For decades, Mexico has been besieged by vicious drug cartels that murder thousands of people a year and are linked to the major political parties. Despite powerful protests, the neoliberal agenda of privatizing public resources and institutions has continued unabated.
But a new wind is blowing. Indigenous people — those under the most intense attack — are organizing beyond Chiapas. Community police and self-defense forces (autodefensas) have sprung up around the country to guard villages from the gangs, corrupt politicians, and rapacious mining corporations that collude to drive the people off their land.
Nestora Salgado, elected as community police comandanta in her poverty-stricken hometown of Olinalá, Guerrero, is a key leader there. Beyond that, she has become an embodiment of the broader struggle rocking Mexico. She has been held in federal prison for almost a year, charged with kidnapping and other trumped up offenses, and facing constant harassment and dehumanizing treatment.
Other self defense force leaders and members have also been jailed, including Dr. José Manuel Mireles, a central organizer in Michoacán. Salgado, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and Mireles, who lived for 10 years in Modesto, Calif., have galvanized solidarity with the autodefensas on both sides of the border and far beyond, from New York to Argentina and France to Australia.
Make your voice heard. August 21 marks the one year anniversary of Salgado’s imprisonment. Supporters intend to have their demands for her freedom heard through demonstrations, speak outs, and media events in many cities.
The New York City committee will rally at the Mexican Consulate General from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. San Francisco activists will demonstrate at the Mexican consulate from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. The Seattle committee, of which Salgado’s husband and daughters are members, will hold a press conference outside the Mexican consulate at 11:00 a.m. and rally at the Federal Building from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
The committee in Los Angeles plans to focus on the connection between events in Mexico and the massive flight of poverty stricken children from Central America. Protests are also planned by the Mexico City Free Nestora Committee; and ad hoc groups in Portland, Oregon; Melbourne, Australia; Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
For more information on the various events or to plan your own, see the contact list at the end of this article or check out FreeNestora.org.
The International Day of Protest is vital to win freedom for Nestora and the other prisoners. It is crucial to building the broader movement against massive violence, corruption and neoliberal devastation. The struggle has made important gains and is building on them, despite stepped up repression by the Mexican government.
The pressure is working — keep it on! Free Nestora committees have organized many demonstrations in numerous countries. The campaign has gathered thousands of petition signatures. Well over a hundred endorsers encompass unions and labor councils, including six locals and two regional councils of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Two Carpenters locals and their Northwest regional council, two Electrical Workers locals, and the Puget Sound chapters of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and Coalition of Trade Union Women are signers. So is the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
The many social justice endorsers include immigrant rights and Latino community organizations; Central American and Mexican solidarity groups; several Australian indigenous organizations; feminists including Free Marissa Now, U.S., and Articulaçao de Mulheres Brasileiras; anti-war, civil rights, anarchist and human rights groups; artist collectives and socialist parties including the Freedom Socialist Party.
This outpouring of solidarity has won the support of 14 Mexican legislative deputies from three opposition parties and Salgado’s U.S. Congressman, Adam Smith.
In March, a Mexican court struck down the federal charges against Salgado and called for her release. In July, Governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero of Guerrero pledged to work for the release of her and other activists.
As the FS goes to press, negotiations for prisoner release are under way with lawyers for the accused, federal deputies, and government representatives. However, a counter demonstration was organized by agents of one of the cartels.
While the battle to free Salgado has made progress in building public awareness, the repression continues. New arrests were made on June 27. Dr. José Manuel Mireles and 80 of his self-defense force were arrested just as they prepared an offensive on the Knights Templar, a criminal cartel which has controlled the port of Lázaro Cárdenas for years, stealing iron and other minerals.
The Mexican Party of Socialist Workers (POS) has issued a call to form a national committee for the liberation of Dr. Mireles, Nestora Salgado and all of the imprisoned communitarios.
This struggle confronts the naked aggression of foreign mining companies grasping for control of gold and other precious metal deposits. The drug cartels are their enforcers, with open collaboration from the corrupt Mexican government, and silent complicity by a U.S. that pretends to see no evil.
This growing movement shows the way forward — cross-border solidarity with the direct action of working people in their own defense.
Send feedback to the author at FSnews@mindspring.com.
Help build these important rallies!
Los Angeles: 323-732-6416; firstname.lastname@example.org
Melbourne: 03 9388-0062; email@example.com (August 23)
New York City: 917-714-6453; FreeNestora.NYC@gmail.com
Portland, Oregon: 503-516-2151; firstname.lastname@example.org
San Francisco: 415-864-1278; email@example.com
Seattle: 206-722-2453; FSPseattle@mindspring.com
For information about protests in these countries:
Costa Rica: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dominican Republic: email@example.com
For information about actions elsewhere, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To listen to this and other articles from this issue, click here.