Mexico "Anarcho-Bombings" Spark Student Witch Hunt
- October 11, 2009 at 7:21 pm
Government Uses the Explosions Against Leftist Strongholds on University
Throughout the month of September, over ten bombs were
placed in banks, a car dealership, a luxury clothing store, a small police
station, and an animal testing laboratory in Mexico City and the states of
Guanajuato, Nayarit, and Jalisco. Most exploded; no injuries were
Self-proclaimed anarchists and animal liberationists
claimed responsibility for the bombings via postings on the Internet.
The organizations that supposedly carried out the bombings were unknown
prior to the bombings, with one exception: the Animal Liberation Front
(ALF). The ALF is comprised of individuals or cells who do not know
each other, but who use the same name and share the same goal: animal
liberation through direct action. Due to its lack of a formal
structure, any person (or government agent) can commit property destruction
in the name of the ALF.
The timing of the bombings is significant for
several reasons. First, Mexico celebrated 199 years of independence
from Spain on September 15. On that same date, they also commemorated
the one-year anniversary of the Independence Day grenade attacks in Morelia
that killed eight people and left over 100 injured.
bombings also occurred on the eve of two important dates: October 2 and the
year 2010. Every October 2, students and young people march in cities all
over the country to commemorate the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre in which the
Mexican military shot and bayoneted hundreds or thousands of student
protesters to death in Mexico City.
2010, on the other hand,
is widely predicted to be a volatile year in Mexico. It will mark 200
years since Mexican independence and 100 years since the Mexican revolution.
Assuming that since thus far monumental uprisings have occurred every 100
years since the founding of the country, Mexico's activists sport t-shirts
and paint graffiti that says, "See you in 2010." Predictably, 2010's
potential volatility has the government on high alert. Due to the
timing of the "anarcho-bombings" and these dates' importance to both
Mexicans and the government, the bombings have only served to further
increase tension in the lead-up to 2010.
If these bombings were
indeed carried out by anti-capitalist activists as the Internet communiques
claim, they have failed to achieve their stated goal of inflicting monetary
damage against capitalism. The targets were almost certainly insured,
nullifying the tens of thousands of pesos in monetary damage the communiques
claim was inflicted against "capital."
consequences of the bombings, however, are becoming painfully apparent.
The federal government has seized upon the opportunity to further infringe
on the sacred autonomy of Mexico's universities.
Since the founding of the National Autonomous University
of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City in 1910, students and the government have
engaged in an ongoing battle for students' and university workers' right to
run their university as they see fit--without government imposition,
infringement, and most importantly, repression. Autonomous
universities have the right to manage their own budgets and appoint their
own rectors and regents. It is also expressly prohibited that police
or the military enter university campuses for any reason without the
rector's permission. Likewise, the police and intelligence agencies do
not have access to students' academic records or biographical information.
University autonomy has afforded students and the university community a
greater degree of freedom to form political organizations on campus than
they would normally have off-campus. For example, pirate radio
stations operate on autonomous university campuses across the country.
From these campus stations, students and non-students alike broadcast music,
political opinion, and other free speech without fear that federal agents
will raid their booth and seize their equipment. Likewise, students
hold on-campus fundraisers for political organizations that they couldn't as
easily hold off-campus.
Expanded political freedoms on
autonomous campuses has allowed the university community to organize at a
level that is more difficult elsewhere. For this reason, students
often play important roles social struggles, even armed ones. Many
members of the National Liberation Forces (FLN), which later merged with
southern indigenous organizations to become the Zapatista Army of National
Liberation (EZLN), were students in autonomous universities. The man
the Mexican government accuses of being the Zapatistas' Subcomandante
Insurgente Marcos, Rafael Sebastion Guillon Vicente, was a UNAM student and
university professor at the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM).
Even today, students at autonomous universities continue to provide
support to insurgent organizations. Many of the collectives that
worked together to organize the Zapatistas' latest gathering, the Festival
of Dignified Rage, are based on autonomous campuses. When
Subcomandante Marcos traveled the country in 2006 to meet with Mexican
social organizations, many meetings occurred in autonomous universities,
both because of the support the Zapatistas enjoy there, and also because the
universities' autonomy provided the insurgent leader with a relative degree
of protection. The UNAM is also home to several organizations that
organize events in support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
None of this information about students' involvement
in social struggles is secret. The government is aware of students'
central role in Mexico's rich social movements, and has been trying to
counter students' power and organization for decades. However, one of
the principal barriers between student organizers and the government has
been the protection provided by their universities' autonomy.
Students: Public Enemy #1
Even before the government had identified
suspects in the anarcho-bombings, it knew that it wanted students to take
the blame. On September 10--after only two of ten bombings had
occurred--Mexico City's Attorney General told
La Jornada, "The information we have is that these groups--be they real
groups or just people trying to intimidate--are comprised of very young
people." The Attorney General's lack of concrete information about the
groups that planted the bombs and his simultaneous assertion that whoever
they are, they must be young, is suspicious. He also told La Jornada
that police were "very much on alert for another possible event."
Seven other bomb-related "events" occurred after his statement.
September 30, the police arrested a young man it claims perpetrated six of
the bombings that occurred in Mexico City. Federal agents snatched
Ramses Villareal Gomez, a 27-year-old Mexico City university student, and
put a bag over his head before they took him to the Federal Attorney
General's Office. Police searched his mother's house, reportedly
stealing cash and two computers. Villareal Gomez reports that during
the interrogation following his arrest, police demanded that he tell them
who threw the bombs or they would rape his wife when they searched her home.
Police immediately attempted to paint Villareal as a
student-terrorist. They claimed that when they searched his home
following his arrest, they found a 22 caliber rifle, a pistol, explosives,
and documentation linking him to a "subversive" movement.
government propaganda machine sprung into action, linking Villareal Gomez's
alleged "terrorist activities" with his active role in student
organizations. Following Villareal Gomez's arrest for the bombings,
screamed that Villareal Gomez had a "record": federal police arrested
him and 250 other striking students in 2000 when they attempted to take over
a high school as part of the historic UNAM strike. Villareal Gomez
participated in the 1999-2000 student strike as part of the UNAM's General
Strike Council, which coordinated strike activities. At that time, UNAM and
high school students around the country struck against the International
Monetary Fund's imposition of tuition in the UNAM as part of Mexico's
structural adjustment. The strike successfully blocked the tuition
increase, and today tuition at the UNAM costs 25 centavos (about 2 US cents)
per semester and is voluntary.
The UNAM expelled Gomez Villareal in
2004 for "breaking university rules" when he participated in the takeover of
a public high school with dozens of other students.
has also publicly accused Villareal of supporting the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC). It claims he was the link between pro-FARC
organizations in his former alma mater, the UNAM, and his current alma
mater, the Autonomous Metropolitan University, also located in Mexico City.
Villareal Gomez's lawyer does not deny that Villareal Gomez particpated in
FARC solidarity as a student. "It's not a crime," the lawyer says.
On October 2, a judge ordered that the government release Vilareal
Gomez. The judge ruled that the arrest of Villareal Gomez was illegal
due to lack of sufficient evidence against him. Following his release,
Federal Police had to admit that they were "mistaken" in claiming that
they had found weapons, explosives, and incriminating documents in Villareal
Gomez's house. Villareal Gomez's lawyer is now preparing to file charges
against the interrogators for psychological torture.
fact that Villareal Gomez's legal problems are temporarily behind him, the
government has used his short detention to begin a witch-hunt against
students and the organizations they support.
If the government had
been able to convict Villareal Gomez for the bombings, it would have been a
devastating blow to student organizations, because a conviction would have
facilitated further legal harassment of student organizers and the
non-student organizations they support.
investigation into the bombing remains open, and the government has made it
clear that it plans to take advantage of the bombing investigation in order
to spy on and hunt down student and social organizations. The
government's false claims that Villareal Gomez was in possession of firearms
and explosives, combined with his real and alleged links to student
organizations, have justified legal harassment of and spying on student
organizations and social movements. After all, the government argues,
they are allegedly linked to terrorists.
The government may have
never wanted a conviction in the Villareal Gomez case. It had very
little evidence against him, and the evidence it did have against
him--firearms and explosives in his home--was invented by the Federal Police
in order to justify his detention for 3 days. But the government
wanted to use Villareal Gomez to attack the student organizations he
participated in, so it arrested him. Assistant Attorney General for
International Affairs, Juan Miguel Alcantara Soria, told
La Cronica de
Hoy, "We've been investigating this young man for a long time. We
have information about his links to certain groups."
There is speculation that police arrested
Villareal Gomez in order to incriminate a more important target: Lucia
Morett, the young UNAM student who survived Colombia's bombing of FARC
targets in Ecuador. Four other Mexican students lost their lives in
the bombing, along with 25 other people, including important FARC targets.
Due to the bombing, Morett is now the center of an international controversy
that has turned into a witch-hunt against leftist academics.
Following the Ecuador bombing, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe stepped up bilateral cooperation on
combating drug trafficking and terrorism. They
reinvigorated the High-Level Group for Security and Justice Mexico-Colombia,
created under the Fox administration, and
added terrorism to its agenda. The High-Level Group for Security
and Justice Mexico-Colombia facilitates bilateral cooperation on terrorism
and drug trafficking, including intelligence-sharing. Following the
latest High-Level Group meeting, Uribe told press, "Both countries are
developing an intense cooperation in security matter, which includes
exchanging information and police training."
cooperation is already bearing fruit for the two governments. Colombia
has further extended the reach in its campaign against the FARC to the
organization's alleged supporters in Mexico. Mexico, on the other
hand, has used the pretext of "combating terrorism" to increase spying and
legal harassment in its autonomous universities.
This past May
the Mexican government sent a chilling message to leftist academics in
autonomous universities when it summarily deported Colombian professor
Miguel Angel Beltran Villegas. At the time of his deportation, Beltran
was carrying out post-doctoral research in the UNAM. Uribe requested
that Mexico extradite Beltran to Colombia, accusing him of being a FARC
leader. Mexican immigration official, without carrying out the
necessary deportation procedures required by Mexican law, detained Beltran
without warning, refused to allow his lawyer access to him prior to being
deported, covered his head with his own shirt, and put him on a plane to
Colombia. Beltran is currently being held in a Colombian prison.
The Mexican academic community decried Beltranos expulsion from the country
without the necessary legal procedures.
In requesting Beltran's
extradition, the Colombian government claimed that, in addition to being a
FARC leader, Beltran taught Morett in the UNAM.
dossier claims that Ramses Villareal Gomez was also in contact with Morett,
which his lawyer denies. Nonetheless, Morett's inclusion in the case
dossier increases international pressure for her extradition. In
September (while the anarcho-bombings were being carried out),
Interpol published that Morett is "Wanted" for the crimes of organized
crime, transnational crime, and terrorism in Colombia. On October 9,
in an interview with the Mexican newspaper Milenio, Ecuador's Attorney
General renewed his demand that Mexico extradite Morett. Morett remains in
hiding in Mexico.
Investigation Targets: APPO and Atenco
According to the case dossier, the Mexican government has identified fifteen
other suspects in the so-called anarcho-bombings.
La Jornada reports that all fifteen suspects are student leaders in
public universities and high schools such as the UNAM, the UAM, and the
National Polytechnic Institute (IPN). In a confidential report
prepared for the bombing investigation, Mexico's domestic intelligence
agency, the National Security Investigations Center (Cisen) has included
information about the suspects that dates back at least four years.
None of the suspects are over 26 years old.
Villeareal Gomez says
that the police showed him pictures of several of the suspects.
According to Villareal Gomez, police offered him "protected witness"
status--which would have kept him out of jail--if he testified against the
young people in the pictures. If he didn't cooperate, he would face 40
years in jail and they would rape his wife, the police reportedly told him.
Cronica de Hoy reports that the case dossier links the young suspects
with organizations such the People's Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT) in
Atenco (referred to in La Cronica as the "machete-wielders from Atenco"),
the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), the UNAM General
Strike Council, and "national and international insurgent organizations."
According to La Cronica, the suspects tend to participate in "confrontations
with police, school building occupations, protests, and highway blockades."
They also tend to wave Colombian flags with FARC logos, organize discussions
about Marxism, and defend Mexico's national energy industry and free
education. The suspects are known for shouting phrases such as
"Against Yankee Imperialism," and they tend to like Fidel Castro and Hugo
Chavez, according to the dossier.
None of the newspapers that
have obtained copies of the case dossier have reported what concrete
evidence (aside from being leftists) the government has against the
suspects. La Jornada notes that the police claim an anonymous tip led
them to Ramses: they say someone put newspaper clippings about the bombing
with the name 'Ramses' written on one of them in an anonymous tip deposit
box. According to La Jornada, "From that name that was provided
anonymously, the investigators in charge of the case used the Internet to
search for and find photographs of Villareal Gomez protesting against
bullfighting, as well as information about the student's detention during
the last UNAM strike, as well as information about his activism in the
General Strike Council and his expulsion from Mexico's flagship public
A few days later,
La Jornada published the revelation that the young man in the
bullfighting protest photo was not Villareal Gomez, but rather a different
student activist. Villareal Gomez says that during his interrogation,
police told him that they knew all along that it was not him in the photo.
The police reportedly told him, "We already know that this isn't you, and
that your name isn't among the list of protesters who were detained in the
Plaza de los Toros. The boy in the photo is Victor Cilia. Say
that he placed the bombs and nothing will happen to you; you'll be a
Villareal Gomez may be out of jail, but the case
remains open. The dossier is proof that the government plans to use
the investigation to go after some of Mexico's most important social
organizations through the student leaders that support them.