Editor’s note: Luis Fernando Sotelo was arrested in Mexico City in November 2014 after a protest for the disappeared students of Ayotzinapa. During the demonstration, a Metrobús station and a Metrobús (a rapid transit bus service) were burned. After nearly two years of proceedings, he was sentenced to 33 years in prison in September 2016. Following an appeal, he was resentenced to 13 years. He has since been resentenced again, as he explains below.
To those who resist the strategies and apparatuses of capitalist power.
To the compañeras of the world who rebel and refuse to accept forms of domination.
Turning my attention to the reciprocity that I believe is the foundation of true revolutionary solidarity, I wish to share a chapter of my life, reflecting even behind the prison bars, here in front of the desks of the judicial system, the arm of the state, where the defense of freedom and justice becomes a monetary exchange.
So I’ll tell you: Here, around midday, without taking me by surprise, I heard the messenger (also a prisoner and in charge of delivering the permits to go see the judges). He shouted my name and I knew then that I would be receiving news from the Fourth Criminal Court, that they had issued a new sentence. I was given the news in the dock of the 32nd Court. I suppose the one who read me the ruling – he didn’t identify himself – was a secretary. I only saw him.
The sentence was modified, eliminating the conviction for the crime of property damage, only one of the many legal bastions in the corporations’ circus of privileges. Only about nine years were taken off. They rubbed it in by requesting more than eight million pesos [$418,500 USD], in order to leave today – “if I want to” – and spend 20 months in treatment.
Now my sentence says I am “criminally responsible for the crimes of attacks on the public peace and aggravated attacks on public transit” and I am “sentenced to four years, eight months and seven days in prison and a fine of $71,865.72 Mexican pesos.” I am ordered “to pay compensation for material damages” and I am “granted Treatment in Freedom as a substitute for prison; as well as the benefit of CONDITIONAL SUSPENSION OF THE SENTENCE, following compensation for the damages” (which I understand to be eight million pesos) “and a guarantee of $20,000 pesos.”
Why, if the prison sentence has decreased by eight years, four months and eight days (from 13 years and 15 days to four years, eight months and seven days), is the payment for damages so ridiculously excessive?
It is the technical language, or not, of the shameless predominant logic. To minimize the human dimension of the situation. If the damages to the metrobus are rejected and are not “judged/punished” twice (for property damage and attacks on the public peace), then social protest can’t be defined within a criminal framework.
It’s true from my perspective that “all revolutions have known their excesses, it would be useless to deny it, but that does not mean that we have to give up on revolution out of fear of the excesses it produces,” “nor do we have to happily take part in them.”
What I am getting at is that if the logic of capitalist power is to criminalize social protest, intensifying repression against those of us who take to the streets, and that logic finds representation first in tortuous legal processes then in absurd sentences, that’s because it is a logic with a political, not social, basis.
The days we are currently living in are ones for revolutionary proposals.
Today, from a place of horizontalism and belonging, like any other animal species, to the ecosystem, one can propose that neither our civilization nor its works would survive the destruction of nature itself. One cannot continue thinking that the accumulation of money serves a common good. It terrorizes us with bullets, femicides or cages, not to mention the thousands of forms of structural violence attuned to capitalist power.
The same guy who read me the court ruling today told me, “Well, tell your compañeros to gather a collection…so that you can pay.” Which I felt was a joke and it made me laugh upon immediately understanding that he hadn’t the slightest idea that the world is being changed by times that, step by step, are bringing revolutionary proposals into discussion and creation.
Above all, I laughed because there was never any thought of paying for that which was burned in hate, works that represent exploitation, disdain, repression and displacement.
Legally, I desire conflict against the institutions that defend and represent capitalism. Not because there exists a decent person who can take a position within that same power in order to benefit me, but because that is what, since my arrest, I’ve done to make injustice visible. In doing so, I understand why it is that I am still a prisoner and why I will remain one.
It’s a difficult and complicated path, marked by violence against my freedom and that of those who accompany me.
Greetings to them and as the story goes, more or less, “When the dogs bark, it’s because we’re moving forward.”
Friday, December 8, 2017