Thursday, November 28, 2013

One Year into EPN’s Administration, Human Rights in Mexico Suffer

Nearly one year after taking office on a promise to alter the country’s approach to citizen security, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has come under fire from human rights groups for continuing the policies of his predecessor. Meanwhile, his strategy has failed to significantly reduce homicides, and reported kidnappings have skyrocketed.

December 1 will mark one year since Peña Nieto’s inauguration. In recognition of the occasion this week, international human rights NGOs have released statements criticizing his administration’s record so far. On Tuesday Human Rights Watch published a letter to the Mexican president by Americas Division Director Jose Miguel Vivanco, who blasted Peña Nieto for allowing continued impunity for military and police abuses, as well as failing to fully commit to investigating forced disappearances.  Ultimately, Vivanco writes, “the shift in your approach to human rights remains largely confined to rhetoric.”  

The following day, the Washington Office on Latin America issued another critical evaluation of Peña Nieto’s first year in office, in which Mexico analysts Maureen Meyer and Clay Boggs also lament the “disappointing” results of the president’s security strategy. This assessment is backed by official statistics. As this helpful analysis of the available law enforcement data by researcher Molly Molloy shows, the average 1,555 intentional homicides that have occurred per month since Peña Nieto took office is only slightly less than the average across all six years of Felipe Calderon’s administration. What’s more, the country saw a record number of reported kidnappings in the first half of 2013, higher than in similar periods for the previous 16 years according to the National Citizen Observatory (ONC).

Both of these releases have received considerable attention in the Mexican press (see Reforma, El Universal, Milenio and Proceso).

The Peña Nieto administration’s response to the criticism has been decidedly hostile. Yesterday, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong disputed the HRW letter, saying that its allegations of torture contradicted reports by Mexico's official human rights organ, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). As news site SinEmbargo notes, however, he did not provide specifics to support this claim.

Ironically, the letter was actually endorsed by the CNDH president himself, Raul Plascencia. Plascencia told reporters that while he would “take out the adjectives” from the memo, he agreed that human rights progress has been slow. “I would point out that currently there is much to be done in the way of justice, much to be done so that victims of crime can have access to the proper administration of justice, [and] much to be done to overcome impunity in our country,” the CNDH head said.

News Briefs
  • Also on Peña Nieto’s first year in office, Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope offers his take at Animal Politico. Hope notes that while the president has largely continued Calderon’s approach to citizen security, he has made significant changes in terms of centralizing the Interior Ministry and changing the government’s communications strategy on crime. He also notes that extortion, like kidnapping, is on the rise even as murders have apparently fallen.
  • The government of the Dominican Republic has announced that it has canceled plans to participate in a Venezuela-facilitated dialogue with Haitian officials about its recent controversial Supreme Court ruling on nationality. According to Presidential Minister Gustavo Montalvo, Dominican authorities felt that remarks by Haitian representatives to Caricom violated a previous agreement to prioritize bilateral dialogue. The Dominican government has also recalled its ambassador to Haiti for consultations.
  • Following a December 2012 decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which ordered El Salvador to pay reparations to victims of the 1981 El Mozote massacre, the Salvadoran government has announced the creation of a payment scheme to comply with the ruling. However, Salvadoran news site El Faro points out that the plan only give between 15 and 50 dollars a month to those affected, which falls far short of the tens of thousands in damages ordered by the court.
  • Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, husband of LIBRE presidential candidate Xiomara Castro, has called on LIBRE supporters to take to the streets on Saturday in protest of the TSE “stealing” his wife’s victory. The AFP points out that while Castro lost her election, Zelaya has been elected to Congress, marking his official return to politics and cementing his role as the main face of the Honduran left.
  • In the latest escalation of its maritime border spat with Nicaragua, El Tiempo and the BBC report that the government of Colombia has recalled its ambassador in Managua after the Nicaraguan government filed a complaint with the ICJ over Colombia’s refusal to acknowledge a ruling which backed Nicaragua’s border claim.  
  • While the Panamanian government had initially claimed that all but two members of the crew of the vessel seized after transporting Cuban weapons to North Korea would be let go, this turned out not the be the case. The AP reports that organized crime prosecutor Nahaniel Murgas has backpedaled on this, now saying that only the ship itself will be returned, and only after North Korea pays a $1 million fine.
  • Yesterday a construction crane being used for work on a stadium in São Paulo collapsed, caving in a section of the roof and killing at least two, the Folha de São Paulo reported. The stadium was due to hold the opening World Cup match in seven months, and the NYT notes that the incident has fueled fears that the city will not be ready for the games time.
  • The L.A. Times reports on the recent murder of a city council candidate in the western Venezuelan state of Zulia. The opposition has called for the murder to be investigated, and blamed it and other recent violent incidents in the lead up to December 8 local elections on a government attempt to “generate fear and paralyze the country.”
  • In an emailed press release, the U.S. State Department claimed it is working with its Cuban counterparts in the U.S. to help them find a bank that will handle their diplomatic accounts. The previous bank used by Cuba ceased its service due to a business decision, forcing Cuban diplomats to suspend consular services indefinitely.