Monday, June 17, 2024

AMLO blasts ‘lies’ in US State Department human rights report on Mexico

The United States government’s annual human rights report on Mexico has once again drawn the ire of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who asserted that the document contains false information and is disrespectful of Mexico’s sovereignty.

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) published its “2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” on Monday.

Its report on Mexico once again identified “significant human rights issues” including “credible reports” of a range of abuses, among which were:

  • Unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings
  • Enforced disappearance
  • Torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by security forces
  • Harsh and life-threatening prison conditions
  • Arbitrary arrest or detention
  • Serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom, including violence against journalists
  • Extensive gender-based violence

The DOS cited reports of a range of specific alleged violations of human rights last year.

Among the most serious — listed under the sub-heading “Arbitrary deprivation of life and other unlawful or politically motivated killings” — were the killing of five civilians by soldiers in Nuevo Laredo in February 2023 and the alleged extrajudicial killing by the army of five other men in the same city last May.

The DOS said that the “government generally took credible steps to identify and punish officials who may have committed human rights abuses” — soldiers involved in the incidents cited above were detained — but it raised broader concerns about impunity.

Mexican soldiers in a truck
The report highlighted extrajudicial killings by Mexico’s armed forces, including two incidents in Nuevo Laredo in 2023. (Carlos Alberto Carbajal/Cuartoscuro)

“Criminal elements, including local and transnational gangs and narcotics traffickers, were significant perpetrators of violent crimes and committed acts of homicide, torture, kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, bribery, intimidation, and other threats, resulting in high levels of violence and exploitation. The government investigated and prosecuted some of these crimes, but the majority remained un-investigated and un-prosecuted,” the department said.

AMLO: ‘We’re respectful of them and they should be respectful of us’ 

After asserting at his Tuesday morning press conference that the United States is “not accustomed to respecting the sovereignty” of other nations, López Obrador noted that the State Department had published a new report “saying that in Mexico human rights are violated.”

He accused U.S. authorities of “positioning themselves as the judges of the world” before declaring: “We’re respectful of them and they should be respectful of us.”

AMLO added: “We don’t say to them: Why are you harassing a candidate [Donald Trump] in the courts? Why do you allocate billions of dollars to war? Why don’t you free [Julian] Assange? … Why don’t you attend to the young people in the United States who die due to drug addition, fentanyl addiction? And why do you mistreat migrants?”

President López Obrador with
AMLO hosted Julian Assange’s father (left) and brother (right) in Mexico last April. The president has long advocated for Assange’s release. (Lopezobrador.org.mx)

The president does, in fact, ask such questions of the United States government — including after the publication of the State Department’s 2022 human rights report on Mexico — but he was apparently referring to official written documents, not the kind of off-the-cuff remarks he regularly makes at his weekday press conferences.

“We don’t issue a letter of good conduct [for other countries] because it’s not our responsibility,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

‘Who are they to get involved?’ 

In one section of its 58-page report, the DOS said that in 2023, “President López Obrador and other government actors verbally attacked the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, criticizing judges who ruled against the administration on numerous occasions.”

The department also noted that in March last year, “the digital news site Animal Político reported that pro-López Obrador accounts disseminated more than 20,000 tweets in an online smear campaign against the recently elected president of the Supreme Court, Norma Lucía Piña Hernández, who often ruled against López Obrador’s government in judicial decisions.”

On Wednesday, AMLO took umbrage at what he characterized as the United States government’s “meddling in the issue of the differences we have with the judicial power.”

“Who are they to get involved? What is the legal foundation? Who authorizes them to get involved?” asked the president, who frequently accuses the judiciary of handing down decisions that favor people he describes as the country’s corrupt elite.

Chief justice Norma Piña in the Supreme Court
Norma Piña, the Supreme Court’s chief justice, has been heavily criticized by President López Obrador. (Cuartoscuro)

The State Department is “flagrantly violating international law, independence, the sovereignty of the people,” López Obrador claimed.

He also asserted that the U.S. government, for at least two centuries, has had an “obsession” with “interfering in the domestic policy of other countries,” including by “intervening militarily” in some of them.

“That’s the history,” said López Obrador, who has touted the “good relationship” Mexico has had with the United States under his leadership and during the administrations of both former president Trump and current President Joe Biden.

“… We’ve been working well on economic cooperation maters, the relationship is convenient, … we are the main trade partner of the United States,” he said Wednesday.

“… In the United States there are too many contradictions within the government: one thing is what the White House thinks, another thing is what the CIA does, what the DEA does, what [Antony] Blinken does at the State Department,” López Obrador added.

‘Just as our adversaries here in Mexico lie, the State Department lies’ 

López Obrador railed against the human rights report for a third consecutive day on Thursday, accusing the DOS of publishing false information.

Antony Blinken and President López Obrador
Despite the fiery rhetoric from AMLO this week about the U.S. Department of State, the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have met numerous times and have mostly characterized their relationship as collaborative. (Presidency/Cuartoscuro)

“Just as our adversaries here in Mexico lie, the State Department of the government of the United States lies,” he said before criticizing the agency for “not presenting any proof” that 20,000 tweets against the Supreme Court chief justice were in fact posted online.

“… It’s very regrettable that the Department of State relies on garbage information from our adversaries,” AMLO said.

He also said that the world’s largest supplier of weapons — including many that illegally cross the border to Mexico — shouldn’t be offering advice on human rights.

“The only thing [to do] is to ask the State Department to review their recommendations because they are in breach of sovereignty. … Who are they to issue letters of good conduct to countries and sovereign people. They say they’ve been doing it since 1977 – well, stop it, it’s obsolete,” López Obrador said.

Department of State: rights report ‘certainly’ not a breach of international law

Asked about López Obrador’s criticism at a press briefing on Wednesday, DOS spokesperson Vedant Patel rejected the assertion that the publication of the human rights report is a violation of international law, saying that was “certainly” not the case.

“It’s something that we have done every year that this secretary [Blinken] has been secretary and for every year almost before that,” he said.

“… Again, I’ve said this a number of times this week: the human rights report is not a United States assessment on these various anecdotes and entries that are in there. It is a compilation of entries made from credible inputs — media organizations, government organizations, civil society actors, our embassies and consulates,” Patel said.

With reports from La Jornada, López-Dóriga Digital and El Universal

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