Mexico: Zapatistas in Atenco

From the online Radio Sabotaje, late on May 5:

Marcos has just arrived in Atenco with 4,000 individuals representing students, workers, farmers, teachers and and community organizations. Mexican mainstream media is reporting agression on the part of the marchers – the truth appears otherwise. The Other Campaign will stay in Mexico City indefinitely. A peaceful meeting is scheduled in Atenco tomorrow at 12 noon.

The Mexican news agency APRO reports that state and federal police have thrown up a “security belt” around Atenco after storming the town May 4. In response, residents called for aid from the EZLN. Despite the police cordon, the Zapatistas seem to have gained access to the town. The situation clearly remains very tense, and human rights groups are calling for an investigation into the May 3 violence that sparked the stand-off.

From El Universal, May 5:

Television broadcasts showed officers repeatedly beating protesters, including some who already had been taken into custody.

The National Human Rights Commission [a government body] said it is investigating the beatings.

“The regrettable, violent acts perpetrated by a small group yesterday in the State of Mexico are an outrage against society and an attack on the rule of law,” President Vicente Fox said Thursday [evidently talking about the protesters, not the police]. “No cause justifies breaking the law.”

Fox pledged to “guarantee the rule of law,” though earlier, violent demonstrations by the same group of townspeople here have largely gone unpunished.

Authorities detained 117 people, including key community leader Ignacio del Valle, said Humberto Benitez, secretary-general of the State of Mexico, which borders Mexico City on three sides.

Del Valle and a fellow resident of San Salvador Atenco were charged with the February kidnapping of a state official, said Carlos Motta, spokesman for the State of Mexico Superior Court. Motta said del Valle was likely to face charges related to Wednesday’s violence as well, although no specific charges had been presented yet.

Shortly before midnight Wednesday, radical community leaders called Red Cross officials to a small clinic near the center of town and released the six state and federal police officers they had seized hours earlier.

Organizers said it was a gesture of good will since all of the former hostages were injured – having been beaten and some sliced with machetes.

More from El Universal, May 6:

Public Security Secretary Eduardo Medina, the nation’s top police official, admitted Friday that excessive force had been used in putting down the riots on Wednesday. “Obviously, when force is used in the heat of these circumstances, there are sometimes excesses that cannot be avoided,” he said.

But Medina said the use of force was necessary, with the local rioting out of control and a number of local police officers having been held hostage.

All sources via Chiapas95

More reports and images at Radio Sabotaje.

Photos are also online at Indybay, which reports that the Atenco prisoners have gone on hunger strike, and many prisoners in Mexico state have joined them in solidarityÔÇöbringing a total of nearly 220 strikers.

See our last post on the escalation in Mexico.

  1. “Red alert” from Chiapas
    We have received the following communique from Lt. Col. Moises, who has been left in military command of the EZLN in Chiapas as many of the comandantes are on the “Other Campaign” national tour:

    RED ALERT

    ZAPATISTA NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY

    Comrades of the world.

    Your comrade in the Struggle, Insurgente Lieutenant Colonel Mois├ęs speaks to you.

    Today we entered Red Alert.

    Our comrades from Texcoco near San Salvador Atenco, in DF were attacked. This is where our comrade Insurgent Subcomandante Marcos has recently been.

    We are calling on a national and International mobilization, to happen on May 4th at 8 in the morning at the Mexican embassies against the government of Fox.

    Be alert to further news.

    SUMMARY

    -The Zapatista National Liberation Army is on Red Alert as of 8AM May 4, 2006.
    -In the same way all the activities of the Other Campaign from 8 A.M
    May 4, 2006 are suspended.
    -The Other Campaign has transferred to San Salvador Atenco.

    From the Center for Free Press D.F.

    May 3, 2006, Ciudad Mexico.

    Today at 17:55 p.m. local time during a meeting in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, Insurgent Subcomandante Marcos of the EZLN sent a red alert that she will in effect as of 8 AM May 4, 2006. All the Caracoles and the Zapatista Juntas de Buen Gobierno will be closed. He indicated that his substitute in the chain of command of the EZLN has been designated in case something happens to him.

    Also at of the same time all the activities of the Other Campaign, an initiative of the EZLN that from the 1st of January of 2006 that has made it way across the country on the First National Tour to Listen and to Organize, are suspended.

    This as a result of the violent and bloody acts of repression today starting at 7 in the morning on the part of the state and federal governments of Mexico against a group of flower vendors, members of the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra, supporters to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona jungle and to the Other Campaign, known world-wide by the resistance that opposed the expropriation of their land and the construction on it of an airport.

    The EZLN calls to all the participants of the Other Campaign to mobilize against these acts of repression and in solidarity with the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra and the community of San Salvador Atenco. They call on all supporters to coordinate actions in their region and sector.

    The repression occurred today against a group of flower vendors in the municipal palace of the Texcoco. The municipal president was against them using that location because there are plans to build a Walmart store there, to which the people in the area are opposed.

    Nevertheless the previous day the same municipal president had given authorization to sell flowers there.

    This time of year many flowers are sold, to celebrate the day of Holy Cross, Mothers Day and Teacher Day, which represents a strong and almost unique income throughout the year for these vendors of flowers that usually depend on a limited rural economy.

    The repression escalated when the vendor’s comrades, of the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra (FPDT) came to [their] support by blocking the highway. After which the Federal Preventive Police and the State Police have been repressing them all afternoon.

    […]

    This and other acts of repression against the Other Campaign were made while the tour of Insurgent Subcomandante Marcos, Zero Delegate of the EZLN, had massive receptions in different areas in the city of Mexico and the metropolitan area.

    DECLARATION and DEMANDS

    San Crist├│bal de las Casas
    May 4, 2006.

    STOP The REPRESSION IN San Salvador ATENCO!
    DECLARATIONS OF THE OTHER CAMPAIGN IN CHIAPAS

    The members of the Other Campaign in Chiapas denounce the violent actions of the state and federal governments that took place yesterday against the town of San Salvador Atenco, and of which has caused confrontations and injuries, detentions and death. What has happened today is a consequence of systematic aggressions against the resistance of the town of San Salvador Atenco, at least from the attempt on the part of the federal government, to impose the international airport in 2002.

    We see how these violent answers on the part of the bad government are systematic against the pueblos when we want to exert our right to decide and subsist. What happens in Atenco is not new, we see it in:
    Pasta de Conchos, L├ízaro C├írdenas, La Parota, the ecological farmers of the mountain range of la Sierra de Petatl├ín, the Autonomous Municipality of Xochistlauaca, the Zapatistas’ autonomous governments, the town of San Blas, in Oaxaca, among others.

    Far from listening and meeting the demands of the people, the politicians resort once again to the use of public law enforcement officials to impose their own interests. This is not the democracy that we want and that those from above proclaim and presume that we have.

    The repression against the town of San Salvador Atenco is the repression against the towns of Mexico, its struggle is our struggle, the struggle of the Other Campaign

    WE DEMAND:

    -That the aggressions against the town of San Salvador Atenco stop,
    -The immediate liberation of those detained and the total withdrawal of public law enforcement officials that are invading territories of our comrades.
    -We demand that the corporative mass media stop manipulating us with their strategy of disinformation that only emits value judgments and should respect our right to contextualized and truthful information.
    -We call on civil, national and international society, to express our solidarity with the town of San Salvador Atenco and to express our disgust by the repression, with civil actions and pacific.

    LET US CONTINUE FIGHTING FOR ANOTHER WAY OF MAKING POLITICS! THE OTHER CAMPAIGN CONTINUES!

    THE MEMBERS OF THE OTHER CAMPAIGN OF CHIAPAS.
    SUPPORTING CIVIL SOCIETY

    Online at NYC Indymedia

  2. More details…
    In this account from the NGO SIPAZ (via Chiapas95):

    EZLN DECLARES RED ALERT AS RESULT OF THE REPRESSION IN ATENCO

    On 26 April the caravan of the Other Campaign passed through San Salvador Atenco for a meeting with the members of the People’s Front in Defense of the Land (Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra). They are adherents to the Other Campaign. The struggle of the population of Atenco is well-known at a worldwide level since 2002 due to their resistance towards the expropriation of their lands in order to construct an airport on them.

    On Wednesday May 3, 2006, at 7 am, state and municipal police forces evicted the florists from the market place of Belisario Dominguez in San Salvador Atenco, which provoked a serious confrontation because of the resistance of the latter.

    At 8 am, about 150 inhabitants of Atenco blocked the road between Lecheria and Texcoco. At about 2 pm a contingence of 500 police from the Federal Preventive Policeforce (PFP) set out against the demonstrators.

    The confrontations continued during the entire afternoon. The inhabitants of San Salvador Atenco detained some twelve police. At 5 pm the conflict intensified when 500 police detained a group of 31 florists.

    On Thursday May 4, at 6.45 am, several thousand police of the Federal Preventive Policeforce (PFP) and the State Police entered the center of San Salvador Atenco using tear-gas.

    Even though there is not yet a definitive evaluation of the outcomes of the conflict, there are already more than a hundred of detainees, dozens of wounded and at least one person has been killed (a 14-year-old boy from Acuexcomac).

    As a result of the incidents in Atenco, yesterday in the evening (4 May 2006) the Delegate Zero (the sub-commander Marcos), announced from a platform at a public event at the Tlatelolco square (Mexico City), a General Red Alert and called for the members of the Other Campaign to carry out urgent civil and pacific actions, inside and outside of Mexico in order to demand the immediate release of the detainees and the total withdrawal of the public forces from Atenco. In Chiapas the Caracoles and the Autonomous Municipalities where closed. The Delegate Zero suspended all the activities of the Other Campaign.

    Communique of the EZLN

    Compa├▒eros and compa├▒eras,

    A few moments ago we were watching and listening to the media and the manipulation of what was happening, the informational manipulation about what was occurring [in Atenco]. We listened to the commentators on Television Azteca imploring that law be restored, that the military enter to restore order and end what was taking place there. We also listened to the indignation of the viewers who sent letters to the station stating that the commentators pleading for greater public force were idiots.

    Years ago here, in the Plaza of Three Cultures [Tlatelolco] there was a massacre and in response this the government claimed that the army had been attacked. And much time passed until someone asked what the army had been doing at a student meeting in the first place. And now over those same means of communication, including radio, it does not occur to reporters to ask what the public forces were doing in San Salvador Atenco. And they what they were doing there was enforcing this alliance that was made between the PRD and the PRI in order to oust a few flower vendors because the municipal president of Texcoco thinks they deface the city; because he wants to put a shopping center there, a Wal-Mart in Texcoco and the small merchants bother him and because the PRD aligned there with the PRI at the state level and with the PAN at the national level, and now they will have to be accountable for this death.

    As the 6th Commission of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, signatory to the Other Campaign, we are asking, soliciting respectfully the regional and sub-regional coordinators throughout the entire country to execute actions and mobilizations in support of the Frente de Los Pueblos en Defensa de La Tierra [Salvador Atenco] beginning at 8:00 am, eight in the morning tomorrow, the fourth of May, 2006.

    As the Sixth Commission we are declaring a red alert. The troops of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation have already been declared under red alert and from that point onwards the Caracoles and Autonomous Zapatista Rebel Municipalities will be closed. Beginning at that moment, from that moment on, the new chain of command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation will be in place. Whatever may happen to me, there is now someone else in place to make decisions. We don’t know about everyone else, but today, we, the Zapatistas, are Atenco!

    We are going to be attentive to their demands. We call for the holding of meetings by sector, by region, as you all see fit. As the Sixth Commission we are canceling all of our participation in programmed activities and we are waiting for the cue from the Frente de Los Pueblos en Defensa de La Tierra. If it needs our presence there, we will go there. If not, we will participate directly in the actions that you all program tomorrow beginning at 8:00 am, eight in the morning.

    Close the highways, close the streets, fly, paint, whatever occurs to you, in a civil and peaceful manner. Atenco cannot be left all to itself. We will not cease these actions and this situation until the companeros of the Frente de Los Pueblos en Defensa de La Tierra indicate so to us.

    We are not taking in account any information that is not coming from them. For us they, who are part of the Frente de Los Pueblos en Defensa de La Tierra, are the Other Campaign in this region. We respect their decisions. We go as far as they tell us to go. They have been clear in their demands: immediate liberation of prisoners and the total withdrawal of the police forces who are invating their land.

    This is our message compa´┐Żeros y compa´┐Żeras. It is not only for the Other Campaign Mexico City. Our message is for the Other Campaign in the whole county. From Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Yucat´┐Żn, Campeche, till Baja California, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Le´┐Żn. From the north to the south, form the east to the west, the other campaign resounds what is happening in Atenco and that there will be justice for those who were killed. Thanks compa├▒eros, thanks compa├▒eras.

  3. And more…
    This account from Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 7:

    MEXICO: NEW REBELLION IN ATENCO

    A dispute over street vending rights on May 3 in Texcoco, some 30 km northeast of Mexico City in Mexico state, quickly escalated into a major confrontation in which one person was shot dead, dozens of protesters and police agents were injured and about 200 leaders and members of a local campesino group were arrested. It was the second major onfrontation in Mexico in less than a month; a massive assault by federal and state police on a steel plant in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, left two striking steelworkers dead on April 20 (see our last report).

    In the morning of May 3 municipal police agents tried to remove flower sellers and other street vendors from the Belisario Dominguez market in downtown Texcoco. The vendors were members of the Front of the Peoples United in Defense of the Land (FPDT), a ampesino organization based in nearby San Salvador Atenco municipality that grew out of a successful, very militant struggle in 2001 and 2002 against plans to build a new international airport for Mexico City on local farmland.

    After resisting the police, dozens of vendors, including women and children, barricaded themselves inside a house on Morelos street near the market and threatened that they would defend their rights “even with blood.” Some 300 Texcoco municipal and Mexico state police took up positions around the house. Meanwhile, Atenco residents blocked the Mexico City-Texcoco and Texcoco-Lecheria highways to support the vendors, and seized two police agents from Ecatepec municipality as they tried to drive by. Campesinos used molotov cocktails, stones, bottles and machetes to resist as a growing number of state and federal police tried repeatedly to clear the highways with tear-gas grenades and to enter Atenco.

    In the evening of May 3, some 500 state police agents stormed the house occupied by the vendors in Texcoco and arrested FPDT leader Ignacio del Valle. By the end of the day, the police had arrested 31 FPDT members, but the residents remained in control of Atenco and had captured another 13 police agents, 12 of them held in the town’s Emiliano Zapata auditorium. A 14-year-old Atenco resident, Francisco Javier Cortes Santiago, was killed in the fighting. Police sources initially said he had died from injuries from a tear-gas grenade or a bomb, but on May 5 the Mexico state attorney general’s office acknowledged the youth was killed by a .38 caliber bullet of the type used by the state police.

    In the early morning of May 4 a force of some 3,000 state and federal police agents swept into Atenco. Using large amounts of tear gas, they easily broke the resistance of the 400 activists holding the center of the town. About 200 FPDT members were in detention by the end of the operation, including the 31 from the day before. Many detainees reported that they were beaten and threatened with death, and that some women prisoners were subjected to sexual abuse.

    On May 5 “Sub-Commander Marcos” of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) led a march of support for the FPDT from Chapingo University near Texcoco through Texcoco and into Atenco. Starting with about 1,500 protesters, the march swelled to some 4,000 participants chanting “We are all Atenco” and other slogans as they entered the town.

    Marcos was already nearby in Mexico City to attend traditional May 1 celebrations as part of “The Other Campaign,” the EZLN’s effort to build Mexico’s grassroots left through a nationwide six-month tour campaigning against the country’s three main partiesÔÇöthe centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD)ÔÇöas July 2 presidential and congressional elections approach. At the May 5 march Marcos announced the EZLN delegates would suspend their tour and stay in Mexico City to work for the release of the imprisoned members of the FPDT, which supports The Other Campaign. Marcos used the occasion for another attack on the main three parties, noting that Texcoco’s mayor is from the PRD, Mexico governor Enrique Pena Nieto is from the PRI and federal president Vicente Fox Quesada is from the PAN. “Three idiots add up to one criminal,” he told reporters. (La Jornada, May 4, 5, 6, 7)

  4. Reports of atrocities, “disappeared”
    Bertha Rodriguez Santos writes for Narco News May 6:

    SAN SALVADOR ATENCO: Around 400 arrested – of which the authorities have only recognized 109, and which include three injured – 18 people disappeared and five women raped. These new figures must be added to the hundreds of injured and one boy murdered as a result of the brutal repression against the flower vendors of Texcoco and peasant farmers of San Salvador Atenco, perpetrated by municipal, state and federal police from May 3 onward. Political prisoner Gloria Arenas Aji’s relayed these numbers from her tiny cell in Santiaguito prison (where most of those arrested were taken) to be read to thousands of demonstrators marching in solidarity with the people of Atenco and Texcoco.

    Meanwhile, Milenio reports May 7 that three Mexico state police have been jailed by state authorities for their role in the Atenco violence.