In September of last year, 43 students at a rural college in Guerrero, Mexico, disappeared. Seven months later, the parents of some of the allegedly kidnapped students are making a three-day stop in the Elm City as part of their northeast tour to raise awareness of the students’ disappearance and the U.S. government’s alleged indirect role.
The students, who were studying to become teachers, were kidnapped last September after they clashed with the police. Believing that American aid to Mexico unnecessarily strengthened the police, three groups of the kidnapped students’ parents, now collectively known as Caravana 43, are touring different regions of the United States throughout April, said Gabriela Rodriguez, leader of the Mexican Solidarity Committee, a New Haven-based advocacy organization that organized the visit to New Haven. The three-parent group whose tour is on the East Coast chose to stop first in New Haven in order to protest in front of Betts House on Prospect Street, which houses the office of Ernesto Zedillo, president of Mexico from 1994 to 2000, Rodriguez said. Zedillo is currently the director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.
Today, the parents, along with the MSC and activist group Unidad Latina en Accion, are holding a prayer vigil and protest at noon outside Zedillo’s office. Members of the group contend that Zedillo perpetuated systemic corruption and violence in Mexico, according to both Rodriguez and ULA leader John Lugo.
“Ernesto Zedillo represents the bad things that happened in Mexico, the worst of the worst,” Lugo said. “Zedillo is a symbol of the Mexican corruption.”
Rodriguez added that Zedillo has been accused of instigating a 1997 massacre of indigenous Mexicans. Lugo said he believes paramilitary groups were created under Zedillo’s tenure, only adding to the violence in Mexico.
However, Zedillo said in an email that the Mexican federal government under his tenure neither created nor tolerated paramilitary groups. Additionally, Zedillo wrote that during his six years as president and in the time since he left office, there have not been any accusations of corruption brought against him or members of his cabinet.
“Fortunately, during the almost 15 years since my term as president ended, there have been a number of serious, well-researched analyses of my presidency,” Zedillo wrote. “I am confident that you can access them and confirm that those calumnious allegations are inconsistent with the historical records.”
Zedillo said he is no longer affiliated with the Mexican government and could not speak on behalf of them with regard to their response to the kidnappings. The Mexican consulate in New York did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Zedillo added that neither the parents nor the activist groups supporting them had reached out to him before or after making their accusations.
“I do not know at all what is their real agenda when they make offensive and calumnious accusations against me,” Zedillo wrote.
Rubi Macias ’18, who frequently visits Mexico, where her family is originally from, said that while she believes there was government corruption during Zedillo’s tenure, corruption and lack of government accountability have been pervasive problems in Mexico for decades.
Macias added that she supports the family members’ tours throughout the United States because there is an alarming lack of media coverage on human rights violations in Mexico. The Mexican government has also been unresponsive to protests and search efforts for the kidnapped students, she said, speculating that this unresponsiveness is likely due to the fact that the kidnapped students were critical of the government.
“Back when the kidnapping happened, my suitemates didn’t even know that it was going on,” Macias said. “The students were kidnapped and a lot of people were protesting in Mexico, but no one else knew. The word didn’t get out, and there wasn’t much effort to find the students.”
According to MSC press releases, the three parents visiting New Haven are Felipe de la Cruz Sandoval, Maria de Jesus Tlatempa Bello and Clemente Rodriguez Moreno. Sandoval was a professor at the school where the students were kidnapped, Bello works as a bilingual secretary in Mexico and Moreno, currently unemployed, was a water vendor at the time of the kidnappings.
The parents arrived in the Elm City on Tuesday to march with the Malik Jones protest against police brutality and to have dinner with students at the Afro-American Cultural Center. On Wednesday, the parents traveled to Hartford to participate in a community discussion and to hold a press conference at the Legislative Office Building, Megan Fountain ’07 said in an email. They will also be reaching out to Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 and Rep. Rosa DeLauro to discuss their concerns about American aid to the Mexican government. The group will be leaving for Boston on Friday, Lugo added.
The three groups will be touring their respective regions before meeting in New York on April 26 for a rally in front of the United Nations building.