CLASSMATES II. Still missing: THE POLITICAL PRISONERS
THE POLITICAL PRISONERSJune 2013
To the adherents of the Sixth in Mexico and in the World:
To the students of the Little Zapatista School:
Compañeras, compañeros, compañeroas:
In addition to the fallen and the disappeared in the struggle, who won’t be present but will indeed be accompanying us in the Little Zapatistas School, are the political prisoners who, under various juridical ruses, are held in the prisons of the world or in political exile.
There are thousands of them throughout the world, and our small word won’t reach all of them. Even as we are relying on our compañer@s in the National Network Against Repression and for Solidarity to try to reach as many as possible, there will always be some we don’t get to.
That is why we are sending this invitation, among many others, to some of the political prisoners who symbolize not only the absurdity of trying to lock up freedom, but also, and above all, the dignified resistance and perseverance of those who are not defeated by guards, walls, and bars.
Among them you will find:
Alberto Patishtán Gómez.- Sentenced to 60 years in prison. This June 19th he will complete 13 years behind bars. His crime: being Mexican, Chiapan, indigenous, a professor, and a Zapatista sympathizer. Despite the evidence of his unjust incarceration, the judicial authorities are delaying his liberation. In the words of one government official: “If we free Patishtán it will be a doubly bad sign: it will give evidence that the judicial system is a bunch of shit, and it will encourage the struggle to free the other prisoners. It is something that does not suit us from any perspective. It is better to wait until those who are making so much noise about this get tired.” But here we already know that the judicial system in Mexico is a bunch of shit and that those who fight for the freedom of the political prisoners will not tire…ever.
Leonard Peltier.- Has served 37 years in prison. His crime: belonging to the native Sioux Chippewa (Anishinabe-Lakota) people and struggling for the rights of native peoples in the American Union. He was taken prisoner in 1976 and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences (perhaps because his persecutors wanted to be sure he wouldn’t get out dead or alive). He was accused of killing two agents of the FBI (Federal Bureau of Intelligence). The incident took place on Pine Ridge, sacred territory of the Sioux people, in South Dakota, USA, where there are uranium and carbon fields.
He was sentenced without any proof and despite over 10,000 pages of documentation evidencing his innocence. The FBI’s accusation can be summarized like this: “Somebody has to pay.” Robert Redford made a film about his case, a film which has never been shown in North American theaters. Meanwhile, the FBI “boys” and “girls,” who come off so well in television mini-series, have killed 250 Lakota indigenous people. There isn’t a single investigation of these crimes. This in a country built on the dispossession of the lands belonging to the native peoples of that part of the American continent.
Mumia Abu Jamal.- United States citizen. Prisoner for 30 years. His crime: being a journalist and an activist for those discriminated against because of their color, in the United States. He was initially sentenced to death, and is now serving a life sentence. The whites accused him of killing a white, he was judged by whites, sentenced by whites, he was to be executed by whites, and he is guarded by whites. This in a country built on the exploitation of the blood and sweat of the slaves brought from Africa who, of course, were not white.
Edward Poindexter and Mondo We Langa.- United States citizens. Their crime: fighting for the rights of the African American population in the United States. Victims of the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) of the FBI, they were accused of killing a police officer in 1970 by blowing up a dynamite-filled suitcase. Despite the confession of the real culprit, the FBI manipulated and planted evidence against these two militants of the Black Panther organization. Various items of juridical evidence prove their innocence. They are still imprisoned in a country that values the integrity and impartiality of its juridical system.
Julian Paul Assange.- Originally from Australia and a citizen of the world. He is now a political refugee. His crime: to divulge to the world, among other things, the corruption of US foreign policy. Assange is currently pursued by the US and British governments, the two supposed defenders of justice and liberty.
Bradley Manning.- First class soldier in the US army. His crime: to release a video showing US soldiers killing Iraqi civilians from a helicopter. Among those killed are two journalists. He is also accused of having leaked documents about the barbaric US actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The principal charge against Bradley Manning, which could lead to his execution, is that of “aiding the enemy,” that is, aiding the world in knowing the truth. This in a country held together by the lie of a constant external threat (Muslims, Asians, Latinos, etc., that is, the entire world), and according to the recently revealed “intelligence operations” (really spying), US citizens are also a threat.
Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez, Fernando González Llort, Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labañino Salazar and René González Sehwerert.- The homeland of these five people is Cuba, the first free territory in the Americas. They are also knows as “the five Cubans.” Their crime: to have leaked information about the plans of terrorist groups with bases in the United States. In June of 1998, Cuba gave the FBI a report obtained by the five Cubans, including hundreds of pages of documents, videos, and audios of terrorist activities in the US. Instead of dismantling the terrorist cells, the FBI detained the five Cubans who, in reality, had saved the lives of dozens of people, principally tourists, who would have been the target of the attacks. Antonio is an engineer, Fernando a diplomat, Gerardo a cartoonist, Ramón an economist, and René a pilot. They are prisoners for the crime of spying, even though during their trial the prosecutors themselves testified that the material they had obtained did not affect the national security of the United States, and that Cuba did not represent a threat. All this in the territory of they who say they are fighting international terrorism.
Maria Alyójina, Yekaterina Stanislávovna Samutsévich y NadezhdaTolokónnikova.- Russians, members of the punk rock group “Pussy Riot.” Their crime: denouncing the complicity of the top clergy of the Orthodox Church in the imposition of Vladimir Putin. They were arrested and taken prisoner for playing punk music in a church. The lyrics of the song asked the mother of god to throw Putin out of government. They were sentenced to two years in prison for “undermining the social order.” This in a country that prides itself on having liberated itself from “communist tyranny.”
Gabriel Pombo da Silva.- Anarchist born everywhere and nowhere. He has been in 20 different prisons over almost 30 years in Spain and Germany. His crime: being a person of principle. To his persecutors he said: There is nothing more deplorable than a satisfied slave… an individual disposed of memory and dignity… it is preferable to be taken to the scaffolds for having rebelled than living 100 years of “conditional freedom,” conditioned by the fears and lies that they have sold us, indoctrinated in us…” Regarding his condition as a political prisoner, he has been clear: “I am certain that for me (as for many others) the possibility of getting out of prison for reasons based on their laws is impossible…because their legality requires my renunciation of my political identity… And obviously whoever renounces their own political identity not only betrays himself but all those who have come before him in this long march for dignity and freedom. There is nothing heroic nor “martyr-like” (the cemetery is already full of those) in this perspective. I believe it sincerely and with all of my hear and that is why I am willing to accept “paying my tax” for being honest with myself and what I think and feel…”
Why do I tell you about these political prisoners, so different and distant from each other? Because for the Zapatistas, freedom is not the patrimony of a creed, an ideology, a political position, or a race. In the videos you will see what we are talking about and this will help you listen, which is how one begins to understand. These consist of about 15 minutes that will help you to peer into the many worlds that exist in this world.
Like these men and women, hundreds of political prisoners have been invited to the Little Zapatista School. We have sent all of them a letter much like the one I annex here. We hope they have received them, as well as the books and audios and videos where we tell our story. We hope that they accept our invitation, not because we think we could teach them anything, but so that they know what it is we call freedom here.
Here it is:
ZAPATISTA ARMY OF NATIONAL LIBERATION.
MEXICO.May of 2013.
From: The Zapatista women, men, kids, and elderly.
Regarding: Special invitation to participate in the Little Zapatista School.
We send you a greeting from all of the children, old people, women, and men of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
We write you because we want to extend to you a special invitation to participate in the Little Zapatista School, “Freedom According to the Zapatistas.”
We know that perhaps it will be impossible for you to participate personally on this occasion. But we know well that the day will come when the doors of the prisons will open for those who, like you, have been taken prisoner by injustice-made-government. And those same doors will remain open long enough so that the bankers and their helpers can go in.
In the meantime, we will see about a way to get you the materials. These consist of texts with the words of our Zapatista compañeras and compañeros, in their great majority Mayan indigenous people, in which they tell their own story of struggle. It is a story surely similar to yours, full of the continuous ups and downs that make up the struggle for freedom, the pain that fills it, the hope that overflows it, and that persistent stubbornness that, like you, doesn’t give in, doesn’t give up, and doesn’t sell out.
Perhaps these won’t get to you just now. It is very probable that your jailers and prosecutors will confiscate the material, alleging that the package contains dangerous material. Because merely the world “freedom,” when it is lived from below and to the left, is one of the many horrors that fill the nightmares of those who are above at the cost of pain for everyone else.
In any case we wait here for your attendance, sooner or later. Because if our resolve is for freedom, one of our distinguishing characteristics is patience.
Vale. Cheers and let liberty be what it should be, that is, the patrimony of humanity.
In the name of all of the Zapatistas of the EZLN,
Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés. Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, May of 2013.
(end of the invitation letter to the political prisoners)
Well then, now you know a few more of those invited to participate in the Little School with you.
Don’t be scared of them. They aren’t criminals; that designation belongs to those who keep them prisoner.
Vale. Cheers and may you find freedom the only way possible, that is, with all of them.
(To be continued…)
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, June of 2013.