Gloria Arenas Agís was released from prison around 7:30PM on October 28, ten years after Mexican federal agents abducted, tortured, and then—after several days of being held incommunicado—arrested her and her husband Jacobo Silva Nogales on charges ranging from terrorism and homicide to rebellion.
Arenas and Silva are the co-founders of the ERPI (the Insurgent People’s Revolutionary Army), a guerrilla movement based in Mexico’s impoverished Guerrero State, with roots going back to the Lucio Cabañas guerrilla up-rising of 1967-1974.
Mexico State prison officials released Arenas without advanced notice or asking her to sign a single document.
"I did not know that I was going to be released," Arenas told a reporter from La Jornada upon leaving the Mexico State prison in Chiconautla, "all of a sudden they just told me, get your things and leave."
Minutes later she was standing outside the prison, alone, with two plastic bags. Elizabeth Silva, Jacobo Silva’s sister, arrived first and took Arenas to her house where she was met by scores of supporters.
Jacobo Silva remains in federal prison in the state of Nayarit, where he was recently transferred without notice from the nation’s highest security prison, known as Altiplano.
Silva has conducted both his and Arenas’s legal defense from within maximum-security prison for years, submitting a series of successful appeals that should have won their release as early as 2007.
In 1999, Silva and Arenas pleaded guilty to the charge of rebellion, though they denied charges of terrorism and homicide for an armed attack on an army convoy in Guerrero in 1996. At that time in Mexican law, the crime of rebellion carried a five-year prison sentence. A judge gave Arenas and Silva a sentence of over twenty years.
But the law states that anyone guilty of rebellion shall not be charged with additional crimes against the state that may have been committed in the act of rebellion, such as the deaths of soldiers or the destruction of army vehicles. The judge had justified the long sentence for the crime of homicide, not rebellion.
Arenas and Silva both deny having participated in the armed attack of which they were accused, though they fully acknowledge belonging to the ERPI guerrilla movement. When the judge asked Silva his profession in 1999, he responded: "Guerrillero."
Silva’s main appeal led the judge to drop the charge of homicide, upholding the charges of rebellion and property damages. Both Silva and Arenas should have been released immediately, but were not. Years after their trial, the Mexican legislature changed the sentence for rebellion from five to seven years. Silva appealed again and won. Again they should have been released, but a judge from another jurisdiction said that Arenas and Silva were subject to an on-going trial in another court.
Silva filed yet another appeal, though its resolution had not yet been announced when Arenas was suddenly told to gather her things and leave.
Arenas said that she would start working immediately with existing social movements to help free Jacobo Silva and all the political prisoners in Mexico.
"I was released due to the movement and social struggles," Arenas told La Jornada. "And there are still hundreds of compañeros who still need to be freed."
For more information about Gloria Arenas and the history of the ERPI, please see the chapter-length profile of her in Mexico Unconquered (City Lights, 2009, www.citylights.com). For more information about the ERPI today, please see the Z Magazine article "The Hidden Side of Mexico’s Drug War."
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