1.  Hunger Strike by Chiapas Political Prisoners - Chiapas news during the month of March was dominated by a Hunger strike and fast by Chiapas political prisoners.  It began on February 12 with relatively little fanfare and no national publicity when Zacario Hernandez Hernandez initiated a hunger strike. The Voice of El Amate (an organization of political prisoners confined in the El Amate prison) joined in the hunger strike at the end of February.  From there, the hunger strike and partial fast spread to 3 Chiapas prisons and one in Tabasco where 2 Zapatista political prisoners from Chiapas are incarcerated.  A total of 46 political prisoners and members of 5 organizations participated in the protest. (Those who participated in the partial fast were, for the most part, not in good enough health to participate in the hunger strike itself.) Members of the Other Campaign in Chiapas, relatives of the prisoners and members of the social organizations to which the prisoners belonged set up an encampment on the front steps of the government palace in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas, in support of the hunger strike. Zacario Hernandez Hernandez was released from prison on March 17, after 35 days without food. On March 30 and 31, the government released 28 of those participating in the protest. Upon their release, many of the hunger strikers joined the encampment at the state capital in support of the 17 who remained in prison, continuing the hunger strike and fast.  All of the prisoners from Busilja community were among those released. 

 

2.  Other Prisoners Also Released -  The Chiapas government also released more than 100 prisoners who had nothing to do with the protest on March 30 and 31, saying they were all political prisoners. Social and human rights organizations have demanded a list of all those released as they suspect that many were members of paramilitary organizations like Paz y Justicia or the Opddic.  

3.  Hunger Strike Highlights Human Rights Violations - The hunger strike and fast called local, national and international attention to the lack of justice available to poor and indigenous campesinos in Chiapas. The stories of the protesters evidenced arbitrary detentions (without an arrest warrant), fabricated charges, confessions obtained under torture and imprisonment for crimes not committed. Unfortunately, the same is true in other heavily indigenous southern states of Mexico, like Oaxaca and Guerrero.  Since all the protesters were members of social organizations, the hunger strike also dramatized the use of torture and other human rights abuses to silence free speech and social protest. 

4.  Thank You to Those 95 People Who Signed on to Our Petition - The Chiapas Support Committee thanks the 95 people who signed our petition on behalf of the hunger strikers. We sent it by email to Chiapas Governor Juan Sabines, Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Tabasco Governor Andres Granier and various staff at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco, including the consul.  In deciding to release so many prisoners, Governor Sabines included the international attention and support the protest received as a factor. We, at the Chiapas Support Committee, wish to express our appreciation to all of you who signed on.  You came from many states and countries.  Task Force on the Americas (in Marin County) also gathered signatures and sent many letters to the Mexican Consulate in SF.

 

5.  A Peek at Early April - As of April 5, the hunger strikers and those fasting in El Amate prison ended their protest at the request of Bishop Emeritus Samuel Ruiz Garcia. Bishop Ruiz is also the president of the board of directors of the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center and he instructed its staff to represent the prisoners in their legal proceedings with the state. Bishop Ruiz asked them to end their protest for “humanitarian” reasons so that there would not be irreversible damage to their bodies.  The status of the hunger strikers in the Los Llanos prison in San Cristobal is unclear as of this writing (04/06/08).
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