La Paz, Bolivia: Letter of comrade Henry Zegarrundo from the prison of San Pedro


Sitting on the bedstead that has become one of the places where I can read and write, I decided to put the worries in my head into words. The bustle from the approximately 50 prisoners with whom I share this space takes over the surroundings; a faint light is shed on this piece of paper where I write to give way to these words, which decided to break the silence by alluding to the informants.

It is necessary to bear in mind—by permanent reflection—that the State intends to deplete the individual, using its known strategies, which are no innovation but the materialization of punishment that has become a routine through incarceration, prosecution and ‘exemplification’. The State seeks to reduce the individual to an ID card, a number or a code; to morally exterminate us, and annihilate any revolutionary practice. But there’s a detail relevant to this: all people who recognize themselves in the libertarian spectrum share the notion of positioning themselves on the side of the barricade opposite to the Power-authority. Nonetheless, there are some others who proclaim themselves libertarians or anarchists that justify and endorse the repression; by this endorsement–justification, this proclamation of theirs mutates into a mere self-hypocritical discourse, and these people end up on the opposite side of the barricade we see in front of us, and not on our side.

If there are hostages, it is not because those ‘responsible’ of the attacks should be held accountable for the fact that the State incarcerates several individuals that support political tendencies or practices;* the State-Power only takes advantage of such incidents to enforce and justify its efficiency or civil ‘security’. It is very clear that the political and repressive entity together with its platformist allies are the only responsible ones for the fact that some of us have to be locked in the jaws of Power. It is thus pathetic to ask people who carried out the attacks to give themselves in or exchange their freedom in the place of others. Those people, who speak of true or fake anarchists, just need an endowment of police uniforms in exchange for their delation and collaboration; they have not yet digested that a struggle is dignified when it holds high revolutionary values, and that a person without moral emptiness does not snitch on another.

Pleading ‘guilty or innocent’ is not even a priority in this debate; what has priority is that no other comrade gets caught, and the pain inflicted on relatives and loved ones is not reproduced.

Throughout the history of struggle in these lands, it’s inevitable to mention the women warriors of the Women’s Syndicate of Various Trades (SFOV) and the Women Workers Federation (FOF). During the years from the 20s to the 50s, the struggle against the oppressing State-bourgeoisie was organized in trade unions where—not only in Bolivia but also in several other countries in Europe and America—initiatives with strong ties of solidarity to political prisoners in other countries were arising. These valiant anarchist cholas** were well aware that there was no need whatsoever to have imprisoned anarchists anywhere. In late 1927, they decided to join the international campaign for the liberation of the Italian-born anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti —it is known that they were two immigrants, workers and anarchists who were taken to court, sentenced and executed by electrocution for the alleged armed robbery and assassination of two people (in the US). A very important fact in this story is that the entirety of the solidarity campaign did not ask for the head of the perpetrators of attacks; the anarchist cholas demanded the release of Sacco and Vanzetti, and maintained an elevated moral concept and practice; they knew all too well that the libertarian struggles were not about blackmailing and requesting the authors to give themselves in so that the amount of political prisoners would keep growing. Although it’s been a long time since those days, dignity and ethical stances remain intact; whenever there have been informants, they have been treated as a scourge that, because of their actions, are very far away from any kind of struggle against Power. The anarchist cholas of the SFOV and the FOF are a good reference point of anti-patriarchy struggle, and very coherently knew how to liberate themselves from the other kind of masters: accusation and delation. Nowadays, the trade unions—at least here—have been seized by Trotskyists. The syndicalist struggle has been converted into a vertical and authoritarian organism, so it has nothing to do with an anarchic stance; it has been institutionalized and only stands for an agglutination of the masses that just follow the agreements between their leaders and the State.

I did not expect that, within this prison chapter, snitches would become the stellar actors. Even though they testified against me, I did not expect that those who call themselves comrades would go as far as to ask for the ranks of anarchist prisoners to thicken. Therefore, I reject any solidarity action in which I might be linked to individuals who support repression.

I am still waiting to get out of this cage, and even though the judicial engine runs so slowly, I am feeling strong and firm. I admire all those who still fight in and outside the prisons; the definite end of the Bombs Case (in Chile) brought a big smile to my face; this is a great victory in our history. Sooner or later, all of the state set-ups shall fall. I reiterate my greetings to all the prisoners of Power who do not give up, to my family and comrades. We must not let them steal our dreams. Solidarity is what encourages a prisoner not to feel alone.

Henry Zegarrundo
Anti-authoritarian prisoner

* On August 28th the solidarity collective Libertad stated the following: ‘We deplore the fact that Nina [Mansilla], in her despair to get out of that extermination centre, harmed comrades Krudo [Mayron Gutiérrez Monroy] and Henry [Zegarrundo] in her amplified plea-statement that she herself requested; likewise, she gave away names of those who, as she would like to believe, are members of the FAI-FRI.’

On September 29th the self-proclaimed ‘anarchist-feminist activist’ Nina Mansilla mentioned, among others, that the perpetrators of 17 attacks must be held accountable for their actions and not let someone else ‘pay for the movement’. Furthermore, in regard to an incriminating video (which, according to the prosecuting authorities, shows Nina during an action), she made reference to distinct details in order to implicate another person, whom—in her own words—‘I used to call comrade and sister at some point, but I cannot say the same now, as she knows my legal and emotional situation, knows I’m in here for her, for having an alleged “resemblance” to her.’ Lastly, N.Mansilla had the nerve to write: ‘Why should I shut up? To protect who? It has been said of me that I’m a snitch, and that people withdraw their solidarity towards me because “I accused others in order to save myself;” from what I see, it’s very easy for anyone to release a mouthful of very radical discourses, to talk about loyalty and resistance behind a keyboard, to write overpowering pronouncements against the State, the society and all who do not think as they do just to make a big deal out of it. But who gets in my place? Who lives with me every day in here? Who bears the humiliations and intimidation I’ve been putting up with for the past four months?’

** The feminine term chola (masculine: cholo) has a long history and abundant cultural connotation in Latin America. In general, the word stands for rural Andean women who wear the pollera (traditional skirt), speak Quechua or Aymara and sell their products in marketplaces (an archetype of Andean women). But cholas can also be characterized by a certain way of attitude reflected in the way they talk and live, features that complement the clothing to identify someone as such. The term was used in a pejorative way by the bourgeoisie to define a woman bellicose, seductive and lewd, thus a sexual object of desire, and moreover the epitome of sacrifice via motherhood and work. It grew to symbolize the triple oppression women were—and are—undergoing: discrimination on grounds of indigenousness, social class and gender. As described in Henry’s text, the term designates the qhateras (petty market traders) and other women workers who rebelled since the 1920s and took part in the anarcho-syndicalist struggle in Bolivia, and particularly in La Paz, making chola a word of their own.

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