WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
6 Oct 2016 | Commentary

State Department’s Decision to Certify Mexico on Human Rights is Contrary to Reality on the Ground

New York Times Editorial Criticizes U.S. Government’s Justification and Outlines Human Rights Concerns in Mexico

Today The New York Times published an editorial criticizing the U.S. State Department’s decision to certify that the Mexican government made sufficient progress in addressing human rights concerns in the country. This decision opens the doors for Congress to release conditioned security assistance to Mexico. Under U.S. security assistance through the Merida Initiative, 15 percent of select funds to Mexico’s police and military cannot be released until the State Department reports to Congress that the Mexican government has made substantive progress in meeting specific human rights priorities outlined by Congress.

The State Department’s justification that Mexico has met the human rights criteria outlined by Congress is contrary to the reality on the ground and goes against the research and documentation done by various national and international human rights bodies and organizations as well as the information available in Mexico’s official statistics. In July 2016, WOLA, together with six international and Mexican human rights organizations, sent a memorandum to the State Department that used research and case examples to demonstrate that the Mexican government had not made sufficient progress in meeting the human rights requirements outlined by Congress.

The State Department’s decision to certify Mexico is also inconsistent with statements by several Members of the U.S. Congress that have expressed concern for the human rights crisis in Mexico and the impunity that persists in cases. In August, 69 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern for the disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial executions in Mexico, and victims’ lack of access to justice.

This week, on October 3, nine U.S. senators sent another letter to Secretary Kerry outlining their concerns about the widespread problem of disappearance cases in Mexico and the lack of progress being made in the investigation of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students. The New York Times editorial points to the Ayotzinapa case and the Mexican government’s mishandling of the investigation as an emblematic example of the lack of progress being made on human rights in the country. On the second anniversary of the Ayotzinapa case, Representative Alan Lowenthal and Senator Ben Cardin each issued statements about the Mexican government’s failure to secure justice for the victims and the need to continue the investigation.

In the editorial, Senator Patrick Leahy, who sought the conditions on U.S. assistance, tells The New York Times that, “…we have seen a pattern of failing to investigate, destroying evidence, threatening witnesses and covering up for corrupt and abusive soldiers and police. It is not only the cases on the front pages of the newspapers; it is thousands of nameless Mexicans who are victims of the officials whose job is to protect them.”