Statement From the National and International Campaign for the Freedom of the Political Prisoners of Tlanixco and the Yaqui Tribe


Movement for the Freedom of the Defenders of Water and Life of San Pedro Tlanixco

To the People of Mexico and the World

To the Media

The history of Indigenous peoples can be different. Each community cares for and uses their natural resources according to their necessities, times and manners. Each community organizes, struggles and resists but also each community receives the beating in their territories from one or more heads of the capitalist hydra. Although not all of us are beaten in the same way and at the same time, all Indigenous peoples, not only us, have suffered violations, exploitation, repression, and hatred from those that seek to own our territory, resources and that have little by little taken away our culture. Today we are here as a consequence of that commonality: two Indigenous communities, although we are very distant geographically, our hearts are united due to the pain and rage of having our compañerxs kidnapped by the state.

Our history, the history of San Pedro Tlanixco in its struggle for water and now for freedom, began more than 20 years ago. The Indigenous Nahua community of San Pedro Tlanixco is located in the foothills of the mountain of Toluca, which because of its location has fresh water springs, rivers, forests and resources that have always been cared for and used by the community. However, at the end of the 1980’s in the face of the intensification of the neoliberal system and the flower industry in the municipality of Villa Guerrero, the history of our community took a turn and we began to struggle in defense of water against the voracity of the flower businessmen.

The businessmen of Villa Guerrero, neighbors to the south of the community, began their aberration to dispossess us of our fresh water springs to use them in their own interest. They did so with the complicity of the state government, forcing the community to sign an agreement to stop using the water in exchange for a well.

The flower businessmen led by their representative Alejandro Isaac Basso, claimed to have a title of concession for the river. However, in the year 2000, the community obtained a title of concession in favor of four fresh water springs. When the flower businessmen found out they were not satisfied. In 2001, the national commission of water began a process of nullifying the title that had been authorized to the community.

At that time,the community learned that the people of Villa Guerrero did not have a concession and that up until that year, they had granted water from the river to Villa Guerrero without legal necessity. This is when the community began organizing itself to retake the struggle for water. In 2003, a moment of great tension between both communities, a commission integrated by eleven people of Villa Guerrero decided to hike up the river into our community without warning. People of Tlanixco became aware of this and, exercising our customs and tradition, rang the town bells to gather people to go and investigate the visit from the neighbors. There was a fear that they had poisoned the water. When they met them in the river canyon, the neighbors from Villa Guerrero claimed that the water was arriving downstream to their territory foamy and contaminated. This didn’t make any sense considering the route of our water to their territory would have left behind traces of contaminants if that were the case. For a better conversation and to reach an agreement they decided to scale the canyon to the delegation of the community. In the journey out of the canyon, in a very dangerous path, Isaac Basso slipped and died. Nobody noticed what happened, not even the people that had accompanied him, until they were in the center of the community.

From that point forward, our life changed drastically. The following day, April 2nd,there was an aggressive operation, without arrest warrants, to detain compañerxs of the committee of water and a member of the ejidal commission. During the months of May and June, dozens of residents of the community had to appear in court. The Attorney General’s Office of the state of Mexico created a special prosecutor for the case using the electoral role to summon the neighbors. It was not until the month of July when arrest warrants were issued against eight compañerxs. From there, we realized that the intention of the state government was to punish the community for having raised their voices and organizing themselves to defend their natural resource. This was clear, as the wanted compañerxs had been those most active in the struggle in defense of water. In that same month, they detained compañero Pedro Sánchez Berriozábal and Teófilo Pérez González. Compañero Pedro Sánchez Berriozábal was accused of aggravated homicide and illegal deprivation of liberty. His legal process lasted two years and he was sentenced to fifty-two years in prison. He appealed the sentence, but the Superior Court of Justice ratified the sentence.Currently he has been in prison for fifteen years and five months. Compañero Teófilo Pérez González was accused of the same crime and was sentenced to fifty years. He also appealed the sentence, but it was also ratified. Currently he has been imprisoned for fifteen years and five months. Both compañerxs are detained in the prison of Santiaguito Almoloya de Juárez, State of Mexico.

From those years forward, the community lived through the worst time period, full of police repression and fear because hundreds of government and police officers filled the principal streets of the community, carrying out operations in the early morning and violating the privacy of the inhabitants.

What was the intention of the state? The witnesses accompanying the man who died constantly fell into contradictions. In their first statement they did not point out anyone specifically because they argued that they were not eyewitnesses to the death of the president of the association of users of the Texcaltenco River. However,as things developed, they expanded their statement, taking up arguments directed by the sister of the deceased.

In July of 2006, Rómulo Arias Mireles was detained. His process lasted three years and he was accused of the same crime of aggravated homicide and deprivation of liberty. He was sentenced to fifty-four years in prison. He appealed the sentence but it was also ratified. He has currently spent twelve years in prison and is being held in the same prison of Santiaguito.

The compañero Lorenzo Sánchez Berriozábal was detained December 11th, 2006. His legal process ended in May of 2016, lasting ten years. He was sentenced in November of 2017, accused of the same crime of aggravated homicide and deprivation of liberty. He was sentenced to fifty years in prison. He is currently in the process of appealing the sentence. The compañero is one day away from serving twelve years in the same prison of Santiaguito. His process is also plagued with irregularities because the witness that accused him first, retracted in a confrontation process. However, the judge sentenced him without taking into account other evidence.

On December 12th,2006, Marco Antonio Pérez González was detained. He was sentenced on November27th, 2017, and his legal process also lasted ten years. He is currently appealing the sentence, accused of the same crime and imprisoned in the same prison. The compañero is two days away from serving twelve years in prison.

The operations of the state prosecutor continued in the community and in July of 2007, they detained Dominga González Martínez. Her legal process lasted nine years and she was also sentenced on November 27th, 2017 to fifty years, imprisoned in the same prison of Santiaguito. Currently she is appealing the sentence having been imprisoned for eleven years and four months.

Currently there are arrest warrants out against two compañeros for the same cause: Innocent compañeros who have been forced to leave their families, community, everything.

During the whole process, many irregularities have arisen: the statements, testimonies and procedural confrontations are contradictory, confusing and unreal. Not in any moment have the testimonies of the imprisoned compañerxs been taken into account. Their evidence was not properly valued nor was further testimony taken into account. Furthermore, it has not been taken into account that San Pedro Tlanixco is an Indigenous community, where there should be respect and understanding of our ancestral forms of justice.

The most striking contradiction from the witnesses is their original declaration that they were not eyewitnesses of the death. However, in their court appearances between April and May, they mentioned without fear of being mistaken, that Pedro,Rey, Benito, Faustino beat and threw the now deceased into the ravine. In contradiction,in the appearance of Benito and Faustino, they demonstrated that they were not at the scene of the acts, not even in the community. The witness Adolfo Vázquez in a court appearance even mentioned that it is the sister of the deceased who instructed them on who to blame.  

It seems that the judge made up charges and afterwards only cut and pasted to dictate the sentence against the two compañeros.

But why accuse the community water defenders of a crime they didn’t commit? To disarticulate the movement in defense of water, to punish those that organize in defense of their territory like compañero Fidencio Aldama of Loma de Bacum of the Yaqui tribe of the State of Sonora. It is the manner in which the state defends the interests of the businessmen.

Not being the only compañeros affected by this evil, the National Indigenous Congress, the home of the Indigenous peoples, has sheltered many struggles in the country. Our brothers and sisters from all geographies have taught and demonstrated to us that another world is possible, that against dispossession and repression one does not remain silent and obey. On the contrary, one must struggle and organize.The community of Tlanixco had already participated in the CNI since 2001, but after what occurred in 2003, it was difficult to continue. It wasn’t until2015, a year after the emergence of the movement for freedom of the compañerxs,when we began to return to the CNI, stronger and without fear, to demand the freedom of our compañerxs and all political prisoners.

In 2016, in the community of San Pedro Tlanixco, in a national meeting of the National Indigenous Congress, our imprisoned compañerxs were taken in as prisoners of the CNI.

After fifteen,twelve and eleven years of prison of our compañerxs, we demand their immediate and absolute freedom: Pedro Sánchez Berriozábal, Teófilo Pérez González, Rómulo Arias Mireles, Lorenzo Sánchez Berriozábal, Marco Antonio Pérez González and Dominga González Martinez and the cancellation of the arrest orders.

From the movement for the freedom of the defenders of water and life of San Pedro Tlanixco and the compañero Fidencio Aldama of the Yaqui tribe, we invite the people of Mexico, media, artists, graphic designers, musicians, poets, writers,dancers, collective groups, rural and urban communities of Mexico and the world to join and form part of the National and International Campaign for the freedom of the political prisoners of Tlanixco and the Yaqui Tribe. We ask that from your geographies, your methods and times, that you demand with us the freedom of our compañerxs. The solution will not come from above and we know it. Together the Indigenous peoples and civil society have demonstrated that we can support the struggle from below and to left, walking firmly to build another possible world, with art, science and music. That is why compañerxs,that we invite you to participate with a small grain of sand. Although it seems that it is little, in reality it is a lot: every painting, mural, graphic,song, dance, poem, forum, concert, publication, cultural activity that you can contribute in the demand for the freedom of our compañerxs.

Thanks in advance for listening and for the solidarity.

Freedom to the political prisoners!

Movement for the Freedom of the Defenders of Water and Life of San Pedro Tlanixco

December 2018