Plaintiffs in Zedillo case questioned

The pacifist society “Las Abejas” disassociated itself from the 10 anonymous plaintiffs who claimed to be members of the group when they sued Yale professor and former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo GRD ’81.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court, District of Connecticut on Sept. 16, alleges that Zedillo helped to cover up the 1997 massacre of 45 civilians, members of Las Abejas, in the village of Acteal, Mexico. The Sept. 22 announcement on Las Abejas’ blog declared that the plaintiffs, who said they have remained anonymous to protect themselves from political reprisal, have no relation to the victims of the massacre.

Las Abejas has sought legal action for the massacre against members of the Mexican government other than Zedillo, but the group alleges that the plaintiffs are motivated by money, not by justice.

“In contrast to the demand presented by some unknown persons in a U.S. court, our demand is centered not around money but rather around demanding justice and putting an end to impunity,” the announcement said. “Furthermore, also in contrast to this demand, we Abejas have never acted anonymously.”

The group claimed that the plaintiffs impersonated members of Las Abejas who were victims of massacre, adding that the choices in legal representation reflected the different motivations of each party.

The group’s announcement said that Las Abejas’ only legal representation is the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casa Center for Human Rights in Mexico, while the plaintiffs chose a law firm that they said usually represents bankers and large corporations. Las Abejas also said that no one in their village would be able to afford the Miami firm of Rafferty, Kobert, Tenenholtz, Bounds & Hess, which is representing the plaintiffs.

“We can claim with complete certainty that not a single family affected by the massacre corresponds to the characteristics of the family described in the lawsuit,” the announcement said.

But Roger Kobert, the attorney representing the 10 plaintiffs, said that all of his clients had been affected by the massacre, some sustaining wounds and others escaping before they were injured. The plaintiffs’ official complaint against Zedillo states “the majority of the residents of Acteal, including the Decedents and Plaintiffs, were members of Las Abejas.”

Kobert would not comment on how his firm was being paid, citing attorney-client privilege, but he did confirm that his clients were not in a position to pay for his firm’s attorneys.

He could not be reached Tuesday night to respond to accusations that the plaintiffs are motivated by potential economic gains.

Zedillo has denied any involvement with the massacre and claimed the lawsuit is completely unfounded. In an email to the News on Tuesday, the ex-president said that he was not surprised that the motivations of the “malicious” plaintiffs bringing the lawsuit have been questioned.

“It was obvious to me that whoever was behind the lawsuit was not really interested in pursuing any kind of justice,” Zedillo told the News. “The fact that the organization representing the victims of the horrible events has distanced itself from the lawsuit underscores the validity of [my earlier comments].”

Kobert confirmed on Tuesday that he made a motion for the plaintiffs to continue anonymously through the trial. Freiman noted that there was still time to contest the motion but would not comment as to his firm’s intentions.

Zedillo was president of Mexico from 1994 to 2000. He is currently the director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.

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