Washington, DC—In the context of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Mexico City to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and President-elect Andres Manuel López Obrador, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) joined four other civil society organizations in sending a letter to Secretary Pompeo urging him to prioritize the defense of human rights in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Mexico. The visit comes two weeks after López Obrador was elected as Mexico’s new president. President Peña Nieto will hold power until December 1, when the new administration takes office.
“Your visit comes at a crucial moment,” reads the letter. “The transition period between the current and new government in Mexico is an opportunity to express with all parties U.S. support to address existing challenges in strengthening the rule of law and combating corruption, as well as to encourage progress in advancing investigations and prosecutions into human rights violations.”
According to the letter, migrants in Mexico often do not receive access to asylum due to insufficient screening by Mexican migration agents and the lack of capacity of Mexico’s refugee agency to properly and efficiently process asylum claims. Moreover, migrants in transit through Mexico are frequently victims of crimes and human rights violations at the hands of criminal organizations and Mexican officials, and the impunity rate for such abuses stands at an alarming 99 percent. The letter urges Secretary Pompeo to “ensure that U.S. cooperation with Mexico on immigration enforcement prioritizes respecting the rights of asylum seekers.”
The letter also expresses concern for the impunity that persists for human rights violations committed by the armed forces in Mexico, where less than four percent of military abuses end in conviction. The signing organizations point to the Mexican government’s failure to effectively address the generalized practices of torture and enforced disappearances, to properly investigate and sanction attacks against human rights defenders and journalists, or to make substantial progress in investigating emblematic cases of grave human rights violations, including the enforced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero by Mexican security forces in September 2014.
Given these concerns, the letter urges Secretary Pompeo to support efforts to combat corruption and impunity in Mexico, including by supporting Mexico’s transition to an independent National Prosecutor’s Office to carry out impartial investigations into crimes, and by encouraging the Mexican government to effectively implement its new National Anti-Corruption System.
“A strong bilateral relationship must include attention to human rights as well as support for Mexico’s efforts to strengthen the rule of law,” the letter states. “We urge you to address these key issues in your discussions with the Mexican President and President-elect.”