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Open Letter to Mumia Abu-Jamal
Letter read by Eugenia Gutiérrez at rally in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal at the US Embassy on December 9.
Mexico City, December 9, 2008.
Letter to Mumia Abu-Jamal, political prisoner from Philadelphia.
In this country where I live there are many people who are with you and who respect you, people who know about your struggle, who have read your writings, who know about your resistance, and who are mobilizing against the abuses of power that run throughout your history.
People here who are with you here, known as the Friends of Mumia, have organized an event a few yards away from the United States Embassy in Mexico City to lift a collective voice of protest against the physical and psychological cruelty that the most powerful State in the world has inflicted on you and your family. That is why I am writing to you now.
We were born to live and be free. Yet for some strange reason that historians may be able to explain thousands of years from now, in our society that is considered so modern and so civilized, the prerogative exists to legally torture a human being, subjecting him to an entire life in prison, completely isolating him from family and friends, and as if that weren’t enough, keeping him under the uninterrupted threat that at any moment, he will be murdered by the institutions of justice with malice aforethought and criminal intent.
One of the big problems with getting away with cruelty is that this is contagious. As you know, the death penalty does not exist in Mexico. At least, not officially or in a way that is clearly permitted. It was officially banned in 2004, but in reality, the last time someone was killed within a legal framework, was August 9, 1961, when the soldier José Isaías Constante Laureano went before a firing squad for having taken the lives of two other soldiers: Cristóbal Granados Jasso and Juan Pablo MaDobecker. José Isaías was 28 years old and died in the early morning hours in a state in the northern part of my country: Coahuila. Today, the governor of that same state, Humberto Moreira, from the same city where the death penalty was halted (Saltillo), is following in the footsteps of the 54 nations where capital punishment still exists.
In the face of the uncontrollable wave of kidnappings in Mexico, the product of drug lord greed, governmental neglect, and the complicity of the police, the governor and state legislature of Coahuila introduced a bill last December 2, seeking the reinstatement of the death penalty in our country and its application to kidnappers. Governor Humberto Moreira has stated that the death penalty is not in question; the only doubt is the appropriate method. The only matter for discussion is “how we’re going to kill them, if we take them before a firing squad, slit their throats, hang them, or use a light method, like lethal injection”. Here, I should emphasize that one of the main groups promoting the death penalty in Mexico is a political party ironically named the Ecologist Green Party.
If I tell you about something so terrible and shameful, it’s because I know that the changes in behavior and the rules of living together socially that we need to survive as a species will never take place in institutions where power is exercised and force is applied, but instead will come from people whose stories, like your own, jolt the part of us that is human and lead us to question what we are doing as societies. Not even the most ferocious beast relies on a system of punishment or vengeance so structurally cruel as the death row on which you live.
To say it another way: if it was possible for me to hear Governor Moreira’s words and not lose faith that it is possible to live together in a different way, it’s precisely because stories like yours exist, in which a man makes a supreme effort not to turn into what he’s struggled against and has known how to confront, with firmness, integrity, and love of life, a system that proposes death and vengeance as medicine for its fears.
If it’s savage to murder a human being as punishment for having killed someone, sending an innocent person to death row is an indescribable abuse. How then, is it possible to define what has happened to you, constantly denied a fair trial so that you can prove your innocence? And how is it possible to achieve justice for young Daniel Faulkner, killed that night in 1981, without knowing even now what happened and who took his life?
During the last few days as I’ve gone over your writings, your political activities as a young man, and all that you’ve done in prison, I’ve reaffirmed my conviction that one can and must live without violence and that it’s not only possible, but necessary, to find forms of human relations that cast aside vengeance, rancor, and the use of force.
Stories like yours remind us at every instant that we, like you, were born to live and be free.
Please receive these warm greetings from Mexico City.
(Statement read during the week of activities for the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners in Mexico City, December 2008, by Eugenia Gutiérrez, Mujeres de la Sexta, Zapatista Other Campaign)