The Schools for Chiapas team in San Cristóbal de Las Casas was present at a solidarity event for political prisoners in Paliacate Cultural Center on Wednesday, November 27th. The event was organized by Frayba and No Estamos Todxs as part of their ongoing campaign in support of the prisoners (see our blog https://schoolsforchiapas.org/call-for-solidarity-letters-for-freedom-of-political-prisoners-in-chiapas/).
The event was well attended, taking into account the current climate of insecurity in San Cristóbal. Participants were asked to write letters of solidarity to the prisoners, which is an effective way of showing solidarity with them, as they can often feel isolated in the prison conditions which they have to endure. Handmade bags produced by one of the prisoners, Manuel Gómez Vásquez, were on sale as a way of offering material support. It should be remembered that prisoners have to ”pay their way” when incarcerated in Mexico and their families also suffer due to the loss of an important, often the main, source of income.
Schools for Chiapas wrote letters of solidarity and purchased some of the handcrafts which will be on sale on sale at Sendas, the cultural center and solidarity shop which we form part of. We will continue to support the prisoners and keep you informed of progress on their cases.
Bags made by political prisoner Miguel Gómez Vazquez
Manuel Gomez Vazquez, a 22-year-old indigenous Tseltal Zapatista Support Base from Ricardo Flores Magon Rebel Autonomous Municipality, was detained by an armed civilian group following a series of violent events near Ocosingo that resulted in four deaths on December 4th and 5th, 2020. Subjected to humiliation and torture, he was accused of homicide. According to Frayba, ‘‘the Indigenous Justice Prosecutor’s Office did not carry out a diligent and scientific investigation, accusing Manuel of homicide, who at the time of the events was at home with his family.” Manuel is being criminalized for being what he is, an EZLN Support Base. He is accused him of a crime that he did not commit. Not only has he been imprisoned for being indigenous and poor, but for being a Zapatista. Now almost three years in prison, his trial has been postponed on a number of occasions due to the prosecution team’s inability to produce witnesses.
José Díaz Gómez, an indigenous Chol, is a Zapatista Support Base who was arbitrarily arrested with excessive use of force, beaten, tortured, subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and held incommunicado. He was falsely accused of violent robbery and has been imprisoned for almost eleven months. Arrest warrants have been issued for four other Zapatista Support Bases on the same charges, part of the ongoing ”low-scale” war against the Zapatistas.
The San Juan Cancuc Five – Manuel Santiz Cruz, Agustín Pérez Domínguez, Juan Velasco Aguilar, Martín Pérez Domínguez and Agustín Pérez Velasco, have been incarcerated since May 2022. They are five indigenous Tseltals who had been resisting the imposition of road infrastructure projects and the militarization of their territory. Fifteen months after their arrest, on August 22nd of this year, they were convicted on trumped up charges of homicide and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. Although the sentence was overturned six days later, the Cancuc Five remain in prison while they await retrial.
What can you do?
You can show your solidarity by writing to the prisoners. Frayba has issued the following guidelines:
-Name. Use a pseudonym to safeguard your identity, otherwise you are free to give your real name, or the name of your team or organization.
-The content of the letters depends on who the interlocutor is, in a first letter it is important that you introduce yourselves.
-It is also essential to tell you a little about who you are.
-Use clear handwriting as much as possible, keep your letter brief and simple.
-Inform yourself as much as possible about who the imprisoned person is to correspond with.
-Do not make promises, nor use romantic overtones, the latter is especially cruel, since they are people who are in a vulnerable situation.
-The most important thing is to show empathy and solidarity; prisoners suffer from isolation consciously caused by the State, which can destroy them on many levels.
Send your letters to the email: email@example.com
Original article by Schools for Chiapas.