LAWG Applauds Witholding of U.S. Aid to Mexico, Calls for Continued Scrutiny of Human Rights Violations

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The Latin America Working Group applauds the U.S. State Department’s recent decision to withhold $5million or 15% of U.S. aid to Mexican military and police via the Merida Initiative, an announcement published this week in the The Washington Post, El País and The New York Times.

“LAWG has consistently encouraged the Administration to bring up human rights concerns with Mexico in bilateral dialogues for some time now. It is good to finally see some concrete action by the State Department which shows that they are concerned about the situation on the ground in Mexico. We urge them to continue following Mexico’s investigations into human rights violations and evaluating Mexico’s progress in meeting human rights requirements on a regular basis,” said Daniella Burgi-Palomino, LAWG’s Senior Associate on Mexico, Migration and Border Issues.

This past July LAWG and our network of supporters encouraged 82 members of the House to sign a letter to Secretary Kerry expressing their concern about the human rights situation and urging for the defense of human rights to be a central part of the bilateral agenda with Mexico. Together with allies, LAWG had also shared numerous pieces of evidence, including the shortcomings of the Ayotzinapa investigation, as evidence of the Mexican government’s lack of progress on meeting the required human rights conditions on forced disappearances and torture, among others. LAWG believes that these actions were crucial in demonstrating Mexico’s failure to meet State Department’s human rights requirements and in influencing officials not to write a positive report to Congress this year, instead reallocating the 15% of funding to coca eradication in Peru. Human rights concerns were also brought up at the seventh U.S.-Mexico bilateral human rights dialogue, held this week in Washington D.C with senior officials from both governments.

This U.S. recognition of Mexico’s human rights violations follows visits by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights earlier this month. Representatives of both bodies reaffirmed a situation of extreme insecurity and violence in the country with serious human rights violations., U.N. High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on October 7th, “for a country that is not engaged in a conflict, the estimated figures are simply staggering,” referring to the estimated more than 151,000 people killed and 26,000 people missing. Just this week, the Mexican government reported that nearly 14,000 people were killed in the first nine months of 2015, reflecting an increase in national homicide levels for the first time in the past four years.

This week at the IACHR’s October period of hearings, Mexican civil society organizations participated in four hearings with relation to human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, drug policy and disappearances in Mexico, including the presentation of the Interdisciplinary Group of Experts’ final report on the Ayotzinapa case before Mexican government officials on October 20th At this time, the Group of Experts presented the IACHR with a copy of their recently signed agreement with the Mexican government on the next phases of the investigation that included the official transfer of the investigation from the Office of Organized Crime to the Office of Human Rights within the Attorney General’s Office, the integration of a new investigative team including members of the Group of Experts to continue the search for the disappeared students and the direct incorporation of the final report recommendations into the workplan of the new team.

The IACHR has until October 31st to confirm the extension of the Group of Experts’ mandate and to respond to the Mexican government’s initial request for an extension of six months. The families of the disappeared students and accompanying civil society organizations are calling for an extension of the presence of the Group of Experts for as long as necessary.

LAWG will continue raising awareness on the need to follow the Group of Experts’ final report recommendations as it did recently in a letter to President Enrique Pena Nieto and on the need to be vigilant on any progress to address the broader context of human rights violations in Mexico.