Gloria Muñoz Ramírez
Los de abajo, Saturday 26 March 2016
Passing a law which criminalises protest and institutionalises repression isn’t anything new. But doing it during a time when popular resistance is breaking out in Mexico state and the wounds from the May 2006 crackdown in San Salvador Atenco are still raw, is like a criminal penalty against protest itself. In 2006, the supposed official authorities tortured activists, raped women, and today the PRI governor Eruviel Ávila announced a new initiative and escalation of repression.
The new Mexican state law, known as the Atenco Law, authorises the state and/or municipal police to intervene when they think a demonstration or protest is illegal. The movement that arose to defend the land against the construction of an airport, the Community Front in Defence of the Land (or as it is known in Spanish – Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra de Atenco, FPDT) warns that this law prepares the way to repress those who the government views as being “opposed to development”.
Besides permitting the police to use firearms against unarmed people, the new legislative initiative makes way for the use of devices that give electrical shocks, tasers, or handcuffs, as well as aerosol irritants. This leaves the security forces to decide when to apply these “exceptional measures”, with military commanders ultimately responsible for the violence unleashed, leaving political representatives in the comfort of the shadows.
Trinidad Ramírez, pillar of a whole family that has been victims of this repression, is clear when she warns that Atenco does not oppose progress, but opposes land grabbing based on trickery and pay-offs.
“In Atenco”, Trini says, “we have a historic struggle that is almost 15 years old”. Ever since they defeated the decree expropriating their lands, the movement has been on the defensive as repression in various forms has continued. “The Government does not know how to squash this so-called minimal resistance, and can’t find a way to dilute its force, so they are making a new law. But this isn’t only about Atenco, it’s also about other projects related to the new airport in Mexico state.”
To reject this law, approved during the Easter week holiday period, various human rights organisations like Article 19, Fray Francisco de Vitoria Human Rights Centre, Centro Prodh and Fundar amongst others have formed a front and warn that the initiative “could perversely encourage violent incidents during demonstrations in order to legitimise the political repression.”
Translated by the UK Zapatista Translation Service