Human rights experts and activists have rejected President López Obrador’s claim that such rights are no longer violated in Mexico, asserting that migrants and journalists are among those who continue to suffer abuses.
The president made the assertion during his third annual report to the nation on Wednesday.
“The constitution is now respected, there is legality and democracy, and freedom and the right to dissent are guaranteed,” López Obrador said.
“There is complete transparency and the right to information [is upheld], nobody is censored, human rights are not violated, the government doesn’t repress the people and electoral fraud isn’t organized from federal power,” he said.
But two human rights experts who spoke with the newspaper El Universal and the Centro Prodh human rights organization described the president’s remarks on human rights as false.
“What he said about human rights matters in his third annual report doesn’t correspond with reality at all,” said Emilio Álvarez Icaza, an independent federal senator and former president of the Mexico City Human Rights Commission.
He said it was concerning that López Obrador appeared to be living in a “bubble” or “alternate reality.”
Álvarez told El Universal that Mexico’s human rights crisis has in fact significantly worsened since the president took office in December 2018.
“One example is the very shameful actions of his government against Central American and Haitian migrants,” he said.
The senator rejected López Obrador’s claim that the brutal violence perpetrated by two immigration agents against a migrant in Chiapas last Saturday was an exception rather than the rule.
The agents were suspended but Álvarez asserted that “there aren’t exemplary punishments for those who brutally attack migrants.”
The treatment of migrants is “so bad that the United States Border Patrol seems civilized compared to the National Guard and Mexican immigration agents,” he said.
Álvarez also noted that numerous journalists have been murdered during the term of the current government – 22 to date – and suggested that López Obrador is partially responsible for the high incidence of acts of aggression against individuals and companies in the Mexican media because he discredits and verbally attacks them on a daily basis.
He also highlighted that a record number of human rights defenders and environmental activists have been murdered in the almost three years since the president was sworn in.
“Forced disappearances are continuing in this six-year term of government,” Álvarez added. “In just three years of the current government there have been almost 23,000.”
The senator claimed that the government has turned its back on and betrayed victims of crime, asserting that the Commission for Attention to Victims has been “disassembled” and the National Search Commission “only does symbolic work.”
Women have been neglected because the government has cut off funding for shelters that offer refuge to victims of crime, Álvarez said.
José Perdomo Galicia, a law academic at La Salle University who specializes in human rights matters, also claimed that Mexico is facing a human rights crisis under López Obrador.
The National Human Rights Commission – which has been accused of covering up crimes against migrants including murder, torture, mass kidnappings and rape – has been effectively absent during the term of the current government, he said.
“In the current six-year term, we’re doing very badly on human rights,” Perdomo said. “… [We have] a country submerged in violence and insecurity with a militarized National Guard that attacks and detains migrants. I don’t believe the [human rights] reality is as pretty and smooth as President López Obrador says.”
The academic described López Obrador’s address as a presidential monologue devoid of self-criticism and containing statements that contradict the reality the country is facing.
For its part, Centro Prodh said bluntly that the president’s assertion that human rights are no longer violated in Mexico is “false.”
In a series of Twitter posts, the human rights organization provided a range of evidence to back up its claim.
It said the army, National Guard and municipal and state police have continued to unnecessarily use “lethal force” in states such as Quintana Roo, Guanajuato, Jalisco and Tamaulipas and that the “serious crisis of disappearances” endures with more than 90,000 missing persons, including over 20,000 who have disappeared since López Obrador took office.
“Recent events, such as those against migrants in Tapachula, provide proof that the [government’s] migration policy continues to be contrary to human rights,” Centro Prodh said.
The group also claimed that the government failed to fully comply with its obligation to consult with indigenous communities in a free and informed way prior to the execution of large-scale infrastructure projects such as the Maya Train, and described the increasing militarization of security and the empowerment of the military as alarming.
It charged that the federal Attorney General’s Office has failed to properly investigate and “reverse impunity” in a range of high-profile cases, including the disappearance of the 43 students in Guerrero in 2014, the army massacre the same year in Tlatlaya, México state, and the use of spyware against journalists, activists, politicians and others during the 2012-18 government led by former president Enrique Peña Nieto.
“In addition, the National Human Rights Commission is in open retreat,” Centro Prodh said. “Not recognizing the [human rights] reality and asserting that profound problems have already been resolved distracts from the tasks that must be undertaken.”