Martial law occurs when the highest-ranking military officer becomes head of government, negating the powers of the executive, legislative and judicial branches. In Mexico, the Supreme Commander of the Mexican armed forces is the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto,
On May 3, 2006, while Sr. Peña Nieto was governor, police officers forcibly prevented 60 flower sellers from displaying their merchandise at the Texcocolocal market just outside of Mexico City. The flower sellers took refuge in the small nearby town of San Salvador Atenco. Residents and sellers set up a roadblock. Hundreds of state and federal police were sent to remove the blockade but were unable even after 5 confrontations. These confrontations were extremely violent. Two protesters died. 207 were arrested including 10 children and received what the National Human Rights Commission determined was cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment while in custody. 145 arbitrary arrests were made, that is to say without cause. Five people were illegally deported from Mexico. At least 26 women were raped by police. The NHRC determined that the police involved used excessive force, smashed windows and furniture, hauled people from their beds, molested women and children and abused the elderly and disabled. (See Video, Documentary, Commentary)
Unbeknownst to the Mexican people, on March 29, 2016, the Mexican Constitution was amended granting Sr. Peña Nieto dictatorial powers to establish a state of emergency and suspend other constitutional rights without congressional approval. Those rights that can be revoked include the freedom of association, the freedom of the press, and the right to a trial and due process.
Article 29 of the constitution now reads:
“In cases of invasion, serious disturbances to the public peace, or anything else that places society in grave danger or conflict, the president of the United States of Mexico, with the approval of the congress or the permanent commission when congress has not been assembled, can restrict or suspend, throughout the entire country or in limited places, those rights and guarantees that are obstacles to confronting, quickly and easily, the situation.
The amendment further clarifies the authorization of the use of deadly force in order to arrest or prevent the escape of suspects including the use of firearms, electric shock, and spray irritants.
All major Mexican political parties (PRI, PAN, PES, Partido Verde, PRD, Movimiento Ciudano) approved what is known as the Ley de Atenco (Atenco’s Law) with only the representative of the Morena political party opposing. (See Politicking)
Thus, all the pieces are in position for martial law in Mexico. How can you survive?
Wikihow suggests being a good citizen in the event of martial law. That implies unconditional obedience. I’ve learned quite a bit about trying to right wrongs with our ongoing battle for public utilities (See You can lead a horse to water) especially how people have their own interpretations of what is right and it usually is contrary to my own interpretation. So I don’t think I’d be able to be a good enough citizen to survive that way.
With this in mind, it would be prudent to consider the second method of survival Wikihow lists–grab your bug-out bag and flee. Fleeing without an ultimate destination may extend your life and liberty for a time, but it would be a difficult life, similar to that portrayed in the movie Defiance. While that sort of nomad existence is sustainable for a time, it’s important to educate yourself about the potential magnitude of the state of emergency. Will it be temporary or has martial law been implemented permanently? It’s very likely that once established, martial law will be hard to repeal. In the event that martial law is now the norm, what then?
Looking over the list of other suggestions of what to do in the event of martial law shows that La Yacata is a pretty good bug-out location after all.
*Become self-reliant. This is our ultimate goal in living in La Yacata. (See About)
*Avoid populated areas. Riots and violent military confrontations are centered in urban areas. La Yacata is rural as rural can be. As it is not connected to the electric, water or sewer systems, disruptions or limitations in these services will not seriously affect us. (See La Yacata still has no electricity) Most consider it bleak living and would choose to relocate to another less inhabitable area. That works for us.
*Create a community. This seems in contrast with the self-reliant advice. Perhaps it should read “Create a self-sufficient community.” The less you depend on the government, the better off you will be. We, in La Yacata, are still working on that establishing a community bit. (See Hate Thy Neighbor) Maybe we’ll be able to pull together in the event of such a disaster. Stranger things have happened.
Other than that, experts have no advice. I suppose it’s a situational sort of thing. If the occasion calls for it, can you keep your head down and remain unnoticed or is it something that calls for a stand against the atrocities? Only you can decide. Mexico has already proven itself to be violently intolerant to any sort of opposition, whether from flower sellers or student teachers (See El Dia del Estudiante). Thus, the outcome to any perceived defiance is understood.
7 responses to “Surviving Martial law in La Yacata”
This isn’t something I’ve ever experienced but I can’t imagine how scary it must be to find yourself caught up in something like that!
Cait @ Click’s Clan
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There are a few details I would like to add about the conflict in the town of San Salvador Atenco. This town lies only a few miles from my own hometown of Texcoco. The flower sellers had previously agreed to move their stalls from downtown Texcoco to the new market, only a few blocks away, and later refused to do so. After a few days of wrestling with the local government, the mayor of Texcoco sent the police to forcibly remove the flowers sellers and take them to the new market, but the conflict arose and the sellers asked the Atenco group for help. The Atenco group had already led demonstrations against the plans for a new airport, but by that time the group wasn’t made up of local campesinos anymore. By then, they were mostly made up of shady riot groups led by Atenco local Ignacio Del Valle, and would hire themselves to organize protests for diverse conflicts (during that time, the Atenco group was also hired by the Chapingo university union to organize strike protests, for example). The flower sellers asked Mr. Del Valle and his Atenco group to help them and the conflict escalated beyond control. The Atenco group went on a rampage. They vandalized homes and businesses in downtown Texcoco for days, including my father-in-law’s shop and some of my friends’ homes, blocked the major highways, and the mayor asked governor Peña Nieto to intervene. State police forces turned out to be much more violent than anyone had imagined, and of course many innocent people ended up paying the consequences. In the end, Peña Nieto ended up as the villain, and the Atenco group were portrayed as innocent victims (the real victims were the people of Atenco, abused by Del Valle’s riot groups and then by state police). The riot groups were chased out of Atenco, Ignacio Del Valle was later jailed (I met the man and he acts more like a guerrilla leader than a peaceful campesino), and the town fell back into its sleepy routine (did you know the people of Atenco keep voting for the PRI? In contrast, Texcoco is now ruled by Morena). I think the violent nature of the Atenco group has long been overlooked and people, in general, refuse to believe they were anything but humble campesinos, although the truth is a lot darker. Peña Nieto is not innocent. His response was surprisingly violent, and no one is about to forget what happened. Personally, I think the Atenco incident is the perfect example of how things can get easily twisted- campesinos can be replaced by riot groups, innocent townspeople can be victimized by shady groups and police forces, a small local conflict can be turned into a nationwide controversy, and all for political gain. Because make no mistake, the Atenco group, as well as Peña Nieto, were all looking for political and power gains, not to do anything good for the people.
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Thank you for the additional information about Atenco! I agree that it was a complicated situation that certainly got out of hand and both sides used it to their own advantage, to the detriment of many innocent people.
Yes, it’s always this way. And not just in Mexico.
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