Atenco: Never Again
Adolfo Gilly’s Words for the Presentation of the CCIODH’s Human Rights Report on the Events at Atenco
By Adolfo Gilly
The Other Mexico
June 28, 2006
Editor's Note: On Monday, June 26, the International Civil Commission for Human Rights Observation presented its Preliminary Report on the events in Atenco on May 3 and 4, 2006. The report is available, in English, for download in PDF format, here, from the Comission’s web site. At the presentation, celebrated journalist and scholar of Mexican history and politics Adolfo Gilly gave the following speech, which we publish here with his permission.
The Preliminary Report Concerning Atenco presented by the International Civil Commission for Human Rights Observation is an exceptional document. We Mexicans must thank the Commission for its commitment, its objectivity, its professionalism and its invaluable support in this difficult moment for the country and for our rights.
The report demonstrates the premeditated and organized character of the rapes, the beatings, the humiliations, the raids without warrants carried out by the federal and state police. It proves the existence of a will to intimidate, demoralize, and tear apart a Mexican town as an example, as vengeance, and as a norm for the future. It makes evident the responsibility of the state and federal authorities and the complicity of the justice system in the commission and covering up of those abominable acts.
Atenco has exceeded the limits of earlier repressions in which there were indeed dead, tortured, disappeared, and imprisoned political opponents or social organizers. But not even Gustavo Díaz Ordaz [translator’s note: president of Mexico from 1964–1970, overseeing the Tlatelolco massacre] ordered his troops to engage in the widespread rape of the women in a Mexican town. These are actions in the same savagery as the occupation armies in Lidice, in My Lai, in Bosnia, but committed, in this unprecedented case, against the violators’ own national community and against an entire rural town. This is the limit now passed – not by paramilitaries, but by the uniformed forces of the same nation to which those humiliated, imprisoned and (in the case of two of them) murdered men and women belong.
Atenco is an attempt to morally push the limit for future repression. As the report says, in the police tucks, whose personnel can be identified perfectly well from the police’s own records, “a special space was created from the time of the arrests until the turning over of the detained to prison authorities, where all the guarantees and rights of the detained disappeared.” There, the sexual and physical violence against the women and also the men was unleashed. During the six endless hours of transport to the prisons, those trucks were a national replica of Abu Ghraib, but one where Mexican police committed mass rape against Mexican women.
Judges, prosecutors and prison authorities have united in a closed act of denial of justice to the tortured, the prisoners, the wounded and the townspeople whose belongings were robbed from their own homes. The prisoners go unheard, the proven events are cynically denied. The extreme degradation to which the administration of justice in this country has come to leaps from this report with tragic evidence: legal process with no accusers or evidence present, prisoners without rights, judges and prosecutors without conscience.
The report shows how Atenco has been an organized and planned attempt to instill fear in the Mexican people, and especially a fear concentrated among those who are least protected in terms of their civil rights and living standards. “Repression first for the poor,” seems to have been the motto. In the town of Atenco, the fear is still there – legitimate fear, as the report confirms – as well as an immense, unfathomable rage, just like the rage breaking out today in Oaxaca, in Pasta de Conchos, in Sicartsa, in La Parota – all across the national landscape.
Reports like this one help us to reason through that fear; to think clearly about that rage; to better understand what is occurring and what is happening to us. This is a necessary condition for organizing the widest defense possible, without any distinctions or sectarianism, uniting many who, from whatever political standpoint, want to free the prisoners of Atenco now and protect the rights, liberties and property of the town’s residents.
With Atenco it is essential to bring together, without distinctions, our will and strength, to halt the avalanche of abuses and humiliations against Mexican people that the current national powers are committing, tolerating or silencing, in order to pass them down to our future politicians as well.
The small town of San Salvador Atenco is one of our national tragedies of these times. Five candidates, one of them a woman, ask the Mexican people for their votes to be elected president this July 2. Four of them, in the great national debate, said not one word about Atenco: silence, total silence on the tragedy. One, the PAN candidate, touched on the subject in order to give his express approval of this disgrace.
The International Civil Commission for Human Rights Observation has sent its shocking report to those five candidates. I ask that each of them say something about Atenco during the immanent closing of their campaigns. I ask that they join with the national and international clamor that keeps growing in defense of Atenco and for the freedom of its prisoners.
I am not asking for much: just loyalty, solidarity and human decency toward a small rural Mexican town on the outskirts of the City of Palaces, from which one of them aspires to govern this tragic Mexico of ours in the coming years.