Three campesino leaders from San Salvador Atenco were each sentenced to 67 years and six months in prison on charges of kidnapping May 5. The sentences come almost exactly a year after a violent clash between Atenco residents and Mexican state and federal police troops. Ignacio del Valle, Felipe Alvarez and Héctor Galindo, leaders of the People’s Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT), have five days to appeal the verdict. The charges are related to incidents in February and April 2006, when FPDT members allegedly held State of Mexico officials captive. Although the leaders were arrested in the aftermath of the May 2006 violence, the judge said his decision was based solely upon “the kidnapping and illegal detention of the state officials.” (El Universal, May 6)
Campesinos from San Salvador Atenco organized the FPDT in 2002 to oppose the confiscation of village lands for construction of a new airport for Mexico City. The project was cancelled following a campaign of protests which sometimes included the detainment of officials the FPDT said were illegally on village lands.
The three FPDT leaders allegedly held state government official Rosendo Rebolledo Montiel against his will on Feb. 8, 2006, and detained four state Education Secretariat officials on April 6, 2006, when Education Secretary Isidro Muñoz failed to attend a meeting scheduled to discuss programs for the community. Judge Blas Hernandez sentenced the three leaders to 33 years and eight months for each of these incidents. State prosecutor Abel Villicana sought the maximum sentence of 60 years for each offense. Barbara Zamora, who headed the defense team, said she would appeal the sentences, which she called “revenge by the regime to keep [the FPDT leaders] imprisoned for fabricated crimes.” The three leaders still face another trial on kidnapping and other charges. (Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 6)
When the sentences for Del Valle and the others were announced, del Valle’s wife Trinidad Ramirez, herself a leader of the FPDT, was in Cuernavaca, Morelos, to receive the annual Don Sergio Mendez Arceo National Human Rights Prize for her husband. (ibid)
On May 3, the FPDT and its supporters held a rally in Mexico City’s central plaza to demand the release of those still being held a year after the Atenco violence, calling them “political prisoners.” Subcommander Marcos of the Zapatistas was among the featured speakers, and fugitive FPDT leader America del Valle delivered a recorded statement. (APRO, May 3)
On May 5, Marcos and the FPDT led a protest motorcade to Santiaguito prison in Almoloya de Juarez, Mexico state. Said Marcos: “This sentence will not last the 60 years; before, much before this, the prisons of Altiplano, Santiaguito, Molino de las Flores and all of the country will be opened and all the prisoners released, those called political and the common [prisoners]. They [the prisons] will only remain open a little while longer, to house [Mexico state governor] Enrique Peña Nieto, [former president] Vicente Fox, [federal prosecutor] Eduardo Medina Mora and all this ball of bastards [bola de cabrones].” (La Jornada, May 6)