Atenco: Breaking the Siege

Atenco: Breaking the Siege

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John Ahni Schertow
July 7, 2007
 

The same week Mexico received a position on the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and in the midst of the process of presidential succession in Mexico, a massive campaign of Brutality was committed against the People San Salvador Atenco. This video analyzes the events that occurred on the first days of May 2006, and also deconstructs the mass media’s operating methods which created a climate of fear and an information blockade during this campaign against the people.

A Brief Overview

from Police Brutality in Atenco, Mexico, by John Gibler, ZNet

[On] May 3rd, state police blocked 60 flower vendors from setting up their stands at the Texcoco local market in the State of Mexico, about 20 miles east of Mexico City. The police beat and arrested those who resisted.

The flower vendors called to the residents of neighboring San Salvador Atenco for help and the Atenco residents blocked the highway that borders their town and leads to Texcoco.

The police response was overwhelming: hundreds of state and federal police, most clad in riot gear, arrived to lift the blockade. Atenco resisted, with machetes, clubs, Molotov cocktails and bottle rockets. The police tried to lift the blockade five times throughout the day, and five times they were repelled.

The violence was extreme. Photographs published in local papers show Atenco protestors beating a fallen policemen, police beating tens of fallen protestors. Severe beatings. Protesters kicking one fallen police officer in the face, groups of police pulverizing tens of protestors with rocks and batons.

Police also attacked photographers from both the national and the international press. Photographers and television cameramen from Associated Press, Reuters, Milenio, Jornada and Televisa all reported beatings and attempts to confiscate cameras. Photographs and film coverage of the beatings were published on the internet and shown on national television. Local and international news articles however, have not mentioned the systematic police violence against reporters. (read the full article)

All told, two young boys were killed in Atenco and Texcoco; 207 people were imprisoned (most of whom were subjected to cruel tortures and needed to be hospitalized) and atleast 26 women were raped (by the Police).

As of May 1, 2007, 28 remain in prison, one of whom is Ignacio del Valle, one of three FPDT leaders who eceived jail sentences lasting for 67 years. No one has been brought to justice for the rapes or murders.

Atenco: Breaking the Siege


The “Dirty War” Returns to Mexico

By John Ross
Between 1970 and 1982, three Mexican presidents waged a “dirty war” against dissidents from one end of the country to the next. Recently compiled documentation lists 15,000 illegal detentions during that terrible period, thousands of instances of torture, and the forced disappearance of more than 700 Mexican citizens (see “Disappearing the Disappeared” upcoming next week).

Nowhere was the dirty war more cruelly fought then along the Pacific coast of Guerrero state where farmers had risen in rebellion behind the rural school teacher-turned guerrillero Lucio Cabanas and his Party of the Poor. Carlos Montemayor, author of “War In Paradise,” perhaps the most vehement expose of that repression, is an assiduous scholar of how the dirty war in Guerrero was organized and carried out.

Photos: Indymedia Mexico
Writing in the left daily La Jornada, Montemayor recently described the characteristics of that counter-insurgency campaign against farming villages along the Guerrero coast, and the striking similarities to the May 4th assault on San Salvador Atenco just outside of Mexico City by thousands of highly militarized police to quell a campesino rebellion.

According to Montemayor’s description, first an overwhelming force is assembled with the primary mission of totally subjugating a recalcitrant population. Then informers are introduced into the village to identify and eliminate rebel community leaders and those associated with them. If the leaders evade capture, their families are held hostage. Young men are rounded up and selectively tortured to extract information and to turn them into “soplones” (informers.)

Meanwhile, shock troops terrorize the civilian population into submission. Indiscriminate beatings, home invasions, the theft of personal items of value, and the systematic destruction of property are encouraged by police commanders. Women are raped and sexually abused to underscore the occupation force’s total domination over the rebellious villagers.

Virtually all of these dirty war characteristics were on display in San Salvador Atenco May 4th when 3000 armed state police and elements of the Federal Preventative Police (PFP), a force largely extracted from the Mexican military, slammed into that dirt-poor town of 30,000 out on the dried lake beds east of the capital, killing one 14-year-old, leaving a 20-year-old student hovering between life and death, and arresting 209, all of whom required hospitalization from the beatings they received under security force batons – although only some prisoners actually received it (and they were chained to their hospital beds.) Of 47 women arrested, 23 reported that they had been raped or were otherwise sexually abused. One 53 year-old mother who had gone to a local store to buy a birthday present for her son was forced to perform oral sex on three police “officers” to avoid arrest.

Those arrested included farmers and farm women, human rights observers, lawyers, alternative reporters, non-Mexicans, and adherents of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation’s Other Campaign who had traveled to San Salvador Atenco in solidarity at the urging of former EZLN Subcomandante Marcos, now doing business as Delegate Zero. All were originally held on charges of participating in an organized criminal conspiracy, a crime that mandates a 20-year sentence.

One object of such collective repression, noted Montemayor, is the identification and elimination of local leadership. In Atenco, the most identifiable voice of the farmers’ rebellion is Ignacio del Valle, a leader of the Popular Front for the Defense of the Land whose militants picked up their broad machetes three years ago and successively defended the town’s corn lands from expropriation by President Vicente Fox for a new, multi-billion dollar Mexico City International Airport, thereby incurring the undying scorn of the president and his cronies who stood to make a killing on the deal.

Nacho del Valle and his second-in-command Felipe Alvarez were captured on the first day of the fighting and immediately clapped into Mexico’s maximum lock-up at nearby La Palma on “kidnapping” charges that evolved from an acrimonious February meeting with Mexico state officials – the charges carry 30 to 50 year prison sentences. 26 other members of the Popular Front have since been incarcerated on the same charge.

As per Carlos Montemayor’s script, Del Valle’s immediate family was singled out for special repression. Their home was destroyed by invading police and one son was disappeared for several days until he turned up badly beaten in a Mexico state prison. Nacho’s daughter, América, increasingly the spokesperson for the Popular Front to Defend the Land, has been forced into hiding.

In classic dirty war mode, police brought in ski-masked informers who went from house to house pointing out Popular Front sympathizers. Police broke down doors and invaded private homes without warrants, firing weapons, beating the residents bloody, and smashing the furniture into kindling.

At least 23 complaints of sexual assault including seven rapes – one boy was sodomized with a police baton – have been registered with the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and the non-government Miguel Pro Human Rights Center. Most were victimized on an horrific six hour ride between Atenco and a local Mexico state prison during which police “officers” pawed women, ripped off their underclothes, masturbated openly, and in serial rapist fashion, forced their victims not to look at them to prevent identification.

Lorena, a diminutive 22 year-old “adherent” to the Other Campaign, tells of being beaten and manhandled by arresting officers and then thrown into a truckful of women prisoners who had been beaten so badly that their blood covered the floor of the vehicle. Ordered to lie face down on top of the injured women, one police “officer” ripped off her pants and upon discovering that she was menstruating, began beating her, screaming that he would make her “really bleed.” Later, he or one of his fellow “officers” tried to anally penetrate Lorena but was warned off because the truck was nearing the prison. In anger, the “officer” smashed Lorena’s head into the truck wall.

Women are considered “botines” (prizes) in the dirty war, Montemayor explains, and the violations of the women from Atenco were not so much sexual as they were an expression of male government domination – all part of the dirty war plan.

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