Filed under: Indigenous, Political Prisoners, Repression, Southern Mexico
Report back on recent actions in Oaxaca in solidarity with the Indigenous Mazateco political prisoners of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón
On Friday March 19th, family members and friends of the seven remaining Indigenous Mazateco political prisoners of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca, carried out a series of actions in the central valley of Oaxaca demanding freedom for their prisoners and an end to the political repression against members of the community assembly. Over six years have passed since the majority of the prisoners were detained, and they remain in prison without a guilty verdict or a sentence. Various other members of the community accused of the same charges beneath the same (lack of) evidence have already been released. The state has shown an unwillingness to recognize this lack of evidence and free the rest of the prisoners, continually delaying the advancement of their cases in the courts in order to maintain the compañeros in prison—a clear indication of the political nature of their imprisonment.
On the morning of Friday March 19th, a press conference was held in the central plaza of Oaxaca City, where the legal team provided information on the development of the legal cases, and the evident political corruption maintaining the compañeros in prison. Ex-prisoners from the community were also present, sharing their experiences behind bars and expressing their solidarity with those who remain imprisoned. Banners were hung and shouts were heard demanding freedom for the prisoners and an end to the state repression against the self-determined organizational forms of the Indigenous Mazateco community.
Afterwards, the group traveled to Ciudad Judicial, a complex of courts and judicial authorities in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca. There they blocked the main entrance to the facilities and shut down business for a few hours, demanding action be taken by the courts to release the prisoners. Various family members gave testimonies in their native language, Mazateco, of their experiences accompanying their imprisoned loved ones, and facing state repression as Indigenous people. The actions were led by Indigenous women: daughters, partners, and other family members of the imprisoned compañeros.
The arrests in Eloxochitlan de Flores Magón stem from a violent conflict which took place in December of 2014 in the municipality, when community members came together in an assembly to elect their municipal authorities. The community assembly was attacked by another faction of the community which has historically been backed by political party interests, with the intention of breaking the organization of the community assembly, and installing local leaders and organizational forms more conducive to state power and state control.
Since the attack, one of the supposed victims, Elisa Zepeda Lagunas, has scaled the apparatus of political power, first becoming municipal president in Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, and afterwards becoming congresswoman in the state of Oaxaca for the MORENA party. Currently, she is up for reelection as state congresswoman. Elisa Zepeda Lagunas has continually employed her political power, using her political party and governmental connections to influence the courts and maintain the compañeros in prison, all the while seeking to expand prison society through legislation in the state of Oaxaca.
During the actions, family and community members promised to return with more force if action isn’t taken promptly in the courts to free the political prisoners. With the covid-19 pandemic, the urgency is greater than ever, as various prisoners from Eloxochitlán have already contracted the illness, and all of them remain at ongoing risk inside the different prisons in the state of Oaxaca.
Statement from the Legal Defense:
On December 14th, 2014, our compañeros Omar Hugo Morales Alvarez, Herminio Monfil Avendaño, Fernando Gavito Martinez, Jaime Betanzos Fuentes and Alfredo Bolaños Pacheco were detained illegally in violation of their human and civil rights. Various crimes were fabricated against them, accused of aggravated homicide against Manuel Zepeda Lagunas, as well as attempted homicide against Elisa Zepeda Lagunas (current congresswoman for the MORENA party). With these accusations, the legal file 02/2015 was constructed in the District Court of Huautla de Jimenez, Oaxaca. Following a lengthy legal process, and after various years of tireless struggle of the family members, political prisoners and legal defense, the majority of the prisoners have been exonerated of the crime of aggravated homicide. It has been clearly demonstrated that this is a false and fabricated accusation.
In 2018, the compañeros Isaias Gallardo Alvarez and Francisco Duran Ortiz were detained. Against Isaias they fabricated the crime of aggravated homicide for the death of Gustavo Estrada Andrade in the legal file 55/2014 in the District Court of Huautla de Jimenez, Oaxaca. They accused the second compañero, Francisco Duran Ortiz, of having committed aggravated homicide against Manuel Zepeda Lagunas, as well as attempted homicide against Elisa Zepeda Lagunas.
In 2015, a federal authority in the first district court of the thirteenth circuit—an auxiliary court of Xalapa, Veracruz—ruled on the appeal, 311/ 2015, that there exists no evidence which proves the responsibility of the persons accused in the legal file 02/2015. With this ruling, eighteen resolutions have been achieved in favor of the compañeros and compañeras who were falsely accused. However, Alfredo Bolaños Pacheco and Francisco Duran Ortiz, in spite of all the evidence, remain accused of aggravated homicide against Manuel Zepeda Lagunas. Herminio Monfil Avendaño, Fernando Gavito Martinez and Jaime Betanzos Fuentes were released, but at the moment of obtaining their freedom, another arrest warrant was carried out against them for attempted homicide against Elisa Zepeda Lagunas. This re-arrest was carried out in a fraudulent manner, clearly an exercise of abusive political power. Again, they are in pretrial detention in spite of the complete lack of evidence.
In the case of the compañeros Omar Hugo Morales Alvarez and Isaias Gallardo Alvarez, on December 2nd, 2019, a report was released by Doctor Guadalupe Chavez Espinoza, a forensic medical expert. There, it was determined that the cause of the death of Gustavo Estrada Andrade is incompatible with the accusation that is keeping our compañeros in prison.
Two years ago, the prisoners presented this evidence of their innocence. However, the judicial power has not done any follow up.
In light of this systematic procedural delay on part of the Supreme Court of the State of Oaxaca, we have appealed to the federal authorities for the protection of the civil and human rights of our compañeros. We again demand that the Supreme Court of the State of Oaxaca authorize the immediate freedom of our political prisoners. It has already been proven in the criminal proceedings that the crimes were prefabricated against the compañeros and that they are not responsible for what they are being charged.
Communique from Indigenous prisoner in struggle in Chiapas, Marcelino Ruíz Gómez, expressing his solidarity with the struggle for the freedom of the seven political prisoners of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca:
March 21st, 2021
CERSS No. 10
Comitán, Chiapas, México
To the Zapatista Army of National Liberation
To the National and International Civil Society
To the National and International Sixth
To the National Indigenous Congress
To the Indigenous Governing Council
To the Media
To the Believers
To the Independent Organizations
To the People of Mexico and the World
Brothers and sisters, compañeros, compañeras, compañeroas, I send you fraternal greetings from my space of resistance behind these four walls.
I express my solidarity with the demand for the immediate freedom of the seven political prisoners of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón. They are unjustly imprisoned on prefabricated charges.
The government has used prison to repress the people and quiet the voices of those who demand their rights—a strategy to intimidate Indigenous people.
For this, we demand that the Supreme Court of the State of Oaxaca take up the issue, as there are mothers, wives, and children that suffer for their imprisoned family members. There is sadness and despair, consequence of injustice and inequality.
I send a very special greetings to each one of the family members of each prisoner. I share your feelings and your struggle, your path, until we are free.
Free the prisoners in struggle!
Marcelino Ruíz Gómez