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From: "Dana Aldea" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: LATimes,Mexican protest leaders' sentences spark outrage,May 08
Date: Tue, 8 May 2007 19:32:28 +0200

Mexican protest leaders' sentences spark outrage

Three men draw 67-year terms for their roles in San Salvador Atenco.

By He'ctor Tobar and Carlos Marti'nez, LA Times Staff Writers
May 8, 2007

MEXICO CITY - Human rights activists and leftist leaders reacted with
outrage Monday to 67-year prison sentences handed down to three leaders of
an uprising last year in a suburb of this capital.

The men were sentenced late Friday after being found guilty of kidnapping
related to the disturbances that swept through the rural community of San
Salvador Atenco from February to May 2006.

The protests turned violent May 3, when a group of flower vendors resisted a
government order to remove them from a local market. Five police officers,
part of a large force sent to restore order, were kidnapped by community
members and released unharmed after a few hours.

The three defendants were charged with the earlier kidnapping of a state
official. The official was held for two days in February 2006 as activists
and residents pressed the government to meet demands related to ongoing
disputes over land and government resources.

Judge Blas Hernandez said there was sufficient evidence to prove that
defendants Ignacio del Valle, Hector Galindo and Felipe Alvarez organized
the kidnapping.

An official inquiry of the conflict in San Salvador Atenco found that police
in the state of Mexico had committed gross human rights abuses in restoring

The 207 protesters and others arrested included 26 women who were sexually
abused, according to a report by Mexico's National Human Rights Commission.
Two protesters were killed.

State officials say some officers involved in the clashes received
administrative punishments.

However, none was relieved of duty and no criminal charges were brought
against any officers.

"Now we see that those who defend their rights deserve jail, while those who
truly commit crimes deserve to be free," Trinidad Ramirez, the wife of Del
Valle, said in a telephone interview.

The defendants' case became a cause celebre to the Mexican left. Leaders of
the leftist Democratic Revolution Party said the tough sentences showed that
the government of President Felipe Calderon was hardening its stance against

Some pointed out that even the most notorious of Mexico's drug cartel bosses
have rarely received sentences longer than 20 years for their crimes.

The most prominent defendant sentenced Friday was Del Valle, a leader of a
community assembly in the town.

On Monday, Humberto Benitez, secretary-general of the state of Mexico,
rejected calls that the state government grant Del Valle and the other
leaders amnesty.

"We live according to a system of laws and institutions," Benitez told
reporters in Toluca, the capital of Mexico state.

"We don't consider it excessive, we consider it a correct sentence.. And
yes, I consider Ignacio del Valle a delinquent, because a judge found him to
be so."

In Mexico City, prominent writer Elena Poniatowska called the sentences a
crime and said she would help lead a public campaign to "express our

On Saturday, guerrilla leader Subcommander Marcos told a rally for the
defendants at a prison near Mexico City that the three men would not have to
complete their full sentences "because this system of justice won't endure
for 60 years longer."

America del Valle evaded arrest on charges similar to those presented
against her father. Mexico state officials said this month that she was
living with Marcos and his guerrillas in Chiapas.

Barbara Zamora, an attorney for Ignacio del Valle, said her client was
sentenced under new, strict anti-kidnapping laws that were designed to fight
the wave of kidnappings for ransom that have swept through Mexico. She said
the prosecution had never presented evidence that Del Valle had sought a

An additional 174 defendants still face charges tied to the protests.

[EMAIL PROTECTED],1,2859835.story?trackrss&ctrack1&csettrue

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