from @copycopeland and Voices in Movement from Court House News and Wessex Solidarity. via thefreeonline
Indigenous Mazatec Political Prisoners from Oaxaca Demand Freedom!
To our families and residents of our hometown, Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Sierra Mazateca, Oaxaca, Mexico:
Argelia Betanzos leads a march of around 300 supporters in Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca, on Nov. 21, 2022. Her father Jaime has been a political prisoner since December 2014. (Cody Copeland/Courthouse News)
To our sisters and brothers in the struggle in Mexico and the world:
People of the world:
To the media:
We are Mazatec prisoners Jaime Betanzos, Herminio Monfil, Fernando Gavito, Alfredo Bolaños, Omar Hugo Morales, Isaías Gallardo and Francisco Durán.
Five of us have been imprisoned for eight years without trial or sentence, and two of us for four years in the same circumstances.
Some of us were released in March 2019, but at the door of the prison we were arrested again based on false accusations.
We did not enjoy a single minute of freedom. 15 more comrades have been forcibly displacement because arrest warrants were issued on the same false accusations, among them, Miguel Peralta Betanzos.
We are still locked up, even though it has been proven that the crimes are based on fabricated evidence.
As Mazatecos wanting self-determination for our people, we do not understand why the government of Oaxaca wants to keep us locked up.
We have had more than 13 favorable rulings in court and more than 20 decisions ordering the release of other comrades. Since December 2018, the federal government has recognized we are unjustly imprisoned people and political prisoners.
Women, mothers, comrades, daughters, sisters and people in solidarity have tirelessly demanded our freedom, but have faced discrimination and racism.
For this reason, we want to strengthen our demands.
We have agreed to continue organizing as a collective, because enough is enough! It has been too long!! We should be free by now!
Our freedom, and that of every person, is precious. We will always defend freedom and would not trade it even for all the gold in the world.
We have decided to name our struggle: “Tjí’nde-najin Kjoabijnandií-najin”, a Mazatec expression that means: “We have the right to freedom”.
As a collective, we have agreed to join the struggle for freedom with the “International Coordinating Committee for Solidarity and for the Freedom of Revolutionary Political Prisoners of The World, Oaxaca”, because we are not alone.
In has been 100 years since our brother, Mazatec anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón, was assassinated in prison and we say: Enough!
No one should be in prison for thinking differently! No one should die in prison! Down with the prisons walls!”
We are once again calling for worldwide solidarity, and to those who have already offered it to us, it would be an honor to have your continued support.
We invite you to join us in our demands. If we are standing, it is because you have supported us in solidarity from the outside. We thank you for your faith and your sensitivity in recognizing that we are innocent.
Sincerely, from the prisons Villa de Etla, Taniveth and Cuicatlán, in Oaxaca, Mexico:
Collective: “Tjí’nde-najin Kjoabijnandií-najin” “We have the right to freedom”.
Jaime Betanzos,Fernando Gavito, Alfredo Bolaños, Omar Hugo Morales, Herminio Monfil, Isaías Gallardo, Francisco Durán
Important: We invite you to share and spread the word about this communiqué, as well as to translate it into all the languages you know.
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100 years after death of Mexican Revolution hero, political prisoners begin hunger strike
President López Obrador named 2022 the Year of Ricardo Flores Magón, but has done nothing to help residents of the revolutionary’s hometown who have been locked up for eight years on what they say are unfounded charges.
Cody Copeland / November 22, 2022
ELOXOCHITLÁN DE FLORES MAGÓN, Mexico (CN) — Schoolbooks in Mexico say little, if anything, about Ricardo Flores Magón. His anarchist ideology was unpalatable to a state trying to consolidate power after the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution. Picturesque roughriders like Emiliano Zapata and Francisco Villa made for more patriotic role models.
Instead, children in the Mazatec community of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca, where the journalist, activist and unsung revolutionary hero was born, learn about him through oral tradition.
“My father taught us about Ricardo Flores Magón,” said Argelia Betanzos, 42, who is now using those history lessons to guide her struggle for her own father’s freedom.
Jaime Betanzos, 69, was arrested in December 2014 after a fray between community leaders and a group supporting the Morena party, now the dominant party in Mexico’s national politics, left two people dead and others injured. He and six others were charged with homicide and attempted homicide, but supporters say the charges were fabricated and the imprisonment is due to their opposition to the regional Morena leadership.
“I don’t have the words to describe what it means to be calling for the freedom of political prisoners during the 100th anniversary of Flores Magón’s death,” said Argelia Betanzos, who led a march for the cause in Eloxochitlán on Monday.
The 300-person protest wrapped up a weekend of arts, music, hikes and other activities of solidarity. Attendees included supporters from elsewhere in Mexico whose family members have also been imprisoned unjustly or politically.
“I empathize with the pain of my Mazatec partners because I’ve lived the same experience,” said Teresa Santiago, whose three brothers were convicted of a crime they say they did not commit in México state a decade and a half ago. She came representing the unjustly imprisoned activist organization Haz Valer Mi Libertad (Assert My Freedom).
“Being here helps us to come together as organizations so that we can be united. Like we’ve always said: only united will we be able to overcome the injustices of the state,” said Santiago.
Following the march, organizers presented a letter from the political prisoners addressed to Oaxaca’s governor-elect Salomón Jara Cruz, a former member of the Party of the Democratic Revolution who now flies the Morena Flag.
In the letter, Jaime Betanzos and the other prisoners announced they began a hunger strike on Monday “so that the death of Ricardo [Flores Magón] revives in life and freedom for us.” They plan to continue the hunger strike until Jara Cruz agrees to sit down and speak with them and their families.
Although the legal limit to mandatory pretrial detention in Mexico is two years, they have spent the last four to eight years in prison on remand without being convicted of any crime. Critics have accused President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of using mandatory pretrial detention as a tool for political intimidation.
“We see this as a strategy of repression, because those who are imprisoned are those who have opposed the Morena leadership and participated in the community assembly of Eloxochitlán,” said lawyer Daniel Sosa, who represents six of the political prisoners.
A study of poverty rate data conducted and published this past April by the magazine Eje Central found that municipalities governed by Indigenous community assemblies saw the largest reductions in poverty from 2015 to 2020. Morena was at the helm of the municipalities with the least reduction or growth of poverty.
In 2018, Mexico’s Senate recognized the trumped-up nature of the charges against the Eloxochitlán prisoners, calling theirs a “case of selective criminalization, characterized by the prosecution of sociopolitical conflicts by means of fabricating serious crimes.”
Supreme Court Chief Justice Arturo Zaldívar pledged this past July to have the case reviewed by federal public defenders.
But despite the support of the legislative and judicial branches, the executive appears to be in no hurry to see Betanzos and the other political prisoners released. True to form, López Obrador seems more concerned with what the memory of Ricardo Flores Magón can do for optics of his party.
This past January, the president announced that 2022 would be the year of Ricardo Flores Magón, “Precursor to the Mexican Revolution.” On Monday, he held a ceremony in the National Palace in Mexico City to honor the revolutionary anarchist who died a political prisoner.
Imprisoned for distributing “subversive” material through the U.S. mail, Flores Magón died in a prison cell in Leavenworth, Kansas, on Nov. 21, 1922, the night before he was scheduled to be released. The official story imputes his death to a heart attack, but supporters say he was murdered by a prison guard.
Alongside descendants of Flores Magón, López Obrador Monday eulogized the revolutionary’s “loving intimacy, his practical judgment and his deep revolutionary convictions.”
The president’s admiration for Flores Magón’s convictions, however, has not led him to take action to help Betanzos and the others whose beliefs put them in a similar situation to that of their hometown hero.
Led by Argelia Betanzos, the prisoners’ supporters have made several attempts to open a dialogue with López Obrador and others in his administration, but to no avail. They have appealed to others in the federal government, including Human Rights Undersecretary Alejandro Encinas, but that petition led nowhere.
Federal deputies Susana Prieto Terrazas and Cecilia Márquez listened to their demands. The latter said she communicated their petition to Interior Secretary Adán Augusto López, but they have yet to hear from him.
“Encinas ended up closing his door on us completely,” said Argelia Betanzos, who saw López Obrador’s tribute to Flores Magón as mere lip service of a government that lacks coherence. “The government is only using the figure of Ricardo Flores Magón. It’s a misappropriation with electoral ends, just the use of his image, and has nothing to do with vindicating Ricardo, not even with an interest in promoting the story of his life and work.”
López Obrador, Encinas, Augusto López and the cited federal deputies did not respond to Courthouse News’ requests for comment.
While the federal government’s purported transformation of Mexico appears to be merely skin deep and its understanding of history as manipulative as that of its predecessors, Argelia Betanzos and her cohort will continue to draw upon the past to strive for a better, freer future.
“For us daughters and sisters of political prisoners, this action has become profoundly relevant because it’s like a personal reunion with Ricardo, not just symbolic,” she said. “He was a person who himself went through what we’re suffering now.”