The parents of two Mexican college students who were among 43 that disappeared in Mexico last year urged Sacramento activists and students Thursday to pursue justice for their children.
The so-called Caravana 43, which includes relatives and friends of the missing and a variety of activists from Mexico and California, protested in front of the Mexican Consulate in Sacramento on Wednesday night before taking their message to 300 people at California State University, Sacramento, on Thursday.
An angry, desperate Blanca Luz Nava Velez, whose son Jorge Alvarez Nava was among 43 male students from a rural teacher’s college in Ayotzinapa who went missing, begged the crowd to put pressure on the Mexican government. The students, whose college is known for its activism, disappeared Sept. 26 last year on their way to a protest in the town of Iguala in the Mexican state of Guerrero.
“My son is not disappeared, the government has him,” Velez said. “There are 42 mothers suffering like I am. We have left our jobs to live at the school, waiting to hear something.”
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The Mexican government says it has rounded up 104 suspects – a combination of local officials, local law enforcement and drug traffickers – in one of the most thorough investigations in recent Mexican history.
Velez discounted one government version of the story that the students were burned to death by the drug traffickers.
“We’re poor, but we’re not idiots ... when a body burns the bones don’t turn to ashes, and we know chicken and cow bones were mixed into the ashes,” Velez said. “The government’s tried to silence us with a million pesos, but my child is priceless.”
Velez also urged the U.S. government to stop sending weapons to the Mexican government to fight the drug cartels. “They use the weapons to kill us, not protect us. We want schools, not weapons.”
Velez was followed by Estanislao Mendoza Chocolate, a farmer whose son, Miguel Angel Mendoza Zacarías, also disappeared. “Today it happened to us – don’t wait until it happens to you,” he said.
The missing students have gotten international attention as several caravans have toured California attacking what they believe to be rampant government corruption and complicity in the disappearance of the students, who were protesting against local corruption.
Sacramento-based Mexican Consul General Carlos González Gutiérrez expressed deep sympathy Thursday for the parents of the missing children. But he said over 104 suspects have been arrested, “including the mayor of Iguala and his wife, who are presumed the authors of the crime, along with local police and individuals who participated in the crime and confessed committing other crimes and kidnappings.”
González Gutiérrez called the government’s investigation unprecedented “in terms of scope and transparency in order to solve this crime. Mexico is open to international scrutiny, and we have invited the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to participate in the investigation and provide technical assistance.”
To the allegation that the students weren’t burned to death, González Gutiérrez said several Guerreros Unidos cartel members have confessed to killing a group of young men handed over to them by local police, “as well as disposing of their bodies and burning them. One of the missing students, Alexander Mora Venancio, 21, was identified as one of the 43 missing students, as a result of a forensic test conducted by the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria at the request of the Mexican government.”
While the investigation continues, “the students are still considered disappeared persons,” González Gutiérrez said, adding he believes the students were targeted because they were demonstrating against the outgoing mayor of Iguala and his wife, who was planning to run for mayor herself.
“As a Mexican and a public servant, I’m outraged they conspired with local police officials and criminal organizations and abused their power to commit these crimes and betrayed the people they were supposed to serve,” he said.
Veronica Garcia, a Mexican-born social work student at Sacramento State, said she and thousands of other Mexican Americans in California are invested in rooting out corruption in Mexico. “We’re all united with them, and we want answers, instead of hiding the truth.”
On Friday, Caravana 43 is scheduled to visit the UC Davis School of Law from noon to 1 p.m. and Sacramento’s Southside Park from 6 to 8 p.m.
Call The Bee’s Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072.