From October 29th to 31st, 2010, the "Forum Against Militarization and Violence and For a Different Culture" was held in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. David Barrios, a delegate to the July 2010 SOA Watch Encuentro, participated in the Ciudad Juarez forum and wrote this report back.
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Ciudad Juárez: The outpost
By: David Barrios Rodríguez
"How sad that in order to live in these times one has to be willing to live as an animal. Whoever wants to live cannot live in a house with light in the windows. He or she has to live in a hole and hide during the day. One has to live without leaving any trace of one’s life. We have arrived at this."
Life and times of Michael K. (John Maxwell Coetzee)
I arrived in Juárez, with wide-open eyes, attentive ears, and in some way (if such a thing is possible) prepared. And yet I must say that it was too much. Different voices, caught on the fly, told me during those days that the city, previously known as Paso del Norte, dies in small installments, that even the climate took fright and the sun does not want to come out in summer. That in brief, Ciudad Juárez is the epicenter of barbarism. But the people’s vitality and the rediscovery of the small gestures and the small things that entail the plain and simple desire to live are also dazzling.
This may be perceived particularly in young people against whom much of the violence and impunity that reign in the city are directed. But not only there; in the last two weeks in October, more than 40, perhaps 50 young people died in Mexico, in episodes that share patterns of violence. In Tepic, Ciudad Juárez, Tijuana and in the Federal District you only have to be young, at a party, in an addiction rehabilitation center, or simply talking on the street to friends to be the target of illegal or police commandos. This is something that appears to be a “social cleansing” campaign as was indicated by specialist Carlos Fazio. In the same way as this “Charrúa-Mexican" journalist, many of us were on the verge of participating in the “International Forum Against Militarism and Violence: For a Different Culture”, when the high-powered bullets of the police were used to attack the holding of the meeting itself, bringing close to death a young and combative social fighter from Ciudad Juárez, Darío Álvarez, an adherent of "la Otra Campaña” (the Other Campaign), an initiative launched by the Zapatista National Liberation Army. After many months of preparations, of facing fear and media isolation, the “compañeros,” brothers and sisters of Frente Plural Ciudadano (Plural Citizen Front) of this city were ready for the coordination of working tables, presentations, workshops and film showings.
The first activity of the forum was to carry out the “11th walk against death,” protesting the killing of 14 persons in a development of the colony Horizontes del Sur last Friday, October 22. Nonetheless, when the peaceful protest was marching in front of the offices of the Institutional Revolutionary Party and some attendees were painting slogans on the walls, the Federal police closed in on the contingent's rearguard. The compañeros chose to enter the facilities of the Biomedical Sciences Institute of the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, where the Forum was to start. At that time the Federales got out of their vehicles and started to shoot. Compañero José Darío Álvarez received the impact of a high caliber bullet through his back, when he was already inside the facilities of the University, which is also a flagrant violation of university autonomy. Subsequent testimony states that a policeman even tried to drag him outside the University. The response of the compañeras and compañeros was key: while a compañera covered Darío with her body, some others repelled the police. Despite the seriousness of the wound (a 4 inches hole), Darío's life was saved and he is still fighting while recovering in the hospital.
From that time, the Forum took place with a sizable decrease in projected attendance. The purpose of the meeting was to bring about reflection and articulation by sectors who oppose the state of exception and militarization in Mexico. In that sense, the approach of the Frente Plural Ciudadano in Ciudad Juárez is very clear and includes three points: That the Mexican army return to its barracks, that the Federal Police leave Ciudad Juárez and that Felipe Calderón Hinojosa resign from his position as Head of the Federal Executive. What has happened in Juárez only corroborates that these requests, in addition to being legitimate, must spread to the whole country. During this President’s rule, that represents the neoliberal right and who has been advised by his friend Álvaro Uribe Vélez, in Ciudad Juárez more than 7, 000 persons have oficially died, and there are about 10,000 boys and girls who are orphans. It is estimated that about 100,000 businesses have been abandoned and that there are 10,000 empty houses as well because of the exodus of persons that are prey to terror.
In Juárez, the frontiers between analysis, experiences and political participation, are surpassed by reality. Ciudad Juárez is the result of a historic process of which we are all a part, any place in the borders, from the centers and the new peripheries, from exploitation and consumption. Ciudad Juárez is the outpost of this terminal and murdering phase of capitalism, where the dynamics of drug trafficking violence is only a more transparent expression of the “natural” behavior of the market, and as happens in the rest of Mexico, in the eyes of the rulers and of the big business owners, we, the greater part of the population, are nothing other than disposable, superfluous and invisible beings.