MARCH 31 – APRIL 6, 2008

1. PRD CRISIS INTENSIFIES
2. UAM WORKERS END STRIKE
3. CIUDAD JUAREZ MILITARIZED, ACTIVISTS ARRESTED
4. HUNGER STRIKES IN CHIAPAS AND TABASCO PRISONS


1. PRD CRISIS INTENSIFIES
Three weeks after internal elections for party president and state leaders, the PRD is still unable to announce winners.  The elections, marred by widespread fraud by both leading presidential candidates, may end up annulled if final results cannot be declared by April 22, an arbitrary date set by current president Leonel Cota.  Jesus Ortega, a long time party operative who heads the Chucho faction, and Alejandro Encinas, the former mayor of Mexico City who is closely aligned with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, continued their embarrassingly public verbal battle this week.  More than three-quarters of the votes remain uncounted as both sides claim fraud.  There appears to be enough dirt on both sides to sully a party whose public image of corruption rivals that of the PRI and PAN.  Most PRD leaders are former PRI members, bolting from the more established party for lack of available government posts and their accompanying riches.  On Friday, the Technical Electoral Committee (CTE) set April 10th or 11th as the deadline for final ballot tabulation, at which point the National Commission for Guarantees would render a verdict on the legitimacy of various polling sites under question, but hardly anyone believes these deadlines will be met.


2. UAM WORKERS END STRIKE
Workers at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana ended a 64 day strike, the longest in UAM history, by signing a contract “under protest” on Saturday.  The contract awards workers a 4.25% pay raise, a 1.2% increase in fringe benefits, a one-time payment of $2,500 pesos, and wages for half of the strike days.  This is essentially the same package offered by UAM administrators from the first weeks of the strike, leading many union members to reject the contract.  In a climate of confrontation and division, union representatives approved the contract on Friday night by a vote of 108-52 with two abstentions.  It is unclear if the 45,000 students registered at four UAM campuses in Mexico City will lose the entire semester, or if departments will make arrangements to recoup lost days by rescheduling Spring and Summer semesters.


3. CIUDAD JUAREZ MILITARIZED, ACTIVISTS ARRESTED
In the context of a virtual military lockdown in Ciudad Juarez, police arrested Cipriana Jurado, a leading activist in the struggle against femicides, and Carlos Chavez, co-founder of the Organizacion Agrodinamica Nacional, on Thursday night.  Jurado was traveling with four mothers of femicide victims when masked local police traveling in an unmarked car took her into custody, reportedly for blocking a highway during anti-femicide protests three years ago.  Mexican police often issue arrest warrants to quiet social activists, exercising the warrants months or years later only if activists continue their political activities.  Last week, Jurado publicly criticized President Felipe Calderon’s decision to send the army into the streets of Juarez.  Protestors gathered on Friday in front of the Federal Attorney’s General office where a contingent of 15 armed police, 20 federal troops and 25 federal agents guarded the activists.  Both Jurado and Chavez were released on bail late Saturday night.

Last week, more than 2,000 soldiers and hundreds of federal police arrived in Ciudad Juarez, supposedly as reinforcements in the war on drugs.  This weekend, three army vehicles were stationed at the front door of the Mexico Solidarity Network offices in Juarez.  Veronica Leyva, MSN staff member in Juarez, released the following statement:


On March 14, Armando Villareal Martha, a well-known campesino leader, was murdered. To this point, no one has been arrested and it is not clear that officials are investigating the case.  On April 2, two important social activists were arrested (Jurado and Chavez), taken into custody by four masked agents in an unmarked car who refused to identify themselves or present an arrest warrant.  According to local Deputy Victor Quintana Silveyra, forty additional arrests may occur in coming days for anti-femicide protests that occurred at the international bridge in 2005.

The most important questions are, who is on their lists and for what “crimes” will we be arrested?”  Or perhaps we should call it kidnapping, because the “arrest” of these two activists is a clear violation of constitutional guarantees.

The message from authorities is that we should keep quiet, but these actions only inspire us to reunify our forces and continue the struggle so that we can live with dignity in a better country.

WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED!!


4. HUNGER STRIKES IN CHIAPAS AND TABASCO PRISONS
Hunger strikes continue in several Chiapas and Tabasco prisons this week as seventeen indigenous prisoners demanded their immediate release.  In Cereso 5 in San Cristobal de las Casas, two prisoners completed 33 days without food, three completed 30 days of fasting and two additional inmates joined the hunger strike.  A special commission established by Governor Juan Sabines to review hundreds of indigenous cases released more than 140 prisoners on Monday, but the Governor declared the rest of the cases “closed.”  In El Amate prison, five inmates in extremely precarious health ended their 41 day hunger strike after former Bishop Samuel Ruiz made a request “for humanitarian reasons.”