Xochistlahuaca is a community located at the foot of the Mountain. This municipality is also called Suljaa', which, in the ~omndaa (Amuzgo) language means 'plain of flowers.' It is inhabited primarily by members of the Amuzgo people, along with Mixtec and Nahua communities. Their history of resistance is not new. They resisted the Aztec conqueror, the Spanish invader, the criollo liberals, the indigenous and mestizo cacique. Since they did not surrender, they tried to exterminate them...and failed. According to official figures, two thirds of the population here is illiterate, almost one hundred percent do not have access to health care, half have no income, 80% of the houses do not have plumbing and half are lacking in electricity.
"Fed up with impositions, caciques and poverty, on November 20, 2002, the town of Suljaa' decided to elect their own municipal authorities, in accordance with Amuzgo customary law, on their own, and at odds with the caciques, the political parties and the current state election law.
"This is how more than 70 calandyo (principals), old ones and ejiditarios put forward the names of seven nanman'iaan (literally, 'those who are dirty because they work'), or traditional authorities, to the community general assembly. Starting that day, the authorities-elect took on the difficult assignment of governing under the principle of 'serving obeying the mandate of the people and not serving themselves from it,' and of occupying the Suljaa' wats'iaan ndaatyuaa (Suljaa' municipal work house), which had previously been the municipal palace of Xochistlahuaca and seat of the ayuntamiento and of all those government structures which had been imposed for centuries and reinforced by the current electoral 'democracy'." ("The Nanncue ~omndaa regain their own path." Carlos Gonza'lez Garci'a. Ojarasca, La Jornada.)
The struggle of the Suljaa' indigenous has kept itself distanced from the power. It does not demand recognition nor subsidies, but respect, and it stays outside traditional politics and their electoral forms. So say their words:
"Today we are retaking our own path, by traveling our path we will know where we are going, the path of below, the one we have learned, the one that taught us, the one that the grandparents of our grandparents traveled for centuries, the one that is not made of lies, but the one that is built by true steps, among everyone, united, like the day on which we were born from this earth.
"(...) the establishment of an autonomous government in the important municipality of Suljaa' (Xochistlahuaca), the heart of the culture of the Nancue ~omndaa people, after more than 500 years of outside domination, will make possible the reconstitution of the indigenous communities and peoples of the area. It particularly makes possible the reorganization of the Nanncue ~omndaa people, granting our peoples a path for their own development and for the resolution of their political, economic, social and cultural needs, after years of poverty and marginalization."
The cloud continues through the Mountain of Guerrero. Some police officers can be seen over there. The cloud hides and watches attentively. The police arrive in a community. But, rather than hiding or being suspicious, the people come out with little cameras and ask those police officers to have a picture taken with them. The cloud, surprised, questions. "They are the comunitarios," is the response. Ever since October of 1995, "the comunitarios," as the people affectionately refer to them, have been responsible for public security in communities of the Coastal and Mountain regions of Guerrero. It was primarily the Yopes (or Tlapanecos), but also Mixtec, communities, which promoted the comunitario police. They did so without any government or outside financing, and with the moral force to dramatically reduce crime in this violent region. The government of Guerrero obviously does not want them even a little bit, and the Mexican army has, on several occasions, demanded that the communities turn over their arms, become assimilated into the municipal and state police forces, threatening to execute arrest warrants against them.
In the "Declaration of Six Years of Struggle Against Crime and For the Right of the Indigenous Peoples to Justice" the raison d'e^tre of the comunitario police is explained: "The lack of an effective, committed and responsible response by our official authorities has forced the indigenous peoples of the area to make use of our fundamental rights consecrated in the laws of our country, taking back up our own ways of securing justice for our peoples (...) Our own tragedy and the government's inattention is what has formed us and informed us."
The cloud goes on and reaches the region where the Organization of Environmental Campesinos of the Sierra of Petatla'n and Coyuca de Catala'n (OCESP) are working, created for the purpose of preserving the environment. And the government finds nothing as subversive as stopping the felling of trees.
On May 2, 1999 Teodoro Cabrera and Rodolfo Montiel (Goldman Environmental Award) were formally sentenced to prison. They had been detained and tortured by the army, tried and convicted by the Mexican justice system and declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Their crime: organized opposition to the destruction of forests.
Just a moment! Prisoners of conscience? Does that mean "political prisoners?" But...the government of change?
In order to find an answer, the cloud must make itself stone and seek out Mama Stone and the Do~as of the Eureka Committee.
But who are these guardians of rebel memory?
Yesterday, when we were living under the PRI dictatorship, and especially during the administrations of the disastrous Luis Echeverri'a Alvarez and Jose' Lo'pez Portillo, foreign policy was used as a front for a policy of domestic terror. Salvador Allende's fight in Chile was recognized, in order to conceal the dirty war that was being waged in Mexico. The Farabundo Marti' Front of National Liberation was declared a belligerent force so that no one would ask about the disappeared detainees in Mexico. These are just some examples of that policy. During that period, the Do~as of the Eureka Committee, relatives of the disappeared, had to suffer the lack of understanding, and often the absence of solidarity, from the Latin American left, because the representatives of that left were being received in Los Pinos or at the Department of Government, and they were being provided with not inconsiderable aid, while their Mexican compa~eros were in the mazes of Military Camp Number On! e. Ever since then, they have been little concerned over the fate of those Mexicans who have risen up in arms, some of whom had been influenced by their own example.
Today, when we are living under the government in which "everything changes so that everything can remain the same," the winds of globalization are forcing it to promote another kind of policy. What is primary now is not domestic stability, but rather inserting themselves as the junior partner and subordinate in what is known as globalization, which is, in fact, nothing other than a new distribution of the world by the financial-military centers of power, a war against humanity.
But, given that many of Mexico's senior partners have added "democratic clauses" as a condition for signing commercial agreements, it has become essential to use the banner of human rights in order to keep them happy. But all of this means nothing more than getting in line with today's hegemonic policies of the North American superpower, the one which carries out invasions, massacres and civil restrictions comparable only to those which were done under nazism. And all of this takes place, at the height of cynicism, under the mantle of human rights. And the future war against Iraq stands as an example.
Individual rights are similarly still being violated in Mexico (one simply has to look at what took place in Morelos a few months ago, with the environmentalists who were peaceful opposing the destruction of our cultural heritage). Assassinations continue to take place, with social leaders as victims, the jails continue to be filled with political prisoners (such is the case with our zapatista compa~eros in Quere'taro, Tabasco and Chiapas, and the Cerezo brothers and the ERPI and EPR prisoners), and the issue of the detained-disappeared continues unresolved. Furthermore, there are new politically disappeared detainees as a result of this government.
The great change is that an international policy which acts as an alibi for these practices is no longer being propounded. The question is no longer of being third world. Now they merely have to be attentive to what the master's voice says, creating the appearance that human rights are being protected, regardless of the fact that all of this is being done by trampling on the law.
The release of General Francisco Gallardo was done, not by recognizing his innocence, but by twisting the law in order to satisfy international bodies and to not upset the army hierarchy. Erika Zamora was released because her incarceration was untenable, but, if she is innocent (which she is), what was the responsibility of the army which attacked and massacred at close range the campesinos who were meeting in El Charco, in Guerrero? The environmentalist campesinos from the sierra (Montiel and Cabrera) were released, but their innocence was not recognized. In a subsequent decision their guilt was even confirmed, and, if they remain free, it is because of international pressure. Furthermore, the logging caciques and their chief and protector, Rube'n Figueroa, have still not yet even been cited to give statements (it will very probably take place when there is no longer any possibility of their being indicted).
It is most especially essential to emphasize the significance of the Eureka Committee's fight for all the detainees-disappeared (538 documented by the Do~as, 214 cases in Guerrero, and, of those, 172 took place in 1974) to be handed over alive. The Senate finally decided, in December of 2001, to ratify the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons, which had been adopted in Belem, Brazil on June 9, 1994. It might appear that a fundamental step was being taken with this towards resolving this terrible problem, but a reservation and an interpretative statement were formulated at the same time. By doing this, the fundamental content of the convention was violated, and, most especially, new mockery was being made of the victims (and their relatives) of that terrible practice of forced disappearance, characterized by resolution 47/133 of the General Assembly of the United Nations as a crime against humanity.
The reservation by the Senate of the Republic of the United Mexican States refers to the recognition of the war jurisdiction of those military personnel who committed the crime of detention-disappearance, thus guaranteeing that they will not be tried by civil tribunals.
And, on the other hand, in the interpretative statement, it postulates that the stipulations of said convention will be imposed on those incidents which were ordered, executed or committed subsequent to what the Senate had approved going into effect. That is, impunity for the past.
With these two points, Article IX of the convention was violated. That article posits the following: "The crime of the forced disappearance of persons can only be judged by the relevant common law jurisdictions of each State, excluding all special jurisdictions, military ones in particular. The acts which constitute forced disappearance cannot be considered as having been committed in the exercise of military duties." And Article III: "Said crime will be considered as continuing or constant as long as the fate or the whereabouts of the victim has not been established."
Which allows us to conclude that Article XIX is being violated, which states: "States will be able to formulate reservations to the present convention at the time of signing it, ratifying it or subscribing to it, as long as they are not incompatible with the objective and purpose of the convention."
Through the reservation and the interpretative statement, the Mexican State is guaranteeing complete impunity for those who committed and ordered the disappearance of hundreds of Mexicans.
Because of all of that, the Eureka Committee is entirely correct, since it has hit a raw nerve by pointing out that there is no reason for a special prosecutor, who is purportedly going to investigate the disappearances, since, prior to presenting his work plan, prior to asking for blood samples from the mothers of the disappeared of Sinaloa, prior to pompously opening his offices in Guerrero, he had no substantive work.
Or could it be that what it really had to do with was creating an apparatus that could be used in order to have a response when - in his constant traveling around the world - Se~or Fox is questioned about human rights violations in Mexico?
When they decided to carry out an investigation of the dirty war in Argentina, a special commission was named, headed by the great writer Ernesto Sa'bato - not by some gray bureaucrat - who carried out impeccable work. The criminals and actual torturers, along with their bosses, were set in the dock of the accused. In the end, and shamelessly, the head of State decided to pardon all of them, and the Full Stop Law was drawn up.
Of course it gives us pleasure to see Luis Echeverri'a Alvarez being cited in the investigation of the massacres of October 2, 1968 and June 10, 1971, but that pleasure evaporates when we learn that the laws have been twisted in such a way that he will not be touched, nor, like him, will be all of those officials who were involved.
The show has been staged perfectly, and here we are including the special prosecutor's purported indignation, who was, of course, an official in Luis Echeverri'a's administration, in that same Department of Government which planned and carried out the dirty war against thousands of Mexicans.
Now, in order to provide a whitewash for the Mexican State, they want to reduce the responsibility for the dirty war to a handful of the power's hired assassins: Francisco Quiro's Hermosillo, Mario Arturo Acosta Chaparro and Miguel Nazar Haro. What is being concealed is that it was a State policy, a policy which has not been abandoned: thus far, during this administration, there have already been 22 new detainees-disappeared.
That State policy cannot be concealed through the Se~or Prosecutor's demagoguery, who goes around talking about his cousin, Deni Prieto, trying to hide behind the figure of the rebel who was assassinated on February 14, 1974 in San Miguel Nepantla, in the state of Mexico.
What we are witnessing is a new, joint, trap being set by the Legislative branch with the Executive (just like with the indigenous counter-reform). On the one hand, the International Convention on Disappearances is completely distorted, on the other an attempt to whitewash the power in the international arena by setting down a few hired assassins in order to answer a series of questions. And, finally, they are not working to present the detainees-disappeared, but instead they are declaring them dead, without any probative elements. A new masquerade in order to divert the odd nai:f or in order to provide work for a few professional politicians with a leftist past.
In the face of this masquerade, the dignity is raised up of the mothers of the Eureka Committee, who have decided not to lend themselves to the legitimization of a new mockery. They, who are power and government, can close the "case" and declare hundreds of Mexicans dead, they can carry out a purported moral condemnation of these methods (at the same time that they continue implementing them), they can buy a few consciences and offer money in exchange for dignity. But, as long as the Eureka Committee, the Do~as, continues to maintain its intransigent, dignified position, all of those ploys will be useless. The cry of dignified Mexico will continue to be: They were taken away alive, we want them alive!
"Yes!" says, and says to herself, the stone, "because the memory of all of those men and women is still alive, and it will continue to be, as long as there are women like the Do~as."
Turned back to cloud again, the stone flies now to Morelos. She will certainly be placing a flower of memory and rebellion on the tomb of General Emiliano Zapata Salazar, chief of the Liberation Army of the South and Supreme Commander of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, January of 2003.
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa