Mexico: The Persecution of the Guadalajara Resisters

Revolutionary Worker #1255, October 17, 2004, posted at

In Mexico, an important battle has been going on for over four months to demand justice and freedom for anti- globalization activists who were arrested en masse and tortured on May 28 as the 3rd Latin American-European Union Summit in Guadalajara drew to a close. Over four months later, 17 activists are still imprisoned, 12 are ineligible for bail, and 43 more face ridiculous charges of riot, assault on police officers, destruction of property, carrying arms, and gangsterism.

On September 25, the first trial of these Guadalajara resisters resulted in the sentencing of a protester to two years in prison. His conviction was based solely on police testimony that he had been "caught in the act"-- even though he does not appear in any police videos of the protest, and he was arrested three hours after the protest ended at a different location than the protest site. The police held him incommunicado for two days without food or water and forced him to sign a confession.

This repression is aimed at terrorizing the whole anti-globalization movement and sending a message broadly to the increasingly rebellious masses in Mexico. The savagery of the May attack has been exposed and condemned internationally by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, and an appeal for investigation into this case has been registered in the UN. There have also been repeated protests in major Mexican cities, in Europe, and in the U.S. Despite all this, Mexican President Vicente Fox--the so-called "President of change and democratic opening"--has maintained an ominous silence, and officials of his administration have defended the attack.

On the afternoon of May 28, the summit was drawing to a close. Thousands of local and state police forces in full riot gear, together with Federal Preventive Police and the Presidential Guard, were hunkered down behind 3-meter- high metal barricades guarding 58 government officials from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe against those who were protesting their summit of exploitation and death.

The exploitation of the people of the Latin American and Caribbean countries by imperialism has greatly intensified since the 1980s. One indication of this is the fact that the foreign debt of these countries has tripled in the past 20 years. The European imperialists came to this summit seeking an even greater piece of the blood and bones of the Latin American and Caribbean people. But the U.S. imperialist superpower considers this area of the world as their "backyard," so the Europeans were careful not to offend the godfather. Proposals by Latin American officials to condemn U.S. torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib, to end the blockade of Cuba, and to "democratize" the UN were squashed by Europe.

The summit also brought together thousands of anti-globalization activists in a counter-summit. At the end of the official summit, a festive mega-march was winding down when suddenly a fierce battle to bust through the police barricades erupted. After this clash, and into the early morning hours, thousands of state and local police rampaged through the city. The police grabbed youth trying to go home after the protest and dragged people out of bars and restaurants miles from the protest area.

People were arrested based on their appearance or the color of their clothing. Among those arrested were a man going to the store, a painter on his way home from work, and a poet. A total of about 118 people were arrested. Many were thrown face down into pick-up trucks. And when they arrived at the station, they were forced to run police gauntlets where they were kicked and beaten with clubs.

This brutality was presided over by the state attorney general and the police chief. Men were forced to squat on the floor in handcuffs while others were tortured with electric shocks and dragged into the bathroom to be stripped and beaten. Plastic bags were put over the heads of some of the men, making them almost suffocate while being beaten. The women were singled out for humiliation and sexual torture--forced to strip and perform deep knee bends while male police stood around leering, filming them, and threatening to rape them. One woman was reportedly raped.

As family members, desperate for news of their loved ones who never returned home, searched the police stations and hospitals, the police held the arrestees incomunicado for two days and denied them food and water. The cops held guns to the heads of protesters and forced them to sign confessions. One young woman photographer for Indymedia was grabbed while eating dinner, beaten severely, and then stashed away secretly in a hospital for four days. Friends finally found her chained to a hospital bed with a fractured skull. She was charged with assault on police officers.

Eight anti-globalization activists and journalists from foreign countries who had been arrested were deported at the beginning of June. Among those deported was a Canadian man who still had bandages covering his head from the beatings.

A few days after the summit, the mass arrests became front-page news in Mexico, and the television news screeched about the "violence" of the protesters--without mentioning the police torture. The governor of Jalisco (the state where Guadalajara is located), who is a top figure in President Fox's PAN party, held a public ceremony to honor the torturers. He called the police "heroes" who "resisted the onslaught" by the protesters, and he presented them with monetary rewards for their bravery. The official justification for the injuries suffered by those who were tortured was: "They wounded themselves." At the same time, the police viciously attacked and beat protesters demanding freedom for the arrested activists.

In mid-August, Mexico's official Human Rights Commission released a report on the repression at the Guadalajara summit. The report detailed 234 grave violations of human rights, 73 illegal detentions, 19 cases of torture, and 55 cases of cruel and degrading treatment, and it called on the governor to take action against the police involved. Instead, the governor attacked the Human Rights Commission for defending the "criminals who attacked the police." The Archbishop of Guadalajara chimed in, denouncing the Human Rights Commission for "protecting the rights of delinquents" and demanding that the rights of police be protected.

Then, in September, a number of human rights organizations appealed to the UN for action in the case. The governor's response was that "those who are detained are those who attacked the city of Guadalajara, and they are criminals."

Some in the anti-globalization movement who are fighting for the release of the protesters have fallen for the government logic that those who militantly battled the police are responsible for bringing on the repression. This runs contrary to the fact that all protesters were met by repression from the time they arrived in Guadalajara. And the day before the widespread arrests, the police had surrounded and arrested a group of youth in a park who were trying to disperse.

As the Mexican Maoist group Movimiento Popular Revolucionario points out in their pamphlet "The Battle of Cancun--Lessons for the Struggle Against Imperialist Globalization": "The strength of the movement against globalization, from Seattle to today, lies in the participation of diverse positions and tendencies: from pacifists and revolutionaries, to anarchists and communists, from people who fight only for reforms and people who fight for thoroughgoing radical change. To allow ourselves to be divided between `peaceful and violent' ones, `legals and provocateurs,' `moderates and ultras' only divides and weakens the movement and strengthens the oppressors of the people."

The Guadalajara protesters fought bravely in the interests of the people. Ever since the anti-globalization movement in Mexico stepped onto the stage in Cancun in 2001, it has been met with the overwhelming violence of the police. Since then the movement has grown. And so has the penetration of foreign capital into Mexico and the misery it brings: the huge displacement of campesinos from their land, the maquiladora sweatshops that open and then close suddenly so that the capitalists can move production to another country where the wages are lower and profits higher. The imperialists, mainly the U.S., take out $6 billion a year in profits from the direct exploitation of the Mexican people. And $10 billion more is stolen every year in the form of payments on the interest of the foreign debt. The oppressed Mexican people long for revolutionary change, and millions are seeking leadership and solutions.

The Mexican ruling class is known worldwide for its vicious repression of the people's movements. The anti- globalization movement has ripped the mask off the lackey government and its imperialist masters and raised the fighting spirit of the people broadly. And that is why the Mexican government and police have so viciously attacked the Guadalajara resisters.