Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mexico: Activists Urge Obama to Speak Out on Human Rights Abuses

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Mexican colleague, Enrique Peña Nieto, are expected to discuss topics including immigration, security and bilateral trade when they meet later today.  Human rights activists hope that both leaders will also focus on human rights abuses that have increasingly taking place in Mexico. 

 “We urge Obama and Peña Nieto to use all their available executive powers to stem the tide of smuggled weapons and to support legislative and electoral efforts to overcome political inertia and roll back the power of the light arms industry and their political front groups like the National Rifle Assn.,” wrote Javier Sicilia in an opinion piece published in today’s Los Angeles Times.

Sicilia, a poet turned peace activist after his son was brutally murdered in March 2011, added that both leaders “need to work together in prioritizing public health and regulation over a strategy that makes suspected drug offenders into military objectives”.  Yet he also called on “an engaged citizenry” from both sides of the border to pressure political leaders into “making good decisions.”

Sicilia and other human rights activists delivered a petition to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City this week calling for an end to the flow of weapons from the U.S. to Mexico. 

For Daniel Zapico, head of Amnesty International in Mexico, Obama and Peña Nieto should reexamine the security cooperation pact known as the Mérida Initiative.

“The U.S. government has closed its eyes to the allegations of human rights abuses they have identified (in Mexico) including supposed torture, forced disappearances and the misapplication of military jurisdiction to ensure impunity,” said Zapico.

According to a letter sent to Obama by José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch, the number of reported cases of alleged human rights increased fivefold under the presidency of Peña Nieto predecessor, Felipe Calderón.  Vivanco also claimed that under Calderon’s six-year term over 70,000 people died in drug-related violence while some 26,100 people “disappeared.”

Human rights violations in Mexico are also closely linked to the country’s immigration debate, which was pointed out in a communiqué published by a coalition of human rights groups:

Obama on Friday travels from Mexico to Costa Rica, where he will meet with several Central American leaders. With that in mind, a coalition of human rights groups from the region urged the leaders Tuesday to confront the abuses faced by thousands of Central Americans who travel across Mexico every year in an effort to reach the U.S.
Many from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, especially, are kidnapped by criminal drug-and-extortion gangs -- often working in cahoots with Mexican police -- and held for ransom, forced into slave labor or killed.
In a letter to Obama, Peña Nieto and the presidents of Central America, 145 organizations said the “alarming increase in violence” had to stop. They blamed transnational criminal gangs, but also the “failed security policies” of the region’s government that have “militarized citizen security” and “exacerbated … human suffering.”
A recent Pew survey found that there has been a steady decrease in the number of Mexicans who view the government’s measures to combat drug violence in a favorable light.  Nevertheless, a majority of those surveyed backed U.S collaboration with Mexico to combat drug groups including 74% supporting the notion of the U.S. helping train Mexican police.

Video Source– YouTube via Noticias Univision (Javier Sicilia led a “peace caravan” that visited the U.S. last year).

Online Sources – Pew Global;; Los Angeles Times; Huffington Post;;

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