Irlanda Jerez Tortured in Nicaragauan Prison

Some tabs that have slid through my browser in recent days:

  • Irlanda Jerez, a leader of the tax resistance movement in Nicaragua against the Ortega/Murillo tyranny, was arrested by masked police last July and has been held prisoner since then. She has said she has been drugged while in captivity, and the latest reports from her family say that she has been beaten so badly by her captors that she is currently bedridden. Torture, arbitrary arrests, and repressive brutality are frequently relied upon by the regime, amounting to “crimes against humanity,” according to Amnesty International.
  • The pace of destruction of automated traffic ticket radars in France has slowed, perhaps just indicating that the low-hanging fruit have already been taken (as the government had stopped repairing frequently-targeted radars). Still:
  • The same issue of MOON Magazine that carried the interview with me about “the one-man revolution” also had an interview with Julia Butterfly Hill that touched on her tax resistance. Excerpt:
    The MOON:
    You are a war-tax resister. How did you come to that decision, and what have its consequences been?
    Julia Butterfly Hill:

    About 10 years ago I sued three corporations for creating an ad using my image without my permission to sell a hand-held wireless device. I wasn’t looking for personal gain — I was planning to give all the money away — but I felt that their using my life and my work to promote consumption was against everything I stood for.

    We settled out of court, and I found out that I would have a federal tax liability of about $175,000 on the settlement. Everyone told me just to pay it, but I couldn’t stomach it. This was right as the Bush administration was beating the war drums after September 11. I marched in the streets in San Francisco with hundreds of thousands of other people, and we shut down the Federal Building and the financial district. We caused creative mayhem all day. In the back of my mind the whole time was the thought that all these hundreds of thousands of protestors were eventually going to go home and feed with their tax dollars the very same machine they were protesting. I made the decision that day that I was not going to give that $175,000 to the IRS. It turned out to be the largest single instance of war-tax resistance in history. There’s never been a larger single nonpayment of taxes in protest of a war.

    Defying the IRS is a scary prospect, so I took my time. I did my research. I went to the national War Resisters League, and I talked to people who had done war-tax resistance. I did everything I could to educate myself and keep the people I work with safe, because they were not signing up for the same choice. I took myself off all the governing boards I was on, including the one for my own organization, because my presence on the board could hurt it. I took myself off salary at my own organization. I did whatever I could to protect the people I work with. And then I filed my taxes.

    Along with my nonpayment I wrote a letter that said I was not refusing to pay my taxes — I was redirecting them. I’m not against paying taxes. I believe in what we can do when we pool our money together for the collective good. But the same is true for the collective bad, because our taxes were being spent not only toward war in Iraq but toward war on this planet.

    With penalties, interest, and fees, I now owe more than four hundred thousand dollars. I cannot own anything, or the IRS will take it. I face jail every single day. Although they’re not technically allowed to throw people in prison for not paying their taxes, because we don’t have debtors’ prisons anymore, they could take me to court and claim I’m evading my taxes, which I’m not. I’m consciously redirecting my money to causes I believe in.

    The IRS hasn’t gone so far as to file formal charges, but they have taken me to tax court twice now to try to scare me into submission. They don’t seem to realize that trying to scare me into submission doesn’t work.

    The MOON:
    How come? It works on just about everyone else.

    [Laughs.] You know, my father came out to California while I was doing my tree-sit and gave a press conference. He said, “If Maxxam Corporation thinks they can outwait my daughter, they don’t know my daughter very well.”

    If you try to threaten or scare me, it only makes me more determined. If Maxxam Corporation had left me alone, it’s quite possible I might have given up before they did. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have, but I do know that their harassing me and degrading me in the press — all the things they did to try to make me come down — only deepened my commitment.

    The same is true with the IRS. I didn’t decide to become a tax resister lightly. I knew going into this that it would alter the rest of my life; that I would have to be creative in providing for my own needs. I knew that I was risking prison. So the threats from the IRS didn’t take me by surprise. They only strengthened my resolve.

    The MOON:
    Do you have attorneys who represent you when you have to go to tax court?
    I did at the beginning. I wanted to make sure I’d done everything correctly, so that it was clear that I am not evading my taxes but redirecting them. I wanted to demonstrate that I was making this choice with the utmost integrity. But I don’t have the money to keep paying for lawyers. If they were to drag me back into court now, I’d probably go without one, because I understand my legal rights as well as the risks of representing myself.
  • Trump’s tariffs, in addition to being economically foolhardy and otherwise ridiculous, are also something of a conundrum for war tax resisters. It is difficult to discover how much of one’s purchases are going towards these taxes that are largely hidden from the end-consumer. At NWTRCC’s blog, Lincoln Rice begins an investigation into the current state of tariffs.