MEXICO CITY – Amnesty International published an open letter Wednesday to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador expressing its concerns over the government’s response to the country’s “grave human rights crisis” and requesting a meeting.
“Although the government has taken some action on human rights issues, this action is still not enough to seriously address the crisis that the country has been facing for many years now,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, AI’s Americas director, said in explaining why the group took that step.
Guevara-Rosas said it is worrying that Lopez Obrador has made “disparaging” speeches about the role of human rights defenders and maintained “failed strategies of militarization of public security tasks of previous administrations” in the face of a “wave of homicides and femicides.”
AI also took aim at the president for his recent policy of using a new law-enforcement agency, the National Guard, to thwart the passage of mostly Central American migrants and asylum seekers trying to travel northward to the United States.
Lopez Obrador, who took office in late 2018, had initially offered fast-track visas to migrants for humanitarian reasons and sought to enlist the US in a development plan for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
That plan focused on boosting job opportunities in countries that have some of the highest homicide rates in the world and where 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
But under pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration, which had threatened to impose escalating tariffs on all Mexican imports if that country did not halt the northward movement of Central Americans, Lopez Obrador’s government agreed with the US in June 2019 on a plan to curb migration.
Guevara-Rosas said that rather than “evading responsibility and attacking the individuals and organizations working to highlight the crisis that Mexico is facing,” Lopez Obrador should “approach civil society to find solutions to this grave situation.”
AI reiterated that the country has made some strides on human rights issues, acknowledging in particular the efforts made in relation to the tens of thousands of people who have disappeared in Mexico since the onset of the country’s war on drug cartels in 2006.
“This request for a meeting with the president is in response to an invitation that he himself extended to the organization when he was running for office, and we issue it with the intention of contributing to addressing the human rights crisis facing the country,” said Tania Reneaum Panszi, executive director at Amnesty International Mexico.
“It is important for the president to listen to our suggestions from civil society to put a stop to the human rights crisis in the country that sadly implies a high cost in terms of people’s lives and other grave human rights violations every day,” she added.
In December of last year, AI published a review of the state of human rights during the first year in office of Lopez Obrador, who was elected in part on a promise to combat insecurity and violence by tackling the country’s socioeconomic ills.
Titled “When Words Are Not Enough,” the report said Mexico was still mired in a human rights crisis 12 months into the president’s term, stating that “Lopez Obrador’s government has not moved far from the highly militarized security strategy of his predecessors (and) has refused to recognize that torture is commonplace.”
It also said that gender-based violence against women and girls “remains widespread” in Mexico.
“Government policies and the introduction of legislation have not been enough to deal with the growing number of killings, disappearances and other grave human rights violations of the rights of women and girls throughout the country,” AI said then.
It did however note that Lopez Obrador’s administration had taken a positive step “when it confirmed that Mexico would accept the competence of the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances to examine reports on individual cases, addressing one of the repeated demands made by families of disappeared persons and human rights organizations.”
The rights watchdog said Wednesday that the Mexican government thus far has not responded to the appeals made by the organization nor followed up on the recommendations contained in that report.