Just days before his inauguration on December 1st, Mexico’s president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto will make a short visit to Washington, DC to meet with President Obama and leaders in Congress to discuss the U.S.-Mexico relationship in the next sexenio. In a recent guest op-ed in the Washington Post, Peña Nieto made clear his desire to shift the focus of the bilateral relationship away from security concerns and the fight against organize crime towards trade and economic interests.
However, communities across Mexico are reeling from spiraling violence that has left tens of thousands murdered. Unknown thousands more have been disappeared. Atrocities committed by security forces remain in impunity. Reforms to the justice sector have languished. Now is not the time to cut rule of law and human rights from the bilateral agenda.
With both presidents of Mexico and the U.S. looking ahead to new terms, this meeting provides a historic moment in which Peña Nieto and Obama can come together to build a bilateral agenda for their upcoming administrations to bolster human rights and address root causes of violence on both sides of the border.
For starters, what needs to be on the table for tomorrow’s conversation? As Obama and Peña Nieto have their first official meeting to discuss the future of bilateral cooperation, the Latin America Working Group and Washington Office on Latin America issued a statement urging policymakers to discuss how the following three key issues will be advanced: full implementation of justice sector reform at the federal and state level; strengthening of mechanisms to hold the police accountable for their actions; and support for reforms of Mexico’s Military Code of Justice to ensure that human rights violations committed by soldiers are investigated and prosecuted in civilian, not military, jurisdiction.