This is the fifth of twelve biographies of defenders of the security system and indigenous justice system of the state of Guerrero; 12 posts put in the “12 Days in Defense of Our Lives and Freedom” campaign. Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
Day 5. Florentino García Castro. Community Police member of the House of Justice of El Paraíso, Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities-Community Police (CRAC-PC).
Florentino García Castro, 20, is a youth from the community of El Paraíso, municipality of Ayutla de los Libres. Florentino speaks very little Spanish. He had to leave elementary school unfinished at the age of 8, because of his father’s (Fidencio García) death while in third grade. His two brothers and sister, along with himself, had to take jobs with his mother, María Lorenza, in the plot of land that was given to them by his grandfather, where they planted corn and beans. The land was the sole form of income for the family.
Florentino is married and has a young daughter of a little less than two years old. Florentino has been actively involved in community activities where he has spent most of his life. Although it has been a little over a year since the community of El Paraíso has joined the CRAC-PC; the people, as is the custom in indigenous communities, have had their own police force for years. Almost every citizen has provided service at some point in their lives. Florentino had already held the position as an officer, so in the assembly of November 18, 2013 it was confirmed in his position, now as Community Police member of the House of Justice of El Paraíso, and as part of the CRAC-PC.
The CRAC-PC system is an example of the success of any security policy passed by proximity to the population, the care of the social fabric, the legitimacy built on the report on accountability and service to the community. This model is not a recent invention: rather, an organizational effort to revitalize the ancient legal systems of indigenous peoples.
Florentino was arrested during the operations on August 21, 2013, in the community of El Paraíso, during which 12 members of the Community Police of the House of Justice were arrested. After the arrests, the Attorney General of the State of Guerrero asked for the group of Community Police to be placed under a restriction order in order to finish integrating a previous investigation in which they were accused of unlawful imprisonment, among other charges; in which case in many others, the restriction order was used by the Attorney in order to conduct an investigation that still hasn’t come to light; i.e. he was arrested in order to later be investigated.
To Florentino, his right was not respected to an adequate defense. The Public Prosecutor sought after his statement very quickly, in such a way that he was assisted by a public defender that did not fulfill his role. Florentino, a speaker of an indigenous language and not very fluent in Spanish, did not have an adequate translation.
It is important to remember that after the arrests of 12 members of the Community Police in El Paraíso and six members in the community of Olinalá on August 22, 2013, several protests were held by the population who support the Community Police in the municipalities of Ayutla, Titxtla, Tlapa and Olinalá. Because the information about the whereabouts of those arrested was unclear, the social protests resulted in peaceful marches and blockades, which the police force initially responded with threats. Moments of extreme tension were experienced as the Federal Police pointed their weapons against those who were protesting. The gravity of this situation becomes clear if it’s also considered that Guerrero has not healed its wounds in regards to the excessive use of police force that resulted in the deaths of three who were repressed Ayotzinapa student teachers on December 12, 2011. Remembering this event, no one has been punished and the only two public officials, who have been arrested for the deaths of the students, were released in April of this year. The message is clear: in Guerrero there is more severity towards those who join the Community Police than those who kill students.
Eleuterio finds himself deprived of liberty in the prison of Acapulco, along with eight other comrades of the CRAC-PC who are accused of kidnapping, in the criminal case 191/2013 to be heard in the 4th Court of First Criminal Instance of the Judicial District of Tabares located in Acapulco Guerrero. The language of law will equate Florencio with those who deprive themselves of freedom to satiate their sinister economic pretensions; but in the language of the people, the senselessness of this equation does not go unnoticed: Who in their right mind would say that a young Na Savi indigenous appointed as a Community Police officer for his people equals a formidable kidnapper who anonymously deprives his victims of liberty in order to use them as ransom? Who can believe such a disparity?
As the recent history of Latin America shows, the emergence of tensions between state justice systems and indigenous justice systems is inevitable. However, addressing this complex social conflict with the threat of criminalization and pretending to coercively control community justice will only generate more conflict and polarization in our troubled southern entity. And not only that: this use of crooked justice will keep youths such as Eleuterio in cold prisons, while the real criminals who spread fear in Guerrero will walk freely through our towns and colonies. Meanwhile, Doña María Lorenza will continue to wait for the return of his son to the village, who on a fateful day, the government took him for doing his job.