Translated by Alex Argüelles
“I saw hunger of justice”
Freedom is the idea that has built modern politics. As in any other concept, we need to know the details of what “being free” implies, as when referring to people’s lives. Researching, spreading and sharing information on Internet –and other media- are activities included in the concept of freedom, established on the Mexican Constitution and other International treaties. Whenever freedom becomes a discussion, I try to think about its implications in a concrete case.
After the investigation of a federal judge –that, facing the lack of evidence about drug dealing, ordered to Chiapas’ authorities the reclassification of charges-, Gustavo Maldonado recovered his liberty after 90 days of unfair imprisonment last Thursday, October 7th.
I obtained the document at 16:15 and by 17:00 I was stepping out the penitentiary”, Gustavo told me with accurate memory. He was leaving El Amate exactly 90 days after he was taken there.
A week before, a campaign for his liberty started: #FreeGumalo, this campaign was driven by an NGO called Propuesta Cívica. Some time earlier –the day the campaign started- Daniel Gershenson and some fellows of another NGO called ContingenteMX, were calling up in Mexico City to claim Gustavo’s liberty.
Charged in drug dealing and detained on August 8th , Gustavo’s legal procedure was full of irregularities. The only evidence the judges held against him was an anonymous denounce and some reports of ministerial cops. There was no physical evidence of the presumed illegal substance Gustavo was supposed to hold. A GT-200 molecular detector was used –the detector’s creators now rest in prison for promoting the use of this device, which turned out to be a fraud, due to the fact that it doesn’t detect any molecules at all. Despite keeping his right to avoid any declaration on the case, the prosecutor made some “special questions” to Gustavo, his answers where taken later as confessions –Mexico’s National Supreme Court of Justice has declared this unconstitutional.
Actually, Gustavo Maldonado is a critic of Chiapas’ governments and he had called in recent months to mobilizations in order to support themes and causes he supports such as the civilian claims on water issues in Tuxtla Gutierrez. The afternoon of his detention, he spread a video and retweeted information concerning the government’s bought of a “Blackeyed Hosting Monitor”, a surveillance device to track down digital activists in Chiapas. He was detained while he was buying dinner the night of this year’s August 8th.
“Did anyone told you something about your internet activism during your imprisonment procedure?” –I asked Gustavo. “No, they were very careful with that. Months before someone told me that Chiapas’ cybernetic police was watching mi page carefully, so I should be aware of this because they could come for me at any moment. The government was worried because in one of the mobilizations someone took out an Anonymous mask. I was not worried because all of the movements I called have been pacific”, he said.
El Amate is, sadly, famous for being a facility for political prisoners. From Alberto Patishtán –who, by the way, wrote a letter to Gustavo-, to the Colectivo de los Solidarios de la Voz del Amate (a collective made up by indigenous political prisoners), and also Pablo Salazar –who built El Amate as Chiapas’ governor and happens to inhabit it now as former governor.
“How was your way through it?”-I asked him. “I thank God for putting people that supported me in my path. Whenever there was someone trying to bother me, some others defended me; many of them followed my work on Internet, they gave me wristbands with captions of Chiapas Legion”.
“There are people trapped in a system that is not the right one. Many of the ones I knew were hit until they confessed crimes they didn’t committed. I invested a lot of my time in knowing their stories, stories of despair and impotence because their lawyers scammed them or the person in charge of the case is not doing something about it.”
Gustavo is facing an oral judgment, for the supposed drug possession charge. He is not thinking about returning to social networks until he gets rid of the false charges. “Thanks to the people that supported me, we now know about some of us that are into this. We assume risks, but ideals are hunt-proof. This are tough fights, but they are not impossible.”
Gustavo, as many others, works on searching, analyzing and spreading information –and their opinions on that information- through Internet freely; developing similar functions to the ones of a journalist or a human rights defender. As him, this people build digital communities, local and national; where information and discussion is exchanged, having a great influence in the community. When they suffer from any kind of aggression, they tend to avoid conventional media attention or the attention of some so-called “freedom of speech defense organizations” –that won’t understand the importance of their work. Luckily, Propuesta Cívica, SinEmbargoMx and journalists as Isaín Mandujano, Ángeles Mariscal have known how to read the new times.
The future of freedom of speech belongs to this decentralized citizen nodes that argue about politics in Internet. This processes act -and will keep on acting- as information curators and creators of democracy enrichment platforms.
Of course we have to celebrate his freedom, but as long as Gustavo has those charges against him we still have work to do. Last weekend he attended, as he used to, his grandparents’ dominical services. He tells me that God has been a key factor in these months of suffering for his family and him, of course. He points out that the mobilization of people –inside and outside El Amate- was the key to his freedom.
As I proposed on the first paragraph, last weekend I thought about the meaning of freedom regarding Gustavo’s case. Some minutes after I received a message from Gilberto Martínez –catalogued as one of the “terrorist tweeters”- and found the answer to my question there: “His liberty is my freedom.”