State Department is Currently Reviewing Merida Conditioned Aid to Mexico
Washington, DC—In a letter sponsored by House Committee on Foreign Affairs Member Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) and co-signed by 68 Representatives, Members of Congress express concern for the ongoing human rights crisis in Mexico and urge U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to make human rights a priority in the U.S.-Mexico bilateral agenda. The letter comes at a time when the State Department is reviewing whether the Mexican government has met the human rights conditions tied to foreign aid under the Merida Initiative, a U.S. security assistance package. Under the Merida Initiative, 15 percent of select funds are conditioned on the State Department reporting to Congress that Mexico is making substantive progress in its respect for human rights.
However, as the letter makes clear, Members of Congress “remain troubled by the 27,000 unresolved cases of people who have disappeared in Mexico since 2007, and the slow pace of reform in the military, law enforcement, and justice sectors,” and add that “Mexico’s persistent use of torture in criminal investigations is particularly disturbing.”
According to Maureen Meyer, WOLA’s Senior Associate for Mexico, “It is important for the State Department to hear that Members of Congress have concerns about the human rights situation in Mexico, especially as the Department is considering whether Mexico has met the conditions under the Merida Initiative.” Meyer said, “Maintaining a strong bilateral relationship with the United States’ neighbor and partner should not be at the expense of an honest dialogue about the human rights crisis in Mexico and the lack of accountability for the authorities responsible for these crimes.”
Although the 69 Members of Congress “commend the Government of Mexico for taking important legislative steps to advance human rights protections and to reform its criminal justice system,”they also state that “having good laws on the books does not ensure justice; Mexican authorities must enforce the law and respect human rights.”
The letter cites specific cases of human rights violations that remain unresolved, including the 43 students from Guerrero who disappeared while in police custody in September 2014, and the massacre of 22 civilians by Mexican soldiers in June 2014 where at least 12 individuals were extrajudicially executed. Regarding the 43 disappeared students, the letter states that, “Despite the high level international scrutiny that the case has garnered, the Government of Mexico has made little progress in securing justice for these families, calling into question its commitment to uphold human rights.”