MAY 26 – JUNE 1, 2008

1. POLICE BREAK UP PRISON HUNGER STRIKE IN CHIAPAS
2. CALDERON ELIMINATES IMPORT TAXES ON FOOD
3. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL DENOUNCES IMPUNITY


1. POLICE BREAK UP PRISON HUNGER STRIKE IN CHIAPAS
Police officers from the elite Lobo Group entered El Amate prison early Tuesday morning to break up a 24-hour hunger strike by political prisoners.  At least seven prisoners, members of the Voice of El Amate, were beaten and transferred to different prisons around the state.  At least two Zapatista political prisoners were among the transferees.  “A prison guard told us that the Governor was not willing to tolerate another hunger strike in the prison system,” according to one El Amate inmate.  A recent series of hunger strikes exposed the Chiapas prison system to international criticism, and resulted in the release of political prisoners and a commitment by Governor Juan Sabines to review the case histories of 16 additional prisoners.  This was understood by all parties involved as an institutional commitment to release the 16 prisoners, but in recent weeks the governor has backtracked and the promised review process languishes.  The Fray Bartolome Human Rights Center encourages international civil society to send messages demanding the immediate release of all Chiapas political prisoners to:
Governor Juan José Sabines Guerrero
Secparticular [at] chiapas [dot] gob [dot] mx


2. CALDERON ELIMINATES IMPORT TAXES ON FOOD
In an effort to slow recent price increases on food, the Calderon administration announced this week a series of initiatives, including the immediate elimination of import tariffs on all wheat, rice, corn and fertilizer, as well as limited quotas of beans, sorghum and soy paste.  Calderon also directed Diconsa, a federal agency that distributes subsidized milk to school children, to maintain a price of four pesos per liter, and an increase in Oportunidades, a federal welfare program, to 655 pesos per month for food.  The plan came under immediate attack because it doesn’t include investment in rural areas that could increase food production in the short and medium term.  The UN Organization for Agriculture and Food announced this week that food prices are expected to continue rising for at least a decade as more farmland is dedicated to renewable energy production.  Until recent neoliberal changes in rural areas that drastically reduced food production, Mexico was a net exporter of food products, but since the mid 1990s, the county has become a net importer.


3. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL DENOUNCES IMPUNITY
Amnesty International (AI) this week denounced the violation of human rights in Mexico, which “continues to be generalized and, in some states, systematic.”  In AI’s annual report, the section on Mexico notes that often police “use excessive force to break up demonstrations.  The investigations of complaints against arbitrary detentions, torture and other mistreatment by police officials were often deficient, and the impunity for human rights violations is generalized.”  President Felipe Calderon’s war on drugs came under blistering attack, with AI accusing the army of “arbitrary detentions, torture and the illegitimate murder of at least five people…”  The AI report also sited several important cases, including prison sentences of 67 years handed out to leaders of the People’s Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT) in Atenco: “There is profound concern in relation to the impartiality of the court proceedings and the sentences.”