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Sanction By The International AIDS Society To Brigada Callejera For Protest Duri

Jaime Montejo | 20.08.2008 00:52 | 2008 Days Of Action For Autonomous Spaces | Health

Recently we have heard commentaries regarding possible sanctions to be received by our organization from the International AIDS Society (IAS), for having contested against Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, Mexico City’s Mayor, during the Closing Session of the XVII International AIDS Conference, held in this city from Aug. 3 to 8 of this year.


Noti-calle/Jaime Montejo, August 19, 2008.- Recently we have heard commentaries regarding possible sanctions to be received by our organization from the International AIDS Society (IAS), for having contested against Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, Mexico City’s Mayor, during the Closing Session of the XVII International AIDS Conference, held in this city from Aug. 3 to 8 of this year. Surely Luis Soto, IAS co-president, Mats Ahnlund Director of Operations and Conferences of IAS-Geneva, Carlos García de León of Ave de México, Juan Jacobo Hernández of Colectivo Sol, among other corrupt business people, deceitful philanthropists, beggars, mercenaries selling themselves to the highest bidder, and bureaucrats who live off of AIDS, have already decided the depth of a lifetime punishment for Brigada Callejera. As if life were enough to punish us.

We know that all direct action against the society of power, brings with it consequences. We consider that we could have been subjected to police violence, as we were Nov. 1 2003, when the Tigre Group, of the Special Groups under the Secretary of Public Security of the Federal District, at that time headed by Secretary Marcelo Ebrard (today mayor of Mexico City), brutally beat up Elvira Madrid and Jaime Montejo, and deprived the latter of his liberty, together with a photographer. The reason for this was that Elvira and Jaime wanted to deliver proof of the illegal actions of the so-called “Death Squadron at the service of drug traffickers and pimps”, where hooded policemen operated with unlicensed patrol cars, with no identification numbers in order to avoid being tracked down by citizens. Based on this case and 76 more, the Mexico City Human Rights Commission emitted Recommendation 6/2004 to the Mexico City Secretary of Public Secretary. Despite the moral weight of this institution, no one was taken to court for illegally depriving people of their liberty, menaces and police violence. This was not the only occasion that Secretary Ebrard directed police operatives called “illegal” by the Mexico City Human Rights Commission.

We also contemplated the possibility of sanctions by the IAS and the Mexican government: we are not afraid of them and we will know how to confront repression with our head held high. We are proud to have raised our voice against people who erase with their right hand what they have accomplished with the left. In this momen we expect a big police operative in the streets of the city, where probably the penal accusation will be pimping, trafficking of people and commercial child sexual exploitation, accusations made against our street defenders of human rights, and health promoters. And the proof shown to base this accusations will be condoms, water-soluble lubricants and educational material.


To punish us for our acts is one things, to punish our circumstantial allies in the struggle for universal access in AIDS, is similar to applying a scorched earth policy like the one the US government is applying in Iraq, and the Mexican federal, state and municipal governments are applying to the Zapatista support bases and Zapatista Autonomous Rebel Municipalities, to eradicate the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). This policy can be summed up by the former pedagogic principle “the letter enters with blood”, so that in the future, those who consider an alliance with our organizations, or think about solidarizing themselves with us in the face of external aggressions, think twice before doing so, or bargain for their support or action.

Although it is true that up until August 8, inauguration day of the Conference, we were members of the Coalition of Activists for Universal Access in AIDS, and we had a formal relationship with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), this does not mean that these initiatives could determine the cessation of our civil and peaceful protest. On that dark day for circus artists and jugglers in the struggle against AIDS in Mexico, we did not even wear Coalition T-shirts, nor did anyone participate in the initiative other than Brigada Callejera or members of the Mexican Network of Sexual Work.

To link our protest to other people, and to try and punish them, is a nonsensical act that just aims to cause conflict between those who seek, like us, to guarantee universal access in AIDS in Mexico, reducing the cost of antiretrovirals that the Mexican government buys from pharmaceutical transnationals. The Coalition and AHF do not rule over our people, they never have and I doubt very much that they could do so in the future. Our relation with these institutions was circumstantial and only covered the theme of universal access, not any other theme. What is more, in the last assembly of the Coalition prior to the Conference, we explicitly stated to our partners that, as signatories to the Other Campaign, Brigada and the Network would have an independent agenda from that of the Coalition or AHF.


When our struggle began to get 35 entry scholarships for sex workers from 22 grassroots organizations, so that they and a small number of activists could attend the conference, we distanced ourselves from the people and organizations that make up the Scholarship Committee of the National Center for the Prevention and Control of AIDS (CENSIDA), one Director Carlos Magis and two of his subordinates, Rodríguez Nolasco and Jesús Duarte. These people, in addition to not acting with the truth, have insisted in disqualifying the procedure for requesting and accepting such scholarships, in addition to disqualifying the members of social organizations participating in the Commission. If this is not discrimination, we would like someone to tell us what it is. And if we add to this the exclusion of our organizations from the pre-conference on sexual work “coordinated” by Alejandra Gil of APROASE, we have a few reasons to take our disagreements to the public.

Mats Ahnlund Director of Operations and Conferences from IAS Geneva and Ronald Rosenes, an “activist” hired by IAS to make links between civil society organizations and other activists, only left a bad taste in our mouths: with them, we confirmed the racism and classism with which these people operate, and their condition of professional politicians, promising things that they were not willing to fulfill, like guaranteeing access to some sexual workers who were excluded from the conference.

More reasons for the contestation: Marcelo Ebrard and his policy of zero tolerance towards sex work, the closure of over 150 establishments where the Mexico City government supposed that sexual work was being carried out, the detention of over 760 people accused of pimping, slave trade and child commercial sexual exploitation during his administration (one year and 7 months), of which at least one-third were sexual workers. The systematic intention of his government to legalize the sanitary control of sexual workers and to destroy the solidary community links that have prevented the expulsion of this sector of the working class from the street, where they earn their living. Zero tolerance to cleaning and maintenance workers and taxi drivers, and all the benefits of the law (or ignoring it) for the big mafia: Pancho Soto, Tzuzumo, Iglesias, Del Vals, General Nájera, among others.

Other factors to consider: The first AIDS clinic in Mexico, the Condesa Clinic, has a waiting list for people living with HIV/AIDS, especially if they are sex workers. Medicine is denied to this sector of the working class, due to the assumption that they are addicts and therefore cannot guarantee adherence to the therapy, they are also subjected to a long wait for the CD4 count and viral charge studies. Antiretrovirals (ARV) are assigned without taking in account the indicators established by the ARV Guide in Mexico, and many people going to this Clinic are treated in a high-handed and arrogant way. The recent, circumstantial and media-fueled coordination in the framework of the XVII International AIDS Conference has not yet guaranteed a change in the quality of attention.

If this policy of zero tolerance helps in some way to prevent HIV/AIDS in Mexico City, let someone argue in its favor, to see if there is any consistency in their position. The work of the scabs of Mexico City authorities, has been to guarantee the re-location of sexual workers from the streets Circunvalación, San Pablo, Izazaga, Tlalpan and Sullivan, among others, without any legal framework, and to provide financial support to the non-profit organizations who agree to this initiative, like for example the Catholic organization “Hermanas Oblatas del Santísimo Redentor de la Merced”. In return for this financial support, the organizations turn their back to the sexual workers, and not satisfied with this, have tried to buy the conscience of some leaders of the zone, to legitimize this policy of dispossessing workers of their source of sexual work in the areas mentioned.


Now, what are the members of IAS scared of? Is this perhaps the first time that a politician in office has been questioned in an international conference, for his lack of coherence and political will, to stop persecuting sexual workers in the city or country, where they aim to make sexual work disappear? Are these AIDS bureaucrats upset that we didn’t ask permission to protest? Or better yet, are they upset because a small number of activists were able to get past the Presidential Special Security forces, and the Security forces of Marcelo Ebrard in the Banamex Business Center? Or are they fed up with the fact that we also contested Felipe Calderón (the national presidential figure) in the National Auditorium, in the inaugural session of the International Conference?

Some people find it bothersome that we use some Zapatista symbols and slogans. Why should we stop using them? Don’t they have anything to do with AIDS? So what, then, about the Manual of Other Sexual Health for Indigenous and Rural Resistance in Mexico, that we developed for the Zapatista reproductive health promoters? Doesn’t it count? Doesn’t the condom promotion campaign, where Subcomandante Insurgentes Marcos promotes condom use, count? Why do a group of AIDS bureaucrats get stressed because the world sees confirmation that the EZLN lives, and that we share a social, non-political party-based agenda with this military political organization? Did some of the written slogans bother them? Did they get fed up with the sign that said “The government lies, there is not medicine available for all men and women”, or is the whole thing a farce, the conference and all the statements made there? Perhaps what generated discontent was the poster that read “Government, pharmaceuticals and financing organizations: the AIDS Mafia”? Or maybe it was the one that mentioned that Elena Reynaga’s REDTRASEX “represents the Mexican government “, or “Zero tolerance of the zero tolerance policy of Marcelo Ebrard in Mexico City”? Or “Chiapas, Chiapas is not a military station, army get out of there”? We take this opportunity to mention that in the past, we have never asked permission to be free, and we have no reason now to ask for permission to enjoy our liberty, exercise our autonomy and self-determination. This situation unites us with the Zapatista men and women, and with those who take part of the EZLN policy initiative known as the Other Campaign.


Some of the goals of the project “AIDS Security Plan 2008”, in its version dated July 11 2008, to which some activists attending the XVII International AIDS conference had access, were to “reduce to a minimum the incidents related to the security of the conference organizers, sponsors and other service providers”, as well as “to provide an environment where all the elements of the HIV/AIDS community can express themselves legally and participate completely in the conference”. It should be noted that neither of these two goals were fulfilled in our direct action, which consisted of challenging the Mexico City Mayor, because the people in charge of security; Presidential Security and the Mexico City security forces, far from reducing incidents and promoting an environment favorable to peaceful protest, tried to stifle those of us who were protesting, and tried to take us out by force, from the place where we had stationed ourselves in front of the presidium and under the platform where the official speakers of the Conference Closure were seated.

This kind of “mass control” practice was what caused the massacre in “Disco New Divine”, a place where the police and Mexico City judicial system authorities assassinated 12 young people who were celebrating the end of their school year. This is based on the fascist idea that youth, and activists in our case, are lawbreakers and should be watched over, neutralized and punished with the full weight of force. We are all offenders. The security statutes of the conference mention that to harass speakers, personnel, delegates or any other person “is considered a crime in Mexico and ... activists and their organizations can be subject to the resulting application of criminal and civil law”. In addition, it mentions that “historically, Mexican law and security agents have anticipated and planned to prevent protests, crimes and the exhibitions of social disobedience in all events where people congregate”. If this is not equal to living six days of a state of siege, we don’t know what is. This is a situation where we activists are suspects, where we were watched over from the Centro Banamex headquarters, a place where photos of some of us were kept, where we were watched over in hallways and meeting rooms, where we had “mirrors” behind us all the time (people who watched over us personally, all the time).

The aforementioned security statute mentions, in the section on philosophy and attitude towards activism, an entire counter-insurgent policy that aims to reduce to a minimum the contact with individuals who can create disorder and interruption, to provide a secure place for protest and the arrest and dispersal of people who disturb the peace, public order and the legal use of an establishment. Surely the project “AIDS Security Plan 2008” version 11 July 2008, is inspired in the Bush anti-terrorist doctrine and cannot be any different: AIDS has been considered a matter of national security in Mexico and the world, because of the killing of people who live with HIV/AIDS, sponsored by corrupt governments and voracious pharmaceuticals that give greater privilege to their corporate profits than to the life of millions of people living with HIV/AIDS.

As someone mentioned a couple of times, the North American Free Trade Agreement kills people with AIDS and other ailments, by conditioning the Mexican government to use patents that affect efforts to save, in a sustainable way , the life of over 180,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, many of whom still don’t know their condition. To let people die, without guaranteeing universal access to antiretrovirals, of course generates rage, direct action and violence, albeit only symbolically in the majority of cases. Those of us who are signatories to the Other Campaign seek to overthrow the government in order to guarantee, once and for all, this universal access and to expropriate the means of production of pharmaceutical transnationals, as well as breaking their patents and putting them at the service of the Mexican people.


The security statutes of the IAS describes a scenario of a protest in a meeting room, where the security personnel will “attend all the planned or non-planned protests”. This action will consist of monitoring activity, sending an alarm to all the participants when a protest is presented, to close the internal doors and maintain open the main door to the meeting room, to notify the Mexican police, and in case of violence, including verbal violence, to transfer the control of security to the police.

The security statute of the IAS mentions that no member of the security personnel will confront the protesters. Why did Marcelo Ebrard’s security force not fulfill these rules? Why push together the protesters until Marcelo Ebrard made his speech? If we had not pushed the protest to an earlier moment, we would have been expelled from the Closure session without having fulfilled our goal. The Closure security forces pushed us together, compacting us and pushing towards our exhaustion due to a lack of air and due to a physical pressuring to which we were submitted, just like the Mexico City security forces did to the young men and women in the New Divine Disco.

We are not sorry for our acts, but we do apologize to those who may have felt real or imaginary bothers due t5o our form of expression in the closure and during the entire conference. We apologize to all the people, except the Presidential Security Force, the Security team and the people to whom we directed our rapid actions: for these men and women, the history of AIDS will show them as what they are and not as what they pretend to be nor what they want us to see them as.

Jaime Montejo
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