Freedom for Mexico’s Political Prisoners

On August 21st 2014, events were held in Mexico, the USA, Costa Rica, Brazil, Australia, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic in solidarity with the Mexican prisoners who have been arrested for political motives since the 2012 inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. The main event was held at the Autonomous University of Mexico City (UACM), where family members of the political prisoners spoke about why their loved ones had been targeted by the government.

President Peña Nieto came into power partly as a result of significant media support and the buying of votes, but also because of promises to “boost economic growth and tackle drug-related violence”. [1] In reality, his regime has sought to sell Mexican natural resources off to foreign capitalists and crack down on popular opposition to its neoliberal policies. More worryingly, however, the government has imprisoned a number of citizens who have stood up to the country’s violent drug cartels by forming their own community police forces.

Far from dealing with the drug-related violence in Mexico, the government has in fact attacked and imprisoned members of the aforementioned community police forces, who had previously been successful in pushing organised criminals out of their communities. At the beginning of the gathering at the UACM, Cuauhtémoc Ruiz (of the Party of Socialist Workers (POS) and the Free Nestora Committee) described why Peña Nieto has repressed these movements. Along with movements throughout the country which have opposed unwanted capitalist projects in their communities, he said, these grassroots defence groups stand in the way of the government’s neoliberal bonanza. The central government could see itself losing control to popular organisations of social activists, and it knew that such a phenomenon would make it a lot harder to follow through with the promises it had made to capitalist elites in both Mexico and the rest of the world. The purpose of the crackdown on social activists, therefore, has been to create ‘stability’, though not the kind of stability that communities have been asking for. Instead of dealing with organised crime and giving citizens more control over their own destinies, the government’s focus has been to create stability for foreign capitalists, whose ‘investment’ (read robbery) requires an absence of popular resistance from grassroots movements. This analysis describes why drug cartels still roam the country freely while social activists languish in high security jail cells.

In 2006, Mexican riot police responded to “protests by a local peasant organization [the FPDT] in San Salvador Atenco” with indiscriminate violence, in which “hundreds… were beaten, jailed, raped, and even killed, in the case of one 14 year old boy”. [2] Ruiz asserted that, today, a process of repression similar to that of Atenco is taking place, but this time throughout the entire country. The government’s focus on arresting social activists whilst allowing drug cartels to function as normal, he said, shows clearly the collusion that exists between the political establishment and organised criminals. A UACM union representative echoed Ruiz’s sentiments, affirming that “the nightmare of Atenco is back”.

The “Free Nestora” campaign has been the pioneer of the movement to free all of Mexico’s political prisoners, and is based on the “illegal incarceration of Nestora Salgado”, commander of a community police force in Guerrero. In fact, the event on the 21st of August marked the one year anniversary of her imprisonment. She and 10 comrades, including leaders Gonzalo Molina and Arturo Campos, “have been stripped of their constitutional rights, denied due process, locked-up far from their families in order to break their spirits, and subjected to miserable and life-threatening treatment for a non-existent crime—protecting the people of Olinalá, as guaranteed under the Mexican constitution, from criminals and unscrupulous local political figures”. Nestora’s sister Cleotilde asserted at the UACM event that, when one person is imprisoned unjustly, “a hundred more social activists stand up”. For that reason, she insisted, the police blocked the roads surrounding her town on August 21st with the purpose of preventing supporters of the Free Nestora campaign from marching there.

The wife of Gonzalo Molina, present at the event, argued that “the government wants us to keep quiet” whilst it allows criminals to “exist inside the government itself”. Arturo Campos’ wife, meanwhile, gave an impassioned speech about how “the government wants us blind, deaf, and mute” about the fact that “it cannot deal with crime”. She criticised the government for “torturing social activists” and affirmed that it “knows full well that they don’t deserve to be there [in prison]”. It has never been concerned with fighting crime and poverty, she said, but it is happy to imprison activists when they organise to change their fate. “This is painful”, she said, having not been able to see her husband for months, but insisted that “we mustn’t allow ourselves to be conquered by fear”. Having asserted that she would never keep silent about the injustice she and her husband have suffered, she concluded: “this is just beginning”.

The wife of another prisoner, Marco Antonio Suástegui (spokesperson of the CECOP, which is opposed to government plans to build a dam in their community [4]), also asserted that the government wants social activists out of the way, emphasising that they are treated “like the worst of criminals” and imprisoned so that “they stop getting in the way” of government-backed capitalist projects. Having been arrested in Guerrero on the 17th of June on “completely fabricated charges of robbery and attempted murder”, Suástegui was “severely beaten and sent to the same prison as Nestora” [3].

A representative from the December 1st movement [5] also spoke at the event, emphasising that it is not only Peña’s political party (the PRI) that is involved in repression. The so-called ‘centre-left’ party (the PRD) which governs Mexico City, he said, has also cooperated with Peña on numerous occasions to repress popular protests. As a result, he called for “unity between the countryside and the city” in asserting the right of Mexican citizens to protest.

Other miscarriages of justice have also occurred in Mexico over the last few months, though they were not represented at the event. In May, paramilitary forces (with links to the PRI) attacked the Zapatista community of La Realidad in Chiapas, killing Jose Luis Solís López (or Galeano [7]), and wounding 15 others. In June, Dr José Manuel Mireles, a leader of Michoacán’s self-defence forces (Autodefensas), was “tricked into meeting with an army officer who arrested him after planting drugs in his vehicle”. Another 82 Autodefensa members were also arrested soon afterwards. In July, meanwhile, police shot and killed a 13-year-old boy and injured 40 other citizens in Puebla when they blocked a highway “to protest new laws that deprived them of their traditional rights”. [3]

The sister of OCSS leader and social activist Rocío Mesino (killed in Guerrero in October 2013) spoke out at the UACM event about the impunity that her sister’s killer has enjoyed, and how “everything had been prepared for the murder”. With this comment, she suggested that the police, who have failed to bring her murderer to justice, were involved in the event. The establishment, she said, “detains and kills us to dispossess us of our natural resources”, creating “an effect of fear and terror” in order to do so.

An ex-prisoner from Aquila’s self-defence forces in Michoacán spoke of how his father had been killed twenty five years ago for his social activism. Now, having taken up arms himself to protect his community, he insists that the government and police collude with criminals – whether they are drug traffickers or multinational corporations. The problem is, he insists, that communities like his do not have the money needed to take criminals to court.

In Oaxaca, the CNTE [8] have fought to overturn Peña Nieto’s ill-thought-out education reform, and have been attacked as a result. The arrest of certain CNTE members, like Leonel Manzano Sosa [9], has been “a piece of theatre designed by the State”, according to Manzano’s wife. Such acts are carried out with the intention of both encouraging activists not to stand up and discrediting their movements.

The rector of the UACM, towards the end of the act, insisted that “centres of education and culture have the duty to listen to the people” in order to “think from the people”, and that was one of the reasons why he gave the event his blessing. The big problem, however, is that the Mexican government is not ‘listening to the people’, and prefers instead to imprison them when they speak out or stand up for themselves and their communities.

In solidarity with all of the political prisoners of Mexico, and against dispossession and repression throughout the world, please add your voice to the call for freedom.


Sign the petition at, follow the campaign at, write to the Mexican president at, or donate to the cause at But, most of all, spread the word.


[2],, and


[4] and

[5] and “Coordinadora 1o de Diciembre” on Facebook

[6] and





About Ed Sykes

Independent journalist. Co-founder of Phoenix Media Co-operative. Author of Rojava: An Alternative. Ex-Canary editor and writer (2015-2020). Aka 'Oso Sabio' - see @ososabiouk on Twitter.
This entry was posted in Assassination, Autodefensas, Autonomy, Bourgeois Democracy, capitalism, CNTE, dignity, Education, Enrique Peña Nieto, Environment, Exploitation, EZLN, Impunity, independence, Injustice, justice, Latin America, Libertarian Communism, maestros, Michoacán, Murder, Neoliberalism, Nestora Salgado, Oppression, Policías Comunitarias, politics, PRI, rebellion, revolution, socialism, Strike, Teachers, The Media, Trade Unions, Uncategorized, War, Zapatistas and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Freedom for Mexico’s Political Prisoners

  1. c1dmx says:

    Estimado compañero apreciando su artículo que reseña lo sucedido en el evento unitario #TodosLibres #PresosPoliticos nos permitimos aclarar que la única página en Facebook de la Coordinadora 1° de Diciembre, convocante y participante del evento, es Coordinadora 1o de Diciembre, agradeceremos la corrección en la referencia [5] del texto.
    Un abrazo solidario.

  2. freenestora says:

    Reblogged this on Libertad para Nestora/Free Nestora Salgado! and commented:
    Report in English from Mexico on Nestora International Day of Protest

  3. Pingback: MEXICO: CNTE, Zapatistas & CRAC-PC Unite Around Ayotzinapa | Resistance Is Fertile

  4. Pingback: Infinite Dispossession: David Harvey’s View of Mexico | Resistance Is Fertile

  5. Pingback: Infinite Dispossession: David Harvey’s View of Mexico | dorset chiapas solidarity

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