Chile. Understanding this instrument of communication as a tool to give voice to the prisoners in struggle, we publish this interview with comrade Marcelo Villarroel from the prison of Rancagua (territory dominated by the Chilean state). Months after having ended a hunger strike with other anarchist and subversive prisoners, Marcelo, a long-term prisoner with a long history of struggle, tells us about his experience in the strike and the reasons for his transfer to the prison of Rancagua, among other things. We thank Marcelo for his willingness and contributions and the comrades who made the interview possible.
THEY CAN IMPRISON THE BODY, BUT NOT THE IDEAS. FREE MARCELO!
- We would like to know about your current situation in the Rancagua prison and the relationship between the prisoners there.
The transfer that took place in the first days of June this year, 5 months ago, corresponds with the repair, maintenance and re-foundation of the high and maximum–security system in the high and maximum–security prison in Santiago de Chile. In this place where the anti-capitalist fighters, the anarchic subversives of the last 25 years in the history of the Chilean prison structure have historically been housed.
This prison was founded in 1994 and it had a repair, a modification in the arrangement of its structure in the summer of 1999 and now for the second time in its history they are going to make an alteration, a modification, with the intention of re-founding this prison. Those in power, the national direction of gendarmerie (the prison service in Chile) has recently disseminated, using the media coverage of the national channel, all this logic of generating the conditions to re-found the high and maximum–security system. For example, they are saying that in Chilean prisons there are organized gangs that continue to be directed by prisoners and that these people require a much more drastic system of confinement than the one that exists today. That would involve reference to the United States and Europe, the high and maximum security regimes of those places that take into account the minimum right of the prisoner, only that, reducing them to the minimum right to breathe in some way. So the purpose of this re-foundation is to tighten, to legitimize a system of repression in the framework of the pandemic.
We have been here since June, it is supposed to be 6-7 months maximum, so we would be returning at the end of the year to the original unit which is the high-security prison and the maximum-security section where Francisco is and the high-security prison where I am and my comrades are with me.
The relationship with the other prisoners continues to be one of respect among those of us who are in the high-security section – Juan Aliste, Juan Flores, Joaquin Garcia and me. We have a relationship of reciprocal respect with the prisoners with whom we share this universe. Francisco is in the maximum section together with a universe of social prisoners and other political prisoners of the Chilean internationalist rodriguista line, another Marxist-Leninist sector with which we do not have any type of organic or political relationship, nor we are not interested in that but rather in personal terms. Clearly there is a respect and a recognition of the situation, of the resistance that was maintained for more than seventeen years in a differentiated disciplinary regime in Brazil, comrade Mauricio Hernandez Norambuena, Francisco shares with him. We are the whole universe of prisoners who have been transferred from Santiago to Rancagua, sixth region, one hour from the capital.
- What did the transfer involve? What was it like?
The transfer involved a change in the daily routine while maintaining a confinement in accordance with our high and maximum–security section, which means a change of unit, a new area, a new daily routine, new physical space but the same regime of control.
We are few here. The modules are built for two hundred people, in the prison there are two thousand seventy people, we in the module are twenty three people. So there is a lot of space, we have all known each other for years, it is not a zone where there is a permanent influx of people because being the most conflictual inmates in Chile, they keep us more or less together. Segregated, but more or less together. So apart from knowing each other we have lived together for years in the same units, more or less the same people, there are no new entries. The transfers happened in this framework, the first days of june in the high-security prison and the maximum-security section of Santiago de Chile to the prison of Rancagua, module one high, module two maximum-security.
In both modules there are about twenty-one to twenty-four people and the daily routine follows the cells being unlocked in the morning, 8:30-9 am, already going down to the yard, because we are in the cell during the lockup from 5 pm to 9 am, the cell lockup is on the second and third floor. So the cells are opened at 8:30-9 am and the lockup happens at 5 pm, from 5 pm to 8:30-9 am we are locked up and the rest of the day we spend downstairs in the yard. We all have the same regimen, those who are in maximum have only three hours of yard and twenty-one of lockup.
We can’t work in the sense of anything manual, any handicraft. There is nothing to do but to face the day playing sports, walking in the courtyard, sharing with people, drinking mate, playing a board game, mainly that.
The relationship with the gendarmerie is a hostile relationship, one of distance and respect based on the obligatory nature of the bond. The relationship is hostile, however we do not have physical or verbal aggressions, there is no type of action that denigrates our dignity and we do not allow it either.
- What is it that they want to do in the maximum security prison?
It mainly has to do with the remodeling of the infrastructure with the purpose of re-founding a high and maximum security system with the purpose of isolating those who are locked up in those prisons. Since it was founded it has always kept political prisoners, subversive prisoners in its facilities. After 2000 they incorporated social penal population and well, inevitably as I was saying, they concentrate the most dangerous people in this country from the point of view of the police there, the criminogenic selection that they make, let’s say.
A highly repressive system from the point of view of the spaces, to re-found this prison apart from modernizing its facilities implies re-founding a concept in Chile – the idea that together with the canonical law established by the jurists of domination, they seek for punishment to be expressed through pain. Inevitably the idea is, then, that this prison inflicts punishment, if not from a physical point of view, then the daily suffering that living in a regime of shit implies. That is the logic, to make us pay, and the system does not cease to be heavy.
Heavy in the sense of the complexity that daily resistance implies. Strength is given to us by our deep attachment to our anti-authoritarian convictions, with more strength each time, and always with absolute clarity, with the need to destroy prison society, not as a slogan but in practice, in our daily struggle.
- On the other hand, we would like to know about the last hunger strike, how you lived it and what experiences the struggle left.
The mobilization carried out, the hunger strike carried out with this group of subversive and anarchist prisoners in Chilean jails. The truth is, which is important to specify, that there is a universe of prisoners called “political prisoners of the revolt” who remain locked up in various prisons in the country. In Santiago they are concentrated in the prison of Santiago one. We do not have a fluid relationship with this milieu of prisoners, neither with the prisoners, nor with their families, nor with the solidarity milieus that accompany them. The truth is that our condition is different. We are prisoners with the genuine feeling of struggle against authority with practices of revolutionary violence and minority combat, developed for many years now. From autonomous and anarchic practices we have made way for conflictuality.
The universe of political prisoners of the revolt, for which today there is a great national and international movement of solidarity, are people who went out and fell into the framework of the revolt and mostly do not respond to ends, but are rather people, many of them radicalized citizens, crossed by insignias and flags that correspond more to the snobbery of the red memory in the cult of the old Latin American guerrilla, mainly of the Chilean reality. So there is a mixture of people who go out, who rebel and, as in any revolt, that cross the border of like-minded, organized or more radical spaces that have been maintained over time, but from the spontaneity that is generated from the force of the revolt. This universe of people remain there, for them there is a great mobilization.
Well, the purpose of our strike was to push, collectively, a little step towards the street in the case of my situation, since of the whole universe of comrades I am the one who has been here the longest, now in 2022 it will be fourteen years since March 15, 2008 fell in San Martin de los Andes, Patagonia, Argentina.
Then, in the summer of 2019 in Chile a decree law was modified, article two and article nine of decree law 321 were modified with the purpose of restricting the access to conditional liberties which are granted to all those people who had served more than half of their time of imprisonment. For example, a person sentenced to thirty-five years, only in years his sentence was set at twenty years and he had to do half of that time which was ten plus one to be able to start applying for parole.
Well, with the modification in the summer of 2019 the times changed and I who was prepared to start applying at the end of 2019, this modification being at the beginning of 2019, my application time was postponed from December 2019 to October 2036, that is, seventeen years more, today already fifteen years more. Then from there, we reached the agreement and the conviction of the need to face this collective struggle together, joining Monica also (anarchist comrade imprisoned in San Miguel prison).
Then, from that perspective we defined the beginning of a hunger strike from March 22 that lasted until May, fifty days, in which we managed to consolidate our demands as demands of the subversive prison. On the other hand, we managed to generate a dynamic that allowed deep ties of solidarity and complicity with different spaces in different parts of the world and also to generate a movement within the institutionality that is pointing out the fact that this modification must at some point be confronted to restore the previous state-situation, so that from there people can be allowed to apply for parole, serving the time, a reasonable time, let’s say.
With this we do not want to validate the prison system at all, on the contrary, but there are elements that are objectives and that are by definition tactical that oblige you to have a clarity and a voice in this regard. All comrades who have been in prison and who have fallen by actions of magnitude and confrontation have always had environments of lawyers, from lawyers in solidarity to those who assume from a comradeship the defense in the field of the legality of power. This does not mean that we want to be part of power, but that by a tactical definition we have to confront it with the tools we have in those circumstances, then from that perspective these demands that are within the framework of the legality of power we raise them with that clarity, knowing that our objective is freedom and as long as we maintain persistence, clarity and conviction and we do not leave that line, everything we can do in the framework of this is welcome and we will face it individually and collectively. clearly spoken. So that was the idea, we achieved the objectives; however, with this transfer and how the legality of power always works hand in hand with the police, we have not been able to generate a greater fissure that would allow an official pronouncement regarding the 321, but we are in a constant, concrete fight and we know that there is still a long way to go, however, we continue to do our bit.
- Do you feel that there was support from outside?
Clearly, as I was just saying, we feel that there was support, that there is support, that feeling and that sensation is not random, but it also has to do with our persistent insistence on collective work, respecting individualities; always walking along the path of autonomy, of horizontality, of relations without mediation in the fertile space of insurrectionary illegality.
Then, clearly we know that we want them to manifest themselves from different latitudes with the same will and persistence that we are doing actively in this zone of the planet. We believe in the radical, autonomous, anarchic struggle, we believe in the direct struggle. We know that it is the most conflictive path towards the search for total liberation, however, the most conflictive is the most consistent and coherent with our objective of wanting to live in a different way, in community, abolishing everything that capital, patriarchy, the state and authority can bequeath to us with the force of domination and its henchmen at the service of power.
So we knew, we know and we want there to be solidarity, we encourage it, we know that there are constant movements of complicit solidarity, and above all we know that we are not alone, because it is what we have built, it is what we want, where we walk and well, as in this case it is my turn to share with you these words.
I say goodbye, embracing you, comrades of the region dominated by the Uruguayan state.
As always, fist raised, looking beyond the labels, beyond the repeated phrases, what we live is that, the millimetric resistance to the prison society without resignation, without pamphlet, but with life and tangible, palpable resistance and a daily struggle that will not disappear; even disappearing – us too, because that is what we are building, the path of millimetric resistance to the prison society, from within, with autonomous resistance, with practices of minority combat, encouraging this and never renouncing our option of subversive struggle against the state, prison and capital.
As long as misery exists, there will be rebellion.
Against the prison of the state and capital.
Prisoners to the streets.