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“Our wish is that the US see us as equals:” A Q&A with Comité Cerezo (Mexico)

1. 21 years after NAFTA went into effect, neoliberalism is still making inroads (is alive and well) in Mexico. Over the last year or so, structural reforms were passed, which largely favor corporate interests and privatization of public goods. During that same time, torture, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and harassment have increased. Is there any connection between the reforms and this repression?

-If you look at the Mexican states with the most land concessions to foreign companies, we see that they are the states with the most cases of human rights violations. From that, we can conclude that there’s a direct relation between the advancement of neoliberalism and political violence. The states with the most extrajudicial killings are Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas.

2. There is a long history of criminalization of social protest in Mexico: the Dirty War, Tlatelolco, Corpus Cristi, etc. How does the current climate of repression compare?

-In Mexico –  in 1968 and until 2000 – a single political party ruled, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). All of the presidents were from that party, so we could blame them for all of the serious human rights violations during that period. We’d have to add other atrocities to the examples you mentioned: the massacre in Aguas Blancas, Guerrero in 1995; in Acteal, Chiapas in 1997; and in El Charco, Guerrero in 1997; etc. Today’s repression isn’t much different, but perhaps it’s worse if we take into account the forced disappearance of the 43 students on September 26, 2014. Another difference is that these current atrocities are taking place within a so-called “democracy” in which officials from at least three political parties – the PRI, the National Action Party (PAN) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) – are all implicated.

3. The Mérida Initiative is a so called US “aid” package, which Congress passed in 2007 and through which it’s allocated more than 2.4 billion dollars. Most of its funds have been used to purchase military equipment and train Mexican security forces. What impact has the 8 years of this Initiative had in Mexico?

-It’s important to mention the Summary Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment, Juan E. Méndez. The Rapporteur visited Mexico between April 21 and May 2, 2014, and concluded: “Torture is widespread in Mexico. It occurs most frequently between the arrest and trial period, and is used both to punish and to obtain information.” The Rapporteur identified several causes of the weak safeguards to prevent such mistreatment, and recommended measures to address them.

It’s hard to imagine that US military support leads to the phenomenon that the UN Rapporteur on Torture describes, but that’s the reality we face. Add to that the forced disappearance of 43 students and the Mexican government’s refusal to allow the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts to interview members of the army to determine more precisely what happened in Iguala, Guerrero on September 26, 2014, when the events took place. The only thing we can say is that the military, technological and training cooperation from the US looks worse and worse considering the impunity around human rights violations committed by the police and military forces against civilians.

4. WFP’s main objective is to change US policy in Latin America. If a genie came and granted you the ability to change one policy, what would it be?

-Our first wish is to end US military and police cooperation and aid, which has not brought greater security to Mexico but has instead increased the role of the military in police functions.

Our second wish is that all of the money spent on weapons and training were invested in the construction of hospitals, schools, and decent housing for the poorest Mexicans.

Our third wish is that the US see us as equals, that they recognize that we do everything possible to have a better country, a more just and democratic country. If millions of Mexicans live in the US, it’s because of the need to have a decent life, which our own government denies us.


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