Torture in Chiapas

From La Jornada, July 17, translation via Chiapas95:

Torture and harassment of political prisoners in El Amate prison denounced

by Hermann Bellinghausen

Civil organizations in Chiapas denounced the torture and harassment of “political prisoners” in the prison El Amate, in Cintalapa, on the initiative of the prison director, Armando Fabricio Maldonado Gomez, as well as physical aggressions against the relatives and friends of the prisoners constituting the group The Voice of El Amate and adhering to the Other Campaign.

The imprisoned torture victims are Aureliano Alvarez and Tiburcio Gomez, two Tzotziles originating from Huitiupan. The Voice of El Amate, an organization of 12 political prisoners adhering to the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona, denounced that at first “they were threatened with death and by now already on one occasion they ended up unconscious in the prison infirmary, because of the torture and the beating they received in the high security Center of Social Readaptation (CERESO) number 14”. Alvarez and Gomez were committed to prison on June 29, after spending 55 days in the penitentiary Quinta Pitiquitos, incomunicado and submitted to “verifiable maltreatments.”

Inside the prison they were continuingly threatened and tortured, in spite of the recommendations of the Human Rights Center Fray Bartolome’ de las Casas (CDHFBC), demanding the protection that the director was duty-bound to guarantee them. “The members of the Voice of El Amate, who are reclaiming their status as political prisoners and have maintained a long protest strike since January 1st of this year, were not indifferent to these facts and offered to help the companeros, who were in a very bad physical and psychological shape”, affirms the human rights organization. This act of solidary was met by the director and the prisoner structure at his service with threats, aggressions and harassment.

After six months on strike, the Voice of El Amate denounced “the repression and the tyranny of the prison director”, who utilized the “representatives” of the prison blocks to force their own inmates to sign, in order to have the political prisoners transferred to other prisons as “agitators”. They mentioned “the choleric character of the director, who ordered on July 13, the beating of our companero Julio Cesar Perez Ruiz.”

The CDHFBC likewise denounced, that on the same day Aureliano and Tiburcio were beaten “by other inmates (presumably by orders of the CERESO director), known as ‘Los Precisos’: Andre’s Balcaser, alias ‘El Cachorro’ and Filadelfo Gonza’lez, ‘El Cochero’ “. On July 14, the CDHFBC attempted to visit El Amate, but by orders of Maldonado they were not allowed to pass beyond the visitor rooms. “Aureliano and Tiburcio, with breathing difficulties and physical pain in the waist, chest and back, repeated insistently that they were being threatened. For the entire length of the visit we were in the presence of three ‘estafetas’ (prisoners, escorting the inmates from the prison interior to the visiting rooms) with an intimidating attitude.”

The prisoners denounced that on Thursday, July 13, for the second occasion, “they hit us in the chest, they pulled bags over our heads, submerged us in a pool with water, they beat us worse than the first time.” This was carried out by at least 10 persons. In consequence they had to spend the entire night in the infirmary. Aureliano and Tiburcio affirmed that the ‘Los Precisos’ had threatened to beat them up again, when they returned to the general living block this Sunday.

Everything began in May

Since July 5, according to the CDHFBC, the indigenas have been beaten “with excessive brutality by other inmates, who submerged them in the drainage ditch and threw chlorine all over their body, causing them burns. In addition they robbed their money and properties, because they didn’t pay the 250 thousand pesos demanded from each of them, in order to not be beaten, being allowed to speak with their families, being given a place to sleep and avoid scrubbing the baths. Their family members took note of the burns and contusions, and informed, that the prisoners were threatened “with being beaten to death, if they didn’t pay.”

The aggressions and tortures suffered by Aureliano and Tiburcio inside the confinement center increased after the CDHFBC intervened before the General State Coordinator of the CERESO, Eduardo Coutino Remy, and Roger Grajales Gonzalez, Secretary of Government of Chiapas.

The CDHFBC has followed the case since May. “Aureliano Alvarez Gomez was arbitrarily detained on the 5th of May, without an arrest warrant or notification of the motive. On May 7, Juan Alvarez Juarez, Aureliano’s father, and his daughters, Alberta and Seferina, were approached under pretence by elements of the State Police and brought to Tuxtla Gutierrez. They were told, that their relative was accused of having participated in the kidnapping of the father of the municipal president of Huitiupan, Maximiliano Gonzalez Perez, and that the legal situation of Aureliano would be explained to them in Tuxtla”. Alberta, Seferina and Aureliano were detained by means of an order emitted by the judge of the criminal appeal court of the judicial district of Tuxtla Gutierrez, allowing only Don Juan Alvarez to go free, who was threatened to be imprisoned again “if he did anything.”

Alberta and Zeferina Alvarez Gomez were detained for 10 and 12 days respectively, “in inappropriate conditions and without the medical attention they required, since Alberta was on a restricted diet following a kidney donation, and Zeferina in the breastfeeding period after shortly having given birth.”

Aureliano and Tiburcio were detained for almost two months, without a definition of their legal situation on part of the ministerial authority. “The legal form of the detention has been indicated as unconstitutional by the National Supreme Court of Justice”, according to the defenders. Aureliano refers to having been tortured during detention, and forced to sign a self-incriminating declaration. “According to the testimonies of Aureliano, Tiburcio, Alberta and Zeferina, the interrogations were aiming to obtain information about the structure of the EZLN and the location of Zapatista enclaves in Huitiupan”, the CDHFBC points out.

See our last posts on Mexico, Chiapas, Mexico’s political prisoners and the Other Campaign.

  1. More details…
    From EFE, July 22:

    Two jailed indigenous activists in the southern state of Chiapas have been tortured by police and other inmates, according to human rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI).

    London-based AI said in a statement that Aureliano Alvarez and Tiburcio Gomez, jailed at El Amate state prison in the town of Cintalapa, have been mistreated by other inmates “reportedly with the consent of the prison authorities.”

    “Amnesty International is concerned for their safety and that of other inmates who are holding a protest in the prison,” the document said.

    The humanitarian organization said Alvarez and Gomez, both indigenous Tzotzil, were taken into custody last June 29 to await trial for kidnapping and were kept in jail for two months while prosecutors carried out preliminary investigations into the case.

    “During this time they were reportedly tortured and ill-treated by judicial police in order to extract information and a confession,” AI said.

    Since arriving at the El Amate penitentiary, Alvarez and Gomez “have been beaten on several occasions by a gang of other inmates, they have been held underwater in a drainage tank, and had plastic bags placed over their heads and chlorine thrown on their bodies to cause burns,” according to AI.

    The mistreatment suffered by both was revealed by a small group of convicts known as The Voice of El Amate who consider themselves political prisoners.

    Inmates in this group said they are in jail for supporting the Zapatistas, an erstwhile rebel group that has abandoned armed struggle for political and social activism.

    Several human-rights organizations have visited Alvarez and Gomez in prison and have asked for the competent authorities to take note of the case, according to Amnesty International.

    In a related development, the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights
    Center reported Friday that one of its activists, Manuel Gomez, on Monday received a threat over the phone from an unknown person who said he was the ruling authority in the Chiapas town of Zinacantan.