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Urgent: SME Under Siege in Hidalgo, Violent Repression Feared

By • Mar 18th, 2010 • Category: News & Analysis


Source:Kristin Bricker – My Word is My Weapon
1,5000 Federal Police Have the Juandho Community Surrounded and are Raiding Houses, Town’s Electricity Has Been Cut
The town of Juandho, Hidalgo, has been under siege since yesterday, when members of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) hung strike banners on their former workplaces as part of the national strike in support of the SME. The SME reports that the town’s electricity went out last night. During the night, hundreds of federal police arrived. There are now between 1,000 and 1,500 federal police surrounding the town. The police presence is overwhelming: Tetepango county, where the Juandho community is located, has about 9,000 residents.

At approximately 3am this morning, federal police began raiding houses in search of SME leaders. SME Central Committee member Gregorio Paredes and his family are in hiding because federal police have burst into several homes looking for him. SME members Diego Sánchez Mendoza, Sergio Mendoza Rivera, and Adrian Monroy Mejía have been detained and beaten. The SME reports that dozens of people have been disappeared.

The SME’s Secretary General, Martin Esparza, is from Juandho and his family lives there.

Tensions in Juandho began yesterday when SME members blockaded the the Luz y Fuerza complex in Juandho:
SME members and supporters blocked the entrance to the Juandho LyFC complex with piles of dirt. According to El Universal, “This angered the federal police, leading to a confrontation.” The police fired tear gas and pepper spray at the crowd, and fired live rounds into the air. El Universal reports that following the repression, approximately three police helicopters and 400 federal police arrived on the scene to drive back protesters.

Following the police repression, floodgates that guard a canal of raw sewage were opened, flooding the LyFC complex and the police inside. At the time of publication, it has not been confirmed how the floodgates opened. However, the flood seems to have incapacitated the police–reports from Juandho indicate that the SME still holds its blockade of the LyFC complex there.
Media and human rights organizations began to arrive in Juandho last night. SME leaders are expected to arrive in Juandho today with representatives from the Mexican government’s National Human Rights Commission. The SME invites national and international human rights organizations, union leaders, and social and political organizations to come to Juandho “to mobilize and stop this miserable fascist policy of criminalizing electricians’ just social struggle.” It also calls upon international supporters to hold emergency protests outside Mexican consulates and embassies.

Update on the State of Siege in Juandho, Hidalgo

I just spoke with Gregorio Paredes, an SME leader in Tetepango, Hidalgo. He is currently in hiding because the police are looking for him: they are searching houses in Juandho in an attempt to find him, and they have his father’s house under surveillance.

Paredes says that the federal police (he estimates about 1,300 officers) remain in the area. Some of the “federal police” came dressed in military uniform, he says. There is a military base next to Juandho.

There is slightly less tension in the area as compared to last night because a lot of media and human rights organizations have arrived. They’ve begun the process of documenting human rights abuses. The federal police had originally installed blockades at all four entrances to Juandho, but now some of those blockades are being lifted. Again, Paredes believes the arrival of human rights observers led to some (but not all) of the blockades being lifted.

The SME is not occupying the Luz y Fuerza building as was originally reported. The SME has lifted its blockades outside the building. The Luz y Fuerza building is controlled by the police.

Paredes says that when federal police snatched SME members and residents from the streets and their homes, they took them to the local Luz y Fuerza del Centro building, beat them, and forced them to sign documents. However, everyone reported detained or disappeared has been released–they were all taken to the Luz y Fuerza building and interrogated and beaten, and then released. At this point it is unknown exactly how many people were kidnapped and taken to the Luz y Fuerza building for interrogation.

Paredes complained that the federal police are supposed to be going after drug traffickers and thieves, and instead they’re using their weapons against the people. “We’re workers, not thieves,” he told me.

Paredes also complained the the state governor did nothing to protect Juandho residents from the federal police. The union requested that state and local police come to the town to keep the peace, but the government did not send any officers.

The siege isn’t over in Juandho–the police have not left, and they are still looking for Paredes and fellow SME leader Pablo Esparza Flores (Secretary General Martin Esparza’s brother). But Paredes reports that more and more people are arriving to support residents, so the tension has diffused slightly.

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