At number 910 Explanada avenue, blood runs down the pale walls. The black door of the headquarters that the Government of the State of Mexico has in Lomas de Chapultepec, one of the most affluent neighborhoods of the capital, is also stained. In red it reads amnesty, justice and freedom. With their own blood, dozens of women have written what they have been asking for for months: the release of their children, brothers or husbands who are “unjustly imprisoned”. They were victims of torture, fabrications of crimes or irregularities in their criminal proceedings, as has been accredited by the Human Rights Commission of the State of Mexico (CODHEM). Most of them are young, from very humble social backgrounds and with brown skin. “In the State of Mexico, youth, poverty and the indigenous are criminalized,” says lawyer Antonio Lara, from the Zeferino Ladrillero center. A report by this organization estimates that in the State of Mexico there are more than 19,000 people deprived of liberty who did not have the right to a fair and regular process.
In 2015, Antonio Candelaria was 22 years old, studying Systems Engineering at the University of London and taking theater classes. He also worked as a taxi driver to pay for his studies. Now, Antonio Candelaria is 27 years old and has spent six days in jail. He was arrested on April 20, 2015 at the Mundo E shopping center in Mexico City. “In the security video you can see how men and women without uniforms take it. We thought at first that it was a kidnapping, ”says his mother, Alicia Reyes.
After three days without news, Antonio called from the federal prison in Nayarit where he was arrested: they accused him of kidnapping, involvement in organized crime and extortion. Reyes’s voice cracks a bit when he recounts that in the 72 hours that they were looking for him in the streets and hospitals, his son had been shaved and threatened with a gun, drowned with a wet towel, had received electric shocks, had fainted and the blows had lifted him up again. The police wanted him to confess that he was part of a cartel, but he never signed the blank page. “They had to open an investigation folder for torture, but they did not follow up,” says Reyes. The federal judge in charge of the case declared himself incompetent and, three months later, Antonio was admitted to the Barrientos prison, in the State of Mexico. They only blamed him for the crime of extortion. In an oral trial, in which the family accuses that they did not have the adequate defense, they sentenced him to 43 years, which, after an amparo, became 40.
The Amnesty Law has become the last hope of this and many families, who report cases riddled with errors. Under the umbrella of the federal initiative, in December of last year, the Congress of the State of Mexico approved regulations to grant amnesty to persons deprived of liberty who are in jail – with or without a sentence – for minor offenses. These can be crimes against health, theft in some forms, abortion, sedition or involuntary crimes, for example.
In addition, this amnesty law provides for those convicted of high-impact crimes, such as homicide or kidnapping, who were tortured or victims of irregularities in their process, as long as it is accredited by a public human rights body. Based on this opinion, a legislative commission issues its recommendation to the Judiciary on these special cases. The deputy of Morena Gerardo Ulloa, president of the commission, defined it as follows: “It cannot be denied that there was fabrication of crimes to impute poor people in criminal cases for crimes such as kidnapping and even homicides.”
But the last word on these cases is held by the judges, who so far have only approved one application. “It is an attitude of institutional infatuation. There was a general guideline that issued that no one in the judiciary of the State of Mexico was going to allow it to be recognized that things were done wrong, ”explains lawyer Antonio Lara, from the Zeferino Ladrillero center. “For the Judiciary, these cases are black spots in its history. Such errors are not allowed in public discourse. They are considered isolated cases ”, he adds. Reports from human rights organizations in the State point to between 13,000 and 19,000 of these cases of people “unjustly imprisoned” out of a total of 30,000 incarcerated individuals. In other words, half of the total prison population in the entity did not have the right to due process.
“I recognized him as dark and filthy”
The families have reacted desperately to the refusal of the judges. Last week, Antonio Candelaria’s grandmother, aunt and mother, accompanied by more than twenty women who fight for similar cases, shaved their hair in front of the Palace of the Judicial Power of the State of Mexico. This Thursday, all of them have drawn blood with which to paint the walls of the state representation. The nurses have punctured them and in a syringe they have taken the liquid. With a glove they have drawn the words: “Amnesty that is fulfilled”. These women, now shaved and with bloodstained fingers, have recently received support from CODHEM. The Human Rights organization has issued a favorable opinion for the release of their relatives as it has documented irregularities, fabrication of crimes or torture. In total, the CODHEM has ruled in favor of 24 cases.
The irregularities detected are repeated: arrests without an arrest warrant, hours and days held incommunicado, mistreatment during detention, convictions based on only witnesses or evidence. This is the case of Daniel Plácido who was accused of kidnapping and pointed out by the victim when he was walking through the streets of Toluca. “He said he recognized my brother as dark and filthy. The statement states that he identified it because it was full of dirt, ”Lady Plácido, 33, indignant. He explains that Daniel had stained clothes and hands because he worked in a vulcanizer, repairing tires, and in a smithy helping his father. He was arrested on November 5, 2015 when he was 26 years old. “When they arrested him they told him that they were going to rape his wife and daughter in front of his eyes if he did not recognize what he had done. They told him they were going to disappear us ”. Without scientific evidence, no expert reports, no fingerprints or call log to support the identification of the witness, Daniel Plácido was sentenced to 70 years.
The causes, according to human rights organizations, must be found in the effectiveness policies of the prosecutor’s offices. “The Public Ministry in the State of Mexico understands effectiveness as more people in jail. The problem with understanding it like this is that it doesn’t matter who is in jail as long as you have someone in jail, “says Lara, who reformulates:” They are arrested because they need someone to pay for the robbery, kidnapping or homicide that occurred. ” At the Zeferino Ladrillero Center they confirm that many of those who are unjustly imprisoned are young boys who “because they were poor did not reach justice.” In addition to a criminalization of indigenous features.
It happened to Daniel González, a Mazahua from Villa Victoria, imprisoned at the age of 27 in 2015. “I give them my blood and my hair, because when they took my son they already took everything from me,” says his mother, Silvia Romero. It is also Luis Edgardo Ávila, who they asked for money or land to set him free, but he did not have one, whom his sister Edelmira swore to release from prison seven years ago. On the walls and in conversations, these women share the same doubt: “The law and the declaration of human rights are here, why don’t they want to let them out?”
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