Father of Missing Mexican Student Speaks Out as U.S. Protesters Stage Day of Action Against Drug War

StoryDecember 03, 2014
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Roberto Lovato

one of the organizers behind the UStired2 initiative. He is a writer and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for Latino Policy Research.

Clemente Rodríguez Moreno

father of missing student.

Protests at federal buildings in at least 43 U.S. cities today will call for halting American aid to military and police forces in Mexico until human rights abuses are addressed. Organizers in the United States are working with the grassroots movement in Mexico triggered by the disappearance of 43 students in September. Protesters are using the hashtag #UStired2 — the English-language counterpart to the hashtag #YaMeCansé, a campaign in Mexico to protest state violence and human rights abuses. U.S. military and security aid to Mexico totals more than $3 billion since 2008. We are joined by two guests: Clemente Rodríguez, whose 19-year-old son Christian Alfonso Rodríguez is one of the 43 missing students; and Roberto Lovato, a writer and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for Latino Policy Research, and one of the organizers behind the #UStired2 initiative.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Today, organizers in the United States are working with the movement in Mexico that was triggered by the disappearance of 43 students in September. They plan to hold protests outside of federal buildings in more 43 U.S. cities. This is a video message from students in Ayotzinapa who survived the attack, calling on people to participate.

STUDENT 1: [translated] The issue that concerns us at this moment, as students alongside parents and much of Mexican society, we are struggling for 43 colleagues who were abducted by the Iguala municipal police department. We are not messing around. This is a serious problem.

STUDENT 2: [translated] In reality, more than anything, we who survived the attack of September 26th are here to tell what happened.

STUDENT 1: [translated] Hopefully, the actions that you are going to hold on December 3rd will have repercussions, not only for us as students of the Ayotzinapa school, but for the parents and for the thousands of families across the country.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Today’s protests are organized by a group using the hashtag #UStired2, which is the English-language counterpart to the hashtag #YaMeCansé, a campaign in Mexico to protest state violence and human rights abuses. U.S. aid to military and police forces in Mexico totals more than $3 billion since 2008. Organizers are calling for a halt to the funding until human rights abuses by security forces are addressed.

AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, the second anniversary of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s rule was marked by mass protest. A march through Mexico City ended with a rally where parents of the missing students spoke. This is Clemente Rodríquez, father of missing student Cristian Rodríguez.

CLEMENTE RODRÍGUEZ: [translated] We’re going to look for them. We’re going to find them, because it’s been more than two months, and we don’t know anything about our children.

AMY GOODMAN: All of this comes as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has announced a package of constitutional reforms that would centralize the command of local police under state agencies and give the federal government power to dissolve local governments linked to drug cartels. Peña Nieto spoke Monday.

PRESIDENT ENRIQUE PEÑA NIETO: [translated] With what’s happened in Iquala, Guerrero, and with what Mexicans have done there and abroad, there is clearly a before and after. It’s clear that it exposed the vulnerability of municipal governments. It’s clear that it exposed the institutional weaknesses in confronting organized crime, which today is of greater number and with weapons and a capacity that are stronger than they had in the past. This is why the government of the republic and the entire country and its institutions, particularly those which head security, need to be solidly prepared to combat and to face organized crime.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin here in New York. Roberto Lovato is with us, one of the organizers behind the #UStired2 initiative. He’s a writer and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for Latino Policy Research. And we’re also joined in Mexico City by Clemente Rodríguez, whose son is one of the 43 missing students.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Roberto, why the linkage now between the U.S. and Mexico?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Oh, the why is because the linkage has existed for—since the founding of the United States. The roots—cultural, political, repressive—are there, in terms of government and from below. And so, from below, we’ve organized #UStired2 because, as Juan mentioned, we’re following #YaMeCansé, I’m Tired. Well, we’re saying we’re tired, too, in English. So, 43 cities—more than 43 cities are going to be organized today to basically light a candle to tell the story of the 43 disappeared people, as we light—as we bring light on the darkness of U.S. aid to the government of Enrique Peña Nieto that ranks in the billions. So, if people want more information, they’re going to be able to go to, and you’ll be able to find a city there. And I would just say that this is probably, if you love Mexico, like many of us do, this is your greatest opportunity to send a powerful message to the people of Mexico that we love you and you’re not alone anymore, but also to the government of Barack Obama, who is providing all that aid in military aid to human rights abusers that are disappearing people to the tune of 25,000 and 100,000 dead, many of whom were killed by their own government, and to the people of Mexico, we want to say, you know, we are with you. And this is our greatest opportunity. So, check out the website and go see, and join something that’s going to be historic.

AMY GOODMAN: How did these 43 people die?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Well, the 43 people aren’t dead yet. That’s the issue. The government is trying to tell us and close the issue. When you talk to the families in Mexico, as we have, we’re still holding out the expectation that they are going to be found and found alive. And we need to raise a candle to that, to that darkness that our government and even some people in our media here in the United States don’t want to talk about, which is U.S. training, arming and political support for what even conservative human rights advocates, like Mr. Vivanco at Human Rights Watch, say is the worst human rights crisis in Latin America in the last 30 years.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we’re also joined by Clemente Rodríguez in Mexico City. His 19-year-old son, Christian Alfonso Rodríguez, is one of the 43 missing students. He went missing after just enrolling in the Raúl Isidro Burgos School in the Ayotzinapa area of Tixtla, a town in the southern state of Guerrero. Welcome to Democracy Now! Clemente Rodríguez. Bienvenido a nuestro programa, Clemente Rodríguez. Can you tell us the importance of having this solidarity protest in the United States to your cause? ¿Nos puedes decir la importancia de tener estas protestas aquí en Estados Unidos de solidaridad con su causa en México?

CLEMENTE RODRÍGUEZ: [translated] My son has been disappeared for over months, since September 26, and I haven’t had any information about him.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Seguir hablando, sí.

CLEMENTE RODRÍGUEZ: [translated] Since that day, I haven’t seen anything from my son. I have been fighting to look for him, to find him. I have presented myself in Iguala since that day to find him, and the military and the hospitals, including I have been finding other parents and organizing with them in the hills, and they don’t know anything.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think happened to him, Mr. Rodríguez?

CLEMENTE RODRÍGUEZ: [translated] We are demanding the government of Peña Nieto to tell us about the whereabouts of our sons. Peña Nieto is only telling us—he is giving us all these things and all these findings, and the police in Iguala have been finding a lot of unknown tombs, but my heart tells me that our sons are still alive.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the importance of these protests in the United States? ¿Qué cree usted que es la importancia de las protestas aquí en Estados Unidos para apoyar a su causa?

CLEMENTE RODRÍGUEZ: [translated] It’s very important, because from the border, we can demand Peña Nieto to present the 43 normalista students.

AMY GOODMAN: Roberto—I wanted to bring Roberto back into this discussion. For people who aren’t following the story of the disappeared students, they were teaching students. They were learning to be teachers.

ROBERTO LOVATO: Yeah, they were teachers in what’s called la normal in Ayotzinapa. You know, they use popular education, so they’re very engaged, directly engaged with the communities. And their only crime was to demand a better life for people in Mexico. That’s the only thing that they did, and if that’s a crime in Mexico, we need to stop the people that are calling it crime.

AMY GOODMAN: And as the search goes on for them, mass graves and bodies have been found all over—is that right?—in Mexico.

ROBERTO LOVATO: Yeah. Yeah, if you talk to Mexico—if you talk to people in Mexico, you hear the story all the time from parents, heartbreaking stories, searching for their children in mass graves, not knowing if they’re in there. I’ve seen mass graves like in Central America, and when you smell that, you smell the decomposing flesh and the soil. You listen to those grieving parents, those worried parents that maybe that’s my child in there whose skeletal remains are there.

So, if people really want to do something about that, today is the best opportunity for them to do that in the streets of the United States, because our tax dollars are paying for the guns. They’re paying for the troops. And we’re providing political protection to the government that is overseeing all of this, which is the government of Enrique Peña Nieto. And we have to stop that aid under what’s known as Plan Mérida, but we really call it Plan Mexico, because it’s the entire country and not just Mérida that’s working with more than $2.4 billion that we’ve been giving to create more tragedy and stories like this. So we want to send a message to the people of Mexico: "You’re not alone." And to the governments: "Your darkness is done. We’re going to start taking out your aid package that’s destroying life like this."

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Roberto, most Americans are under the impression that this money has been going to fight drug trafficking. And could you talk about that?

ROBERTO LOVATO: That’s a great question. I mean, you look at the reporting on Mexico, and we just started waking up to the fact that the racism of immigration reform reporting and the criminalization of Mexico itself and of Mexican people in the crisis has led to a dehumanization that’s allowed 100,000 people to die in Mexico without our doing a whole lot. It’s the dehumanization that you need in order to perpetrate this impunity.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds. The relationship between people deported to Mexico and people who are then killed in Mexico?

ROBERTO LOVATO: We have a case in Los Angeles right now of somebody who’s in our coalition, Nancy Cisneros. You can see it in the L.A. Times, the story of a man who was deported, her brother, and then he was captured by the police and disappeared. And families like this are getting death threats, even in the United States. And so, again, the best opportunity for people to do anything is today on the streets of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you for being with us, Roberto Lovato, one of the organizers behind the #UStired2 protests happening in more 43 U.S. cities today, again, in honor of the 43 missing students. Clemente Rodríguez, thanks for joining us from Mexico City. His 19-year-old son, Christian, is one of those missing students.

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