Six months ago, Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz was kidnapped, along with 42 other students, from the Mexican city of Ayotzinapa. On April 16, de la Cruz’s sister, Anayeli Guerrero de la Cruz, stood outside of the office of former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo GRD ’81 to raise awareness of human rights violations.
Anayeli Guerrero de la Cruz was joined by roughly 20 protesters calling for greater accountability by the Mexican government.
De la Cruz is one of three family members of the missing students who are visiting New Haven as part of Caravana 43, a United States tour composed of family members of the kidnapped students. These family members joined approximately 20 students from the Yale Divinity School and other community and campus activists Thursday to protest in front of Betts House on Prospect Street, where Zedillo’s office is located. Protesters linked Zedillo, who currently directs the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, to a 1997 massacre of 45 indigenous townspeople in the village of Acteal. They claimed that he, along with other Mexican leaders such as current president Enrique Peña Nieto, are part of a corrupt system of government.
“With his globalization project, [Zedillo is] putting in place a system of exploitation of man against man,” Felipe de la Cruz Sandoval said at the protest. Sandoval is the father of a student who survived the attack leading up to the students’ kidnapping.
Although the protestors linked Zedillo to a violent massacre carried out by a paramilitary group, Zedillo said in a Wednesday email that during his six years in office, he and his cabinet never instigated nor tolerated violence by paramilitary groups. He added that neither he nor members of his cabinet were accused of corruption during his tenure, and that third-party analyses of his presidency demonstrate that the protesters’ “calumnious allegations” are inconsistent with his track record.
Alina Aksiyote ’16, a Mexican student who attended the protest, said the protesters targeted Zedillo because they identify with those who lost family members in the Acteal massacre and that the government must be held accountable for protecting its people.
“Zedillo is a symbol of power, so he’s just an important target because he was the president during the Acteal massacre,” Aksiyote said. “People who have experienced this violence in this community really believe that he is an assassin and he is a murderer.”
Akisyote added that she trusts the accusations protesters were making against Zedillo even though hard evidence against Zedillo is difficult to find.
The protesters, including individuals from Unidad Latina en Acción and the Mexico Solidarity Committee, engaged in a series of song, prayer and sermon, as well as a recitation of the names of the 43 missing students.
The three family members — Clemente Rodriguez Moreno, Sandoval and de la Cruz — shared their personal experiences of loss following the kidnapping. They also expressed their hope to receive the students alive, discounting the Mexican government’s claim that the students were been murdered.
Later in the evening, the protesters held a community discussion at the New Haven Labor Council. They will be holding a brunch at La Casa Cultural Friday morning, before they leave for Boston, their next stop on their tour of the Northeast.
In an interview with the News before the protest, de la Cruz recounted the day that her brother disappeared.
De la Cruz said that at 10 p.m. on Sept. 26, her family received an ominous phone call from school administrators urgently asking them to visit. Police took Cruz’s family to a morgue and presented them with the body of a man wearing the same shoes as Cruz’s brother. The man had been tortured to death; his face had been skinned and an eyeball had been dislocated by police, de la Cruz recounted.
However, the body turned out to be that of a student protester who had been arrested and tortured to death . The family then realized that Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz had been among the 43 students who disappeared on the way to the protest, de la Cruz said.
She added that the police and government of Mexico have consistently denied any involvement in the students’ disappearance. Caravana 43 aims simply to raise awareness of the Mexican government’s human rights violations during the tour, Cruz added.
“We don’t have a goal per say when we [will] finish our tour,” de la Cruz said. “We are here to denounce. This is a very long process and we are going to continue to do this until we find answers to see what happened to these students.”
Aksiyote said she hopes the parents are able to raise awareness on Yale’s campus about the occurrences in Ayotzinapa. Aksiyote said very few of her friends on campus are aware of events happening in Mexico, despite its proximity to the United States.
The three groups of family members touring the United States will converge in New York City to protest outside of United Nations headquarters on April 26.