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(en) REPRESSION OF MEXICAN STUDENTS

From "Shannon Young" <shannony77@hotmail.com>
Date Tue, 8 Feb 2000 08:56:20 -0500


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>From: paz libertad <movimiento_2000@yahoo.com> To: movimiento_2000@yahoo.com

  Due to the corporate media monopoly and the official information blockade, 
the reality of what happens in Mexico is not transmitted beyond its borders. 
We, a group of independent journalists, have formed MOVEMENT 2000, an 
alternative press service covering crucial events in Mexico.

  We send you this information in hopes that you will spread the word and 
organize for peace as best you can.

  The war of counterinsurgency arrived in Mexico City in the dawn of Sunday, 
February 6, 2000. In their new role as Federal Preventative Police (PFP), 
more than 2500 elements of the Mexican Army raided the campus of the 
National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) under orders of the 
Secretary of Government. The seizure of the UNAM facilities began at 4 am, 
after the second judge of the district, María del Carmen Flores Cervantes, 
issued 430 arrest warrants for striking students, which had been solicited 
on Thursday February 3 by the Federal Government. More than 600 students 
were arrested, most of whom were gathered in the Che Guevara Auditorium of 
the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. The arrested students were 
transported first to the offices of the Attorney General of the Republic, 
and later the minors, approximately 76, were taken to the Guardian Council 
for Minors, and the older students were transported to Reclusorio Norte, a 
jail in the north of the city.

  Students were still in assembly  discussing the possibilities of dialogue 
when they heard the boots of the PFP pound through the hallways of the 
school at 6:40AM. “They’re here,” they yelled, as they heard the troops 
surround the auditorium. Hours later, the Che Guevara Auditorium was empty 
for the first time in 9 months; scattered remnants of the last moments 
students’ struggle, papers, pencils, backpacks, an odd shoe were all that 
remained.

  A deathly cold wind and an eerie calm fills the desolate UNAM campus. 
Federal police patrol the university entrances and circuits, and city police 
blockaded principal avenues of access. Hundreds of riot police await orders 
in the surrounding area and within university facilities.

  At 10:30AM, we headed towards the campus on foot, as access is closed to 
vehicles. At the first blockade, the preventive police of the delegation of 
Tlalpan informed us that we would enter university territory at our own 
risk, as it was now under control of federal forces. He warned us that the 
PFP “does not like the arms you carry, they don’t like video and photos, and 
beyond here, they’re in control, and some press has already had their 
cameras and film confiscated.”

  After a quick tour of the principal accesses to the UNAM, we verified that 
there was constant patrol of university accesses and circuits, checkpoints 
on Insurgentes Avenue, and  inside young men with military haircuts patrol 
on mountain bikes, verbally assaulting  those who circulate, especially 
those who are identified as press.

  According to a UNAM press release, university Rector Juan Ramon De La 
Fuente was not aware of the operation until after 7am, when the Secretary of 
Government, Diódoro Carrasco informed university authorities that the 
university facilities had been recuperated. The chief of the PFP, Wilfrido 
Robledo,  reports that the troops will occupy the university for 2-4 weeks.

  The government counterinsurgency campaign designed to destroy the student 
movement struck a divisive blow to peace with the invasion of the UNAM and 
the arrest of strikers. The PFP is a federal police division of the Mexican 
army specialized in counterinsurgency and urban warfare, formed in 1999 by 
then Secretary of Government and now PRI presidential candidate, Francisco 
Labastida Ochoa.  The arrival of federal forces in University territory not 
only violates the UNAM’s constitutionally protected autonomy, but marks an 
escalation of low intensity warfare into Mexico City.  The most notorious 
violation of the UNAM’s autonomy occurred in 1968, when the army entered the 
university prior to the massacre of Tlateloloco, in which thousands of 
students were assassinated and arrested.

  Low intensity warfare is defined by author Carlos Fazzio as a 
political-military strategy fought in the arena of civil society in which 
the nature of war converts into a political-ideological conflict. 
Psychological operations aim to influence the behavior of the civil 
population by exploiting the vulnerabilities of the enemy and their support 
base in order to dominate the spirit. The PFP occupation comes after a 
massive media propaganda campaign to criminalize the striking students, 
divide students and families, and prepare the public to accept the use of 
state repression against the student movement.

  The students of the UNAM, National Autonomous University of Mexico, an 
academic community of 300,000, have been on strike since April 20, 1999. The 
student movement demands the protection of students’ 
constitutionally-guaranteed right to free higher education and rollback of 
privatization initiatives and neoliberal reforms adopted in accordance with 
the World Bank’s structural adjustment programs.  The 9 month strike has 
been characterized by lengthy assemblies and countless marches, and a 
divisive media campaign which focused on internal divisions and ignored 
reports of government infiltration.

  This marks the fourth time that the goverment has tried to jail striking 
students, and the second PFP operation in the UNAM this week. 248 students 
were arrested on Tuesday, February 1, in the National Preparatory School 
Number 3, an incident which marked the beginning of the escalation of 
government aggression.In August 1999, a military and police operation was 
sent to the Lacandon jungle to arrest students who,  while attending a 
Zapatista Gathering for the Defense of Culture and Patrimony, had joined 
indigenous people in protesting the military invasion of the Zapatista 
community of Amador Hernandez.
  In December 1999 over 70 students were arrested by Mexico City police 
during a protest outside the US embassy in support of Mumia Abu Jamal and in 
solidarity with the protesters arrested in Seattle.

PREPA 3

  On February 1, 2000, at 8pm, The Federal Preventative Police (PFP) 
forcefully evicted striking students and seized the National Preparatory 
School Number 3 located in the north of Mexico City. The 300 elements of the 
PFP and 700 elements of the city police were called upon by the University 
Rector Juan Ramon de La Fuente to secure the facilities after a group of 
university police and paid thugs (porros) provoked a violent confrontation 
with students earlier in the day.  The confrontation and police operation 
resulted in 37 injured people, 248 students under arrest, and 25 students 
whose whereabouts are unknown.

  In the early afternoon, approximately 50 men, the majority over the age of 
35, raided the high school armed with bats, pipes, rocks and explosives. 
Identifying themselves as members of Auxilio UNAM, the university police 
division of the General Direction of Community Protection, they forced their 
way into the school and violently evicted the 30 students of the General 
Strike Council who occupied the school in defense of the strike. A few 
minutes later, the secretary general of the school arrived with a busload of 
200 people whom he led into the school, reinforcing the occupation of the 
supposed university employees, many of whom later admitted to having been 
contracted earlier that day in the subway to do a “special job”
in the UNAM.

  Students, teachers, workers and parents congregated outside the school. 
They rejected the intervention, imploring the security forces and  porros to 
leave the school grounds, yelling “We want dialogue. Here we are not 
divided, there are not strikers and non-strikers, We are the Justo Sierra 
Student Front, since January 30.” In recent days, Prepa 3 students, both 
active strike supporters and those students calling for a return to classes, 
had found common ground through assemblies discussions. As had been 
occurring  in recent weeks in other UNAM schools, opposing students had 
renewed dialogue, joining forces to bring a successful end the strike.

  Once inside the school, the porros launched bottles, rocks, and furniture 
at the group gathered outside the school gates. The students threw the same 
objects back inside, and after 20 minutes of group effort, they broke the 
gate open.  Only 50 of the men inside faced the crowd of 200 gathered 
outside the gates. The head-on collision left 37 wounded, all men over the 
age of 35. When the fighting ceased,  the students had recuperated the 
school grounds.

  At 4 PM, 700 members of the  Mexico City police surrounded the high school 
and blocked off area roadways. The students inside the school reinforced the 
barricades at the entrances and gathered together in the patio, where they 
exchanged chants and songs with the crowds of neighbors, families and 
students gathered outside. At 7 PM, the PFP marched towards the school, and 
while the students reiterated their call for dialogue, the 300 elements 
forced open the doors and stormed the school.  They pulled the students 
apart and dragged them out of the school, passing each striking student 
through a valley formed by 150 PFP elements, who shoved, hit, kicked, and 
manhandled the young women and men.

  248 students were arrested and bussed to the Office of the Attorney 
General of the Republic where they were subject to questioning, background 
checks and physical and psychological exams. The students were not seen 
again until the next morning  when the  86 students under the age of 18 are 
bussed to the Guardian Council for Minors and 175 older students were bussed 
to the Reclusorio del Norte,a jail in the north of the city. Families and 
students camp outside of the jail and detention center, and exchange 
supportive slogans with their children  “Students you are not alone, Your 
parents are en lucha” who respond from inside their holding cells.

  Students were physically and psychologically tortured the night they spent 
in the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic, according to Juan Del 
Dios Hernandez, the student’s lawyer. 30 students reported to him that 
elements of the Federal Judicial Police beat them, suffocated them with 
plastic bags, needled them under their fingernails, and harassed and 
threatened to rape the young women.  The students in the Reclusorio Norte 
have yet to be formally charged, but the PGR has declared that they will be 
charged with up to 7 crimes: looting, damage to federal property, theft and  
rioting, and three which are considered grave,  sabotage,  terrorism, 
sedition. Terrorism carries a prison sentence of up to 40 years.

  The 75 students detained in Guardian Council of Minors have all refused to 
give statements, demanding that they be treated as a group, all in or all 
out.  They have been charged with aggravated assault, damage of property, 
and qualified theft. 29 of these minors began a hunger strike on Thursday; 
in solidarity with their companeros in the Reclusorio Norte, they drink only 
water and honey, which is brought to them by their parents who give the 
youngsters periodic health checks.

ULTIMATUM

  Wednesday morning, the day after the arrests, parents reiterated that the 
confrontation in the Prepa 3 had not occurred between striking and 
non-striking students, as the official media had declared, but between 
students and an external group hired by university officials. They implored 
authorities not to use their children as “carne de canon” (flesh for the 
canon) for their political disputes. Social activists called for an end to 
the “low intensity warfare against students on strike,”characterized by 
psychological and propaganda warfare, aimed to infiltrate, isolate, 
intimidate and divide the student movement.  That afternoon the Attornery 
General’s Office requested arrest warrants for 430 striking students and 
social activists.

  Thursday afternoon the Rector called 10 CGH representatives to an urgent 
meeting, which the state media declared would be the strikers, “last 
chance,” to be held in the Old Palace of the Inquisition on Friday at 10am. 
The CGH debated their response to the Rector’s ultimatum in an assembly that 
lasted through the night until shortly before the morning meeting. The 10 
student representatives entered the meeting “under protest,”  reading a CGH 
declaration which called for  the immediate release of  324 detained 
students, the removal of the PFP from university facilities, and an 
immediate return to dialogue of the original 6 strike demands.

  In the afternoon,  12, 000 supporters, parents, and students marched from 
the Angel of Independence, to the Secretary of Government, and on to the 
Zócalo to demand the liberation of the students and a peaceful solution to 
the university conflict through dialogue. Outside of the Secretary of 
Government, parents called on authorities to come out and explain their 
children’s legal situation. The Secretary of Government's only response came 
from video cameras on the roof which monitored their pleas. On the way to 
the Zócalo, a group of marchers detoured to assemble outside of the Old 
Palace of Inquisition where the meeting was taking place, but the strikers 
and advisors asked the group to move on so as not to endanger the already 
tense negotiations.

  10 hours after it began,  the meeting ended and both sides declared that 
they had been unable to reach any agreement. The Rector demanded complete 
evacuation of university facilities in exchange for the release of the 
imprisoned students, and blamed the failure of the negotiations on the 
students inflexibility. The students responded that they would not “barter” 
the liberation of “hostages” for the end of the strike, and reiterated their 
call for a return to dialogue the next day.

CONTEXT

  University officials broke off dialogue with students in December, only 
two weeks after signing an agreement that guaranteed that the solution to 
the conflict would come through dialogue with the CGH and not through 
repression. On January 20, University and government authorities organized a 
plebiscite in which members of the university were asked to vote whether or 
not they supported the Rector’s proposal to end the strike. The CGH also 
organized a consultation, held on January 18 and 19, in which they asked 
university members and the general public to vote on their proposals to 
solve the conflict through dialogue.

  Both groups declared that the public had supported their proposals, and 
both sides accused the other of tampering with the votes. The CGH warned 
that the official plebiscite would be used as a pretext for repression. The 
news magazine Proceso reported that the plebiscite had been organized by the 
Secretary of Government. The Office of the Rector personally contacted 
thousands of students to encourage them to vote and attend assemblies to 
demand the return to classes, causing an increase in the participation and 
attendance at university assemblies by students who had not supported the 
strike effort.  Students who for months had only seen the CGH on the news 
debated with them face to face, a dialogue which searched for a solution to 
reopen the school as soon as possible.

  Non-striking and striking students worried that the prolonged strike would 
result in the permanent closure of the UNAM or a fragmentation of the 
different faculties and institutes in order to facilitate privatization. 
Students protested that political and neoliberal influences were impeding 
dialogue to resolve the conflict, declaring the UNAM a hostage of campaign 
politics. At this moment, the future of the university and the jailed 
students, as well as peace in Mexico, could not be more in danger.



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