NEW YORK.- In the midst of the season’s first snowstorm, a group of 30 activists representing a broad coalition of groups and individuals came together under the banner of the Campaign to Free Nestora Salgado and all political prisoners. They gathered at the Consul General’s building in Manhattan from 1-3pm on December 10th, International Human Rights Day.
Speakers included representatives from YoSoy132-Nueva York, Radical Women, Freedom Socialist Party, Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR) and U.S and Latin American indigenous groups: Javier from the NYC indigenous newspaper, La Zenka, and Movimientos Indígenas Asociados; Hortensia Colorado from Coatlicue Theatre and Nicolas Chango from UNICEN, United Indigenous and Campesinos of Ecuador and North America. Greetings were also read from Moonanum James from United American Indians of New England. The international aspect of the gathering was especially notable with the presence of U.S. activists alongside attendees from Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Ecuador.
The spirited protest with a bullhorn sound magnification attracted the participation of pedestrians. Leaflets were also passed out to a steady stream of cars on the busy side street in front of the consulate. The foreman of a local construction project, a Black man, came over to get information and leaflets. He said that he wanted to share them with the immigrant workers who were conducting renovations of an adjacent building.
The New York Mexican immigrant group YoSoy132-Nueva York passed out information about the arrest and imprisonment of Nestora Salgado and engaged a number of people arriving at the consulate to conduct business. One man from the state of Guerrero who knew about the Nestora’s case and the arrests of other indigenous police showed his appreciation and solidarity by going to buy chocolate bars to share with his activist compatriots.
A publicity campaign in the days leading up to the protest consisting of street distribution of leaflets and a banner displayed on top of a passenger car with the slogan. “Free Nestora Salgado: an indigenous woman leader in Mexico”, included miles of travel throughout three of the five boroughs of New York City. This spread the news about Nestora to thousands of New Yorkers. Activists on the street especially in the Latin American and Caribbean immigrant community were glad to find out that there were pedestrians who knew about the unjust imprisonment of Nestora Salgado.
Speakers spoke to the innocence of Nestora Salgado and pointed out that her only act had been to defend her native community against organized crime and corrupt government officials. Angie Galindo from YoSoy132-Nueva York said: “Nestora’s only act of defiance was to expose the connection between the government officials of Olinalá and organized crime.” Emily Woo Yamasaki declared in her statement for New York City Radical Women that “The only thing more threatening to organized crime and corrupt government officials than a force of indigenous community self-defense is an indigenous woman leading that force of self-defense.”
Throughout the comments made by various speakers there was a common thread: the Campaign to Free Nestora Salgado is dedicated to freeing all political prisoners on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, especially the other indigenous leaders jailed with Nestora and the scores of protesters and mostly youthful representatives of the alternative media who have been arrested and jailed over the last year that President Peña Nieto has been in office. In this vein, special attention was given to the case of Lynne Stewart, the jailed New York City attorney in Texas, convicted of promoting terrorism whose only transgression was to spend over 30 years as the U.S.’s most capable defense attorneys. Everyone present at the protest received information on how join the phone calling campaign to elected representative beginning this week.
Speaking for the Freedom Socialist Party, Elias Holtz described how just five weeks ago the FSP launched the organizing for the day’s protest in five cities in the U.S., New Zealand and Australia. He described how the party’s expectations had been exceeded as a genuine united front of immigrant, indigenous, feminist and left parties had come together in outreach efforts and a series of organizing meetings where everyone was heard and decisions were made democratically. Elias also noted in his comments that the community police under the leadership of Nestora in arming themselves against organized crime involved in forcing young women into drug addiction and prostitution had ended the violence and assassinations in Olinalá. He said: “The armed self-defense that Nestora organized is not only legal under Mexican law, it made her community safer. In Mexico and here in the New York City, the police do not protect the people.” He continued, “In order to stop the violence in Mexico, not only is a community police important but in the big picture, we need to end the racist militarized war on drugs in the U.S. that President Obama has continued.”
Hortensia Colorado, an indigenous immigrant woman from Mexico, spoke about how the hurricane last summer devastated regions of the state of Guerrero where Nestora’s hometown of Olinalá is located. She said, “The government in the aftermath of the destruction of the hurricane found millions of pesos to put the lucrative tourist industry back on its feet while thousands of poor indigenous people were left to suffer in even greater poverty.” She said this was part of an orchestrated plan to drive the poor and indigenous people off their land which now the government wants to hand over to large-scale international mining corporations to extract the gold, silver and other mineral natural resources. Both she and Javier Tlóloc Enrique from La Zenka as well as well as Nicolas Chango from UNICEN commented that this is simply a continuation the destruction of indigenous people and their land that has continued unabated since the conquest of the New World by Spain and other European powers over 500 years ago.
Stephen Durham spoke in the name of Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR) and noted that this newly formed organization was key in bringing together the Freedom Socialist Party in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, the Partido Obrero Socialista in Mexico and the Núcleo Por Un Partido Revolucionario Internationalista (NUPORI) in the Dominican Republic in building the international support for today’s demonstration. He noted that Nestora was a U.S. naturalized citizen and a woman leader in the struggle against crime corruption in Mexico captures in her own story the international solidarity and bravery which is critical to survival not just indigenous people but to the poor and working classes of Mexico, of the U.S. and throughout our hemisphere.
The demonstration also attracted representatives of four media outlets: a NYC-based reporter for La Reforma, one of Mexico’s major daily newspapers; Radio Marginal, a local Mexican radio station; a photographer from the New York Times web site; and representatives from “La Voz Latina,” WBAI-99.5 Pacifica Radio Station.
At the end of the protest, two representatives from the protest, Stephen Durham representing the Campaign to Free Nestora Salgado and Mariana Montserrat from YoSoy132-Nueva York delivered a letter to Sr. Henrique Peña Nieto, President of the United States of Mexico. It was received a three person delegation led Marcela Celorio, Deputy Consul General, whose demeanor was polite and diplomatically distant but whose message was one of powerless to do anything more than make sure that the Mexico’s president receives the letter and a full report on the day’s activities.
Undaunted by the weather and warmed by the fires of solidarity among activists from diverse organizations, the protest ended with a determination to go forward in the campaign to Free Nestora and all political prisoners.