My name is Liliana Cabrera. I’m a member of Yo No Fui. We are a feminist collective of women and non-binaries who work in different artistic and productive workshops inside the Argentinian jails, and outside too. This organization began with poetry workshops in 2002 with Maria Medrano. She is now our general coordinator of the organization. We are a cooperative venture since 2014.
I knew Yo No Fui in 2006 when I arrived to Ezeiza prison. In the first place I was in unit 3 so in that place I heard a lot about Yo No Fui. Everybody talks about the women who helped us with the papers for the hunger strike. And later I was transferred to unit 31. In that place I joined the poetry workshop. I passed eight years of my life in that place doing my sentence. That poetry workshop was the place where I discovered the sense of writing. I always say write is like a window to myself. A window I didn’t knew.
In 2014, I recovered my freedom. So I joined Yo No Fui full time. And I consider it as my militance place.
The situation in Argentinian prisons is awful. Really, really very violent. Violent by the state. The people suffer the violations of their human rights, even the most basic. They don’t have access to a decent food or medical care in timely manner. They don’t have access to education. And we are talking about constitutional rights.
Now a lot of prisons in Argentina, in Buenos Aires and the rest of the country are in hunger strike. The hunger strike began in December 5th in some prisons from Buenos Aires. The awful conditions about the medical care, the food, and overcrowding in the Buenos Aires jails and the slow legal proceedings that have a delay in materializing were part of the claims.
A few days ago, the Supreme Court of Buenos Aires, through resolution 3341, prioritized progress on the current problems in judicial practice that are generating the constant increase of detainees and highlighting the role of judges in the face of the crisis, and say to the magistrate that they should maintain prohibition of the accommodation in police stations for the pregnant women, minors, and sick people. And prioritize the emptying of closed judicial dependencies. Now we all hope that there is a political will to respond to their claims. The people in there are suffering a lot of arbitrary transfers away from their families. Like a punishment. It’s serious. The people in jail and their families expect an answer from the new Buenos Aires governor, Axel Kicillof, and our new President Alberto Fernandez.
Historically, the jail in Argentina was pretty invisible for the different governments. A lot of thing happens. A lot of violence exists behind the walls whose perpetrator was the Penitentiary Service –federal and from the different states in my country. No distinction in those two systems.
We are very worried for the people in there. The conditions are awful. We, the persons who are outside the whole society, has to look the prison like part of itself.
Now, I go back to that place in a different way — like a professor. I go back like a teacher to the poetry workshop in unit 31- the same place I was. And in the unit 47 too. Both in Buenos Aires. A lot of us are going back in that role and that made me very proud of ourselves.
The hunger strike blew up because the situation was terrible. For example, in unit 47, the governor, Maria Eugenia Vidal, who left the charge a few days ago , now it’s Axel Kicillof in Buenos Aires government, stopped to pay the catering who give food, like meat or vegetables, to the people in prison. They only give small portions of white rice and noodles. All the time. That was an urgent situation. That can’t happen in a state governed by the rule of law. It’s against the human rights don’t give food. So simple like that. Other claims of the hunger strike have to do with the bureaucratic slowness of judicial proceedings when people are still in process without a sentence and also when they have a sentence but are expecting for different judicial instances. Like conditional release or temporary leave regime or house arrest.
And also we can say, that people in jail, the men and women and non-binaries who is doing the hunger strike didn’t have a clear tactic, even strategy, for figuring this a good moment for a hunger strike. In fact, it’s not. Because we have a new government who is in charge now. The other government left. And we will spend some days in a very unclear zone with not valid interlocutors. No one who give them a quick answer. So now a lot of prisons are doing the hunger strike. And the people need the solution to the issues.
In our country, the Penitentiary Service behaves like a hit force administrating the violence. Their vertical structure is very similar to a military force. So they have many issues of the military dictatorships. They behave…their secrets… the criminal torture they have over people who is in prison… We think is strictly necessary a permeability of the democracy in the different levels of the Penitentiary Service. Now the prisons are literally torture place.
We think that prisons are useless. Are good for nothing. Only break and destroy the lives of the people who is in there. It’s very important the connections between the outside and the inside. The ties between the woman and non-binary member of Yo No Fui between who have recovered their freedom and who have another experience is very strong. Because in this exchange we can form all the violence that offer the system in another way to connect us very deep.
Many of us found feminism in our workshops outside and inside. We not only talk about poetry, photographs, built cameras, paintings or sewing machines. We talk about issues that cross our life. We have a commitment with us and this new way to understand the system. Behind and in front the walls.
All the boys and girls who don’t die in the poor neighborhoods die in jail. It’s part of a violence circle. They are commodities or merchandise for the capitalism. Start to conceptualize this kind of thinking, our experience, the debate, is very important to us, and what we do.