[OPE-L] Solidarity

From: dlaibman@JJAY.CUNY.EDU
Date: Tue Feb 07 2006 - 11:34:42 EST

Dear OPE comrades,
   I have received the following, and want to circulate it, so people
can take action as desired.
   All best,
David Laibman
-- Original Message -----
From    Julio Huato <juliohuato@gmail.com>
Date    Mon, 06 Feb 2006 22:24:16 -0500
To      Behrouz Tabrizi <btabrizih@msn.com>, David Laibman
<dlaibman@jjay.cuny.edu>, Laurie Nisonoff <lnisonoff@hampshire.edu>,
Paddy Quick <paddyquick@aol.com>, Christine Schmidt
Subject         Cristina Rosas

Cristina Rosas Illescas
By Julio Huato

Last Sunday, my fifteen year old daughter and I went to Querétaro,
Mexico.  We were trying to visit Cristina Rosas Illescas at the state
penitentiary of San José El Alto, five miles northeast of the state
capital.  At the entrance, my daughter refused the guards' orders to
take her clothes off and let them conduct a search on her body.  So
she wasn't allowed in and had to wait outside.  I did get in.

Cristina Rosas and Mr Pánfilo Reséndiz, the latter a construction
worker and community leader, were jailed almost a year ago, without
bail, accused of breaking the state law on "public order and urban
development."  Because of her resistance to intimidation and absurd
orders, Cristina has been placed in isolation in a tiny, humid cell
known as "La Jaula" ("The Cage"), roughed up by the guards and other
inmates, and subjected to a daily assortment of petty humiliations.

Months ago, after a couple of weeks in The Cage, Cristina visited the
prison's doctor and was given what she thought to be a painkiller.
Almost immediately, she felt the effects of what may have been
poisoning, an allergic reaction, or even a mild stroke: the muscles of
half her face and limbs got paralyzed.  While she has recovered most
of her mobility, her right arm and foot are still numb and she walks
with a bit of difficulty.  Despite all this, she is as determined and
good-humored as she's ever been.  We brought some food for the
occasion (thoroughly searched by guards wearing surgical gloves) and,
like the families of other inmates, we ate at a cement table in the
jail's patio, surrounded by barbwired high walls and under the shadow
of a cement turret overlooking us.

I met Cristina sixteen years ago.  At the time I was a college teacher
at Chapingo and, like her, an organizer in the shantytowns that
surround eastern Mexico City.  A great deal of my work consisted of
helping popular struggles in Nexquipayac de Atenco, Texcoco, and to a
lesser extent Chimalhuacán and Ixtapaluca.  The movements were
grassroots efforts aimed to build and operate schools, local clinics,
and other public services. The centers of Cristina's work were
Ixtapaluca, a textile manufacturing town in the Valley of Chalco, and
the much tougher Chimalhuacán.

Cristina was born in Naucalpan, a heavy-industry town contiguous to
Mexico City on the western side, got her high school education at the
Preparatoria Popular de Tacuba, and a bachellor's degree in education
at the UNAM.  She's always had the no-nonsense instincts and the
self-deprecating humor that appear to go along with a genuine
proletarian background.  When I met her, Cristina was already
established as one of the leading organizers in the working-class
"colonia" (settlement) of the Cerro del Tejolote and -- right about
then -- she was taking part in the founding of the Citlalmina, a new
"colonia" named after an Aztec female hero.  Mexico's state government
(not to be confused with the government of Mexico City or the Federal
District) tried very hard to prevent the formation of the Citlalmina.

One day, the governor Ignacio Pichardo Pagaza and his state secretary
Emilio Chuayffet sent a group of "porros" (thugs) to evict the
settlers.  As their attack failed, Pichardo then sent the "granaderos"
(riot police) with full gear -- helmets, shields, batons, and
automatic rifles.  A worker from Chimalhuacán who was showing
solidarity with the settlers was shot in the head by a "granadero,"
dozens were savagely beaten up (including some of my students), and
several people were jailed.  (I was in Mexico City that day and
luckily missed the event.) Chauyffet and the then "secretary of
economic development," Arturo Montiel, personally commanded the
"granaderos" from a low-flying helicopter.  During weeks, the
settlement was cordoned off, held by "granaderos" armed with AR-15s.
As it often happens, there was a temporary decline in participation,
but then the surviving settlers (most of them), their leaders, and
their supporters toughened up and persisted.  At the end of all that,
the Citlalmina prevailed.  Last year, the "colonia" celebrated its
fifteenth anniversary with a dance and theater festival.  Cristina was
a key figure in this triumph.

I could illustrate it with several anecdotes, but I'll say it
succinctly: Cristina Rosas is one of the most impassioned, courageous,
honest, and hardworking social fighters I've ever met.  She
synthesizes all of those stereotypical virtues we tend to attribute to
women -- sharp intuition, people skills, ability to juggle many tasks
at once and *get them done*, personal warmth, etc.  Lucid, tough,
studious, and a great friend.  Sometime in the 1990s, Cristina married
a lucky fellow from Nayarit (Jerónimo Gurrola) and moved to Querétaro.
In Querétaro, she and her comrades organized a group of "colonias" in
the outskirts of the state capital and fought to obtain deeds and
urban public services.  In the coming years, the movement grew from a
few dozen working-class families and students to thousands of them.

Since 1997, Querétaro has been governed by the PAN, the party of the
president Vicente Fox.  And at least since the 1970s, the PAN has been
heavily infiltrated by El Yunque (The Anvil), a virulent Catholic,
anti-communist, anti-Semitic, secretive group with terrorist
inclinations, who used to support the dictator Francisco Franco in
Spain and the military dictators in South America.  One of the bases
of operation of El Yunque is the Bajío, a plain in central Mexico that
stretches from eastern Jalisco to northern Michoacán, Guanajuato, and
Querétaro.  Fox is from Guanajuato and his influential wife, Martha
Sahagún, is from northern Michoacán.  Under Fox, El Yunque has
accumulated much power. Just to mention something the press has
documented recently: "El Yunque" largely controls the allocation of
top and mid jobs in the federal executive branch.

Querétaro's state governor, Francisco Garrido Patrón, is a lawyer
educated in the Universidad Panamericana, one of El Yunque's main
recruiting centers.  In his well-researched book "El Yunque: La
ultraderecha en el poder" (Plaza Janés, 2003), Álvaro Delgado, an
investigative reporter from the magazine Proceso, lists Alfredo
Botello Montes, the secretary of state of Querétaro and former PAN
congressman, as the commander of an El Yunque death squad captured by
the police in Zacatecas in 1977 as they plotted the assassination of
rivals from another ultra-right group, the Tecos from the Universidad
Autónoma de Guadalajara.  While internal rivalries among ultra-right
groups have been bloody, the most vicious acts of violence committed
by El Yunque have victimized the left.  And El Yunque operates under a
rather broad, catholic (with lower "c"), definition of the left that
includes about 90 per cent of Mexico's political spectrum.

I didn't know it when I visited Cristina, but Jerónimo Gurrola told me
later in the afternoon that the prison inmates used to be forced to
work long shifts in a sweatshop that manufactured religious medals to
be marketed in the Vatican.  Jerónimo told me he saw one of the medals
himself.  According to him, Cristina refused to work in the sweatshop,
a gesture that didn't please the prison's managers.  Jerónimo added
that, just prior to a visit by the Human Rights Commission, the making
of the medals was abruptly discontinued in the prison.  I wonder if
the shoppers in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome are aware that those
cute little medals catching their eye, perhaps even blessed by Pope
Benedict XVI, may be the product of semi-slave labor by prison inmates
in rinky-dinky jails such as that in San José El Alto, Querétaro.

But the basis of the PAN-El Yunque power in Querétaro is not merely
religious or ideological.  In Querétaro, as bad as being a godless
communist is, it's not nearly as bad as being a godless communist who
challenges the economic power of the ultra-right.  One of the
ultra-right's milk cows is "urban development."  In simple terms, this
consists of using legal maneuvers -- if not brute force -- to
expropriate ejidos (farm land under traditional collective tenure) in
areas next to the city of Querétaro and other large towns in the state
and transferring the land to their patrons, who then build huge
cookie-cutter housing projects and market the homes to state employees
or the local middle class.  As an IPADE alumnus (the IPADE is a copy
in caricature of -- say -- the American Enterprise Institute in
Washington), Garrido preaches the virtues of the "free-market" and
"free-enterprise" system.  But as a governor, he is a practitioner of
old-school crony capitalism.

I personally visited the development of San Pedrito Los Arcos, built
by "Geo Querétaro SA de CV," previously "Copromoción y Servicios
Inmobiliarios del Bajío SA de CV," corporations owned by some of
Garrido's favorite sponsors: the brothers Alejandro and Héctor García
Alcocer and Antonio Bermúdez Jiménez.  Pre-fabricated houses that,
according to a neighbor I interviewed, have "leaky roofs" and
sloppily-installed bathroom furniture.  This is big business.  I
suppose that anything that competes with it, such as -- say -- a
grassroots movement that offers more affordable and dignified
alternatives, is a dangerous threat.

Journalists who have dared expose the corruption involved or even
mildly critical of the state government have been ruthlessly
persecuted. Perhaps the most prominent case involves Luis Roberto
Amieva, former director of the Diario de Querétaro and a journalist
since 1947.  Amieva became well known for his journalistic work
exposing the corruption in Querétaro under the PRI.  He managed to
survive all sorts of PRI governors, including some with strong
repressive impulses like Mariano Palacios Alcocer.  But he wasn't as
lucky with the PAN's Garrido.

Curiously, the newspaper's editorial line under Amieva was cautiously
supportive of the previous PAN governor Ignacio Loyola.  But generic
support for his party wasn't enough for Garrido.  Since Amieva had
been somewhat critical of Garrido's tenure as major of the city of
Querétaro, as soon as Garrido became state governor, he set out to get
Amieva fired. To pull it off, Garrido negotiated with the head of the
conglomerate (OEM) that owns the newspaper, Mario Vázquez Raña, a
millionaire deal to publish state-government propaganda in the
newspaper.  Amieva was fired in the spot. He then tried to start a new
newspaper, Al Minuto, but his attempt was boycotted by Garrido. Amieva
called it quits and retired with his health damaged.

In the late 1990s, still as major of the city of Querétaro, Garrido
led an initiative to enact punitive legislation against working-class
settlers and squatters. The fruit was the 2001 state law to
"regularize the ownership of urban and semi-urban settlements," which
typifies virtually any autonomous, grassroots movement for low-income
housing -- insofar as it falls outside of the official "urban
development plan" concocted by government bureaucrats where the
interests of their cronies are duly taken care of -- as a crime
against "public order and urban development."  Since this is a crime
against the "people" of Querétaro, bail is ruled out.  Under this kind
of legislation, a protester could be jailed for decades while a rapist
could walk free on bail.  All for the sake of "urban development" in

This is the law that, the state government alleges, Cristina and Mr
Reséndiz broke.  How did this happen?  Under the PAN administration of
Ignacio Loyola, the state of Querétaro promised people in "colonias"
such as Tlanese and Bustamante, hundreds of families, to help them get
their streets paved, install electric lines, build sewers, and
introduce piped water.  The settlers would pitch in with some money
and sweat equity.  The state government also promised to help pay the
rent of a building where a group of working-class high-school and
college students formed a "Casa del Estudiante," a kind of students'
dorm co-op, self-managed and mostly self-funded via "colectas"
(canvassing and collection of small spontaneous donations by the
public on streets, public places, and buses).

When, in 2003, Garrido became the state governor, he reneged of the
agreements, refusing to even meet with the representatives of the
"colonias" and the "Casa del Estudiante."  When they staged public
protests, Garrido sent the "granaderos" to deal with them.  The
detention and mistreatment of workers and students became routine.
Dozens of detentions later, the protests grew and the government
responded by tightening its methods.  In July 2004, hundreds of
workers and students occupied the plaza in front of the state palace
in a permanent "plantón" vowing to stay there until the state
government released three students jailed for distributing leaflets.

Garrido must have thought that the "plantón" would dissolve as he
refused to listen to the demands and harassed the protestors with
occasional detentions.  But the "plantón" remained strong and began to
attract support from workers, settlers, and students of neighboring
states. Finally, on March 19, 2005, a group of "granaderos" dislodged
the "plantón" by force.  They seized Cristina, Mr Reséndiz and dozens
of other protesters, and threw them all in jail.  Cristina thought
this would be another routine detention for disturbing "public peace,"
which would entail another short visit to the jail.  She and the
people in the "plantón" were already used to all that.  But this time
the state government invoked its recent law on "public order and urban
development" and pressed charges against Cristina and Mr Reséndiz to
keep them in jail for a longer while.

Formally, the two leaders are still in a pre-trial phase of their
legal process called "instrucción," during which the state government
is supposed to argue the case before the judge, both in the facts and
in the law.  Because of the backlog in the courts and likely pressures
from Garrido himself, this phase has taken months in the case of
Cristina and Mr Reséndiz.  A few weeks ago, the phase of "instrucción"
was to expire. Since no sentence had yet been declared, Cristina and
Mr Reséndiz were to walk out.  But two days before the expiration
date, the governor leveled a battery of new charges against both of
them.  A new phase of "instrucción" was opened and they remain in jail
as of this date.  With legal tricks of this sort, Garrido could easily
keep them in jail for ten years or more.

Cristina's and Mr Reséndiz's political organization, Antorcha
(www.antorchacampesina.org.mx), has been demanding that the state
government drop the charges, release the prisoners immediately, and
engage in serious talks to give resolution to the legitimate demands
of settlers and students.  It is a sensible petition.  The demands are
basic.  Nothing fancy.  Electricity, street pavement, schools, tap
water, sewers, financial support to students of low-income families,
etc.  Again, the settlers will contribute with resources and labor.
These demands arise from need and won't be defused with repression and
cruelty.  Supporters from all over Mexico will be taking part in the
coming protests.  I am here inviting fair-minded people from all over
the world to join this campaign.

Please write to the governor of Querétaro and demand the immediate
release of the political prisoners Cristina Rosas Illescas and Pánfilo
Reséndiz.  This is his address:

Francisco Garrido Patrón
Gobernador del Estado de Querétaro
Palacio de Gobierno
Querétaro, Qro. Mexico

Or (not as effective) send an e-mail to: uaippe at queretaro.gob.mx.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Feb 08 2006 - 00:00:01 EST