How To Fight Crime

Posted on July 30, 2014


Excerpts from testimony to a human rights emergency delegation of which I was a member by Ofelia, a young woman apprehended and imprisoned without trial for sedition, destruction of private property and instigating a riot after Mexican soldiers and federal and state police broke up a protest movement in the southern state of Oaxaca:


       We were really scared. When they brought us out together the following day after the night we were arrested two of the women looked like they were wearing plastic helmets then I realized that it was their hair plastered down with blood where they’d been beaten. The PFP (militarized federal police) came—the PFP from the day before—and took us one by one in front of somebody they said was from derechos humanos (human rights) but they didn’t do anything. The PFP accused us of firing rockets and setting fire to buildings. What stupidity! The only thing I’d done was try to hide under a car.

         That night they took us out to where there were helicopters waiting. They insulted us, they said they were going to rape us. They piled us in the helicopter and flew us to a different landing strip. There they forced us into an airplane. They made us walk with our heads down but I saw a PFP logo on the side of the airplane. My neck hurt so bad I thought my head was going to fall off. All the time I’m thinking, ‘What are they preventing by arresting and torturing us?’ I couldn’t find an answer. No one had an answer.

         When we arrived in Tepic [Nayarit, where the San José del Rincón federal prison is located] they took all of our belongings, all of our clothes. They made us put on ugly prison clothes. When they forced us to our cells I heard screams from the men and knew they were being beaten, tortured. The guards told us we were in a maximum security prison and had no rights. They shaved our heads and didn’t let us see a doctor or give us any kind of medical checkups.

         The women prison guards were nasty. They insulted us, especially they insulted the women from rural backgrounds who had rural accents. They told me to forget about my family, that no one was going to come for me.

         They treated us like animals. They only gave us fifteen minutes to eat and the only meat they gave us was horse meat. In our cells we had no cleaning supplies, we had to drink tap water, they didn’t even give us toilet paper.

         The only medical treatment we got was pain pills. Every time there was a different doctor and none of them knew our medical histories or what the previous doctors had prescribed. One of the women had broken ribs and they didn’t treat her at all.

         It was terrible! I prayed—all the time I prayed—and at the same time I cried.


Testimony taken from the thirty-eight women who police arbitrarily arrested and flew to the federal prison make one think of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. Prison custodians chopped their hair, leaving only tags and tatters around their baldness. They forced them to undress and to do deep knee bends while calling them bitches, they beat them with nightsticks and threatened them with rape.

They made them sit for hours without moving, hands behind their necks and eyes on the ground, they burned them with lighted cigarettes, fondled them and pinched them, they entered their cells at nights, pulled back the hammers on their pistols and said they were going to shoot them. On the helicopter flights to Nayarit the federal police threatened to throw them out the door and laughingly described how they would splatter against the mountains.


         Ofelia was released on bail paid by a non-governmental citizens committee after three-and-a-half weeks incarceration but was not cleared of the arbitrary charges levied against her until two years later. A government official I spoke to countered my complaint that Ofelia and the others who had been arrested were innocent:

         “All the better. It makes the rest of the people more afraid.”

Published in Garbanzo #4, 2014