Interview with Freed Indigenous Political Prisoner José Antonio Arreola of Nahuatzen

Originally posted on It’s Going Down.

La versión original de esta entrevista en español puede encontrarse aquí.

The following is an interview with José Antonio Arreola, a former political prisoner released after serving more than three years of a seven-year sentence based on trumped-up charges. He is a member of the autonomous Indigenous Citizens’ Council of Nahuatzen, a P’urhépecha community in Michoacán. A previous interview with José Antonio can be read here.

After more than three years in prison, you won your freedom on February 9, when the Supreme Court ordered your immediate release. Congratulations on this victory. How are you doing? How does it feel to be back home?

I feel very happy, I feel very glad to now be with my children, with my wife, with all my family there in my community of Nahuatzen.

For those who are unfamiliar with your case, can you share some background on the struggle in Nahuatzen and the events that led to your political imprisonment?

The reason why I ended up in prison, being a political prisoner, is because of the following. In 2015, Nahuatzen rose up against the insecurity that the municipal government had been causing since its inception. An insecurity throughout the entire community. The residents, when they saw that organized crime came for some compañeros and took one of them, got together. We all gathered in the main square in our community and decided at that moment that the plan to follow was to meet with the entire municipal government in the municipal president’s office and to be able to ask for information about our compañero. The situation ended, thank God, with us recovering our compañero.

We called for a plebiscite through a statement read through the public address system in our community, where each person was asked to voluntarily come and sign sheets of paper with their name and a copy of their ID. I can tell you that nearly 5,000 signatures were collected out of the 5,000 photocopies. That is why, in 2017, we won a ruling from the Supreme Court, order 035, which resolved that we are an Indigenous community, that gave us our autonomy, our self-government, our self-determination. Subsequently, we filed another lawsuit to obtain the resources directed to our community, which was also granted to us by the Supreme Court through the Toluca regional court.

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“Autonomy is Everything”: Interview with Indigenous Political Prisoner José Antonio Arreola of Nahuatzen

Originally posted on It’s Going Down.

La versión original de esta entrevista en español puede encontrarse aquí.

The following is an interview with Indigenous political prisoner José Antonio Arreola Jiménez, one of three political prisoners from the P’urhépecha community of Nahuatzen, Michoacán, currently serving seven-year sentences based on trumped-up charges. The interview was conducted in late November by IGD contributor Scott Campbell.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself?

Yes, my name is José Antonio Arreola Jiménez. I’m from the Indigenous community of Nahuatzen, Michoacán. Nahuatzen is an Indigenous community nestled in the heart of the Meseta Purépecha. I have my wife and five children.

Can you share with us some details about Nahuatzen, its struggle, and your role in that struggle?

The struggle in Nahuatzen began in 2015, when the last municipal president was imposed on us by the state government, by [then-governor] Silvano Aureoles Conejo. Then, this Miguel Prado Morales, which is his name, arrived with more than twenty or thirty armed individuals from outside the community, claiming to be his private police, his bodyguard. We, as community members, thought this was bad, because within the town there is no need to bring weapons, we’re not people who fight, we’re not armed people. We’re working people, peaceful people. So that was, more than anything else, the main issue.

Then, one day we asked for a meeting with the municipal president, which was granted, and we told him that we wanted his police to leave the community of Nahuatzen. It turns out that he said yes, but later on he didn’t want to. The next day, he summoned us in front of his police, and we were attacked by them, his entire family, the entire town government. So, there was a revolt, there was a conflict, there were people who had their heads cracked open and people who were beaten. But at that moment, the community decided to hold a meeting, a general assembly, and to remove recognition of the town government. So, in a public meeting in the main plaza, we held this assembly.

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