Mexico: thousands march for release of Chiapas schoolteacher

Some 15,000 protesters marched in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, capital of the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, on April 19 to demand the release of Alberto Patishtán Gómez, an indigenous schoolteacher who has been serving a 60-year sentence since 2000 for his alleged involvement in the killing of seven police agents in El Bosque municipality in June of that year. Patishtán is a supporter of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). Actions demanding his release have taken place in at least 11 countries over the past year.

About 7,000 of the marchers were indigenous Mayans; most of these belonged, like Patishtán himself, to the Tzotzil group. Another 8,000 were teachers from Section 7 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE); they were also protesting changes in the educational system being carried out by the administration of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. The protesters, accompanied by flutes, guitars and drums, tied up the center of Tuxtla for three hours.

The march coincided with a visit to the nearby town of Navenchauc by President Peña Nieto, who was promoting his “National Crusade Against Hunger“; the guest of honor for the event was former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011). “We believe and we’re convinced by the facts that this is a crusade against the hungry,” speakers at the march charged. “We, the indigenous peoples and campesinos, are indeed hungry, but hungry for truth and justice in the case of the Acteal [where 45 indigenous people were massacred in December 1997], hungry for the immediate and unconditional release of our brother Alberto.” (La Jornada, Mexico, April 20)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 21.