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A MEETING in Parliament this week heard that the forthcoming general election in Mexico is taking place amid a violent upsurge that has seen attacks and killings of candidates weekly.
Labour MP Dan Carden, who had travelled to Mexico with fellow MP Helen Goodman to meet representatives from the three main parties, as well as NGOs and grassroots organisations, said he was troubled by the violent background to the campaign.
To date more than 100 candidates from across the political spectrum, as well as human rights defenders, journalists and others, have been killed in the run-up to the vote on July 1.
He told the public meeting, hosted by Liberation and Justice Mexico Now, that the delegation had also expressed concerns to Mexico’s INE elections agency.
“When we met the INE I said: ‘This is an election taking place in a human rights crisis’.”
No official record of disappearances is maintained — such as the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher Training College who vanished from police custody in 2014 or the rising number of deaths linked to the so-called war on drugs — but panelist Olga Guzman from Mexico City-based NGO the Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights told the meeting that more than 200,000 people have been caught up in the violence since the last election in 2012.
This year’s vote will be the largest the country has ever seen as more than 3,000 local, state and national positions are also up for grabs.
A record number of women and indigenous candidates are running and make up many of those attacked or killed.
Guzman noted that very little has been done to follow up these crimes or prosecute the perpetrators.
She made a strong appeal for Mexico’s next attorney general, the country’s chief prosecutor, to be totally independent of the government and for an arms-length panel to appoint to the post.
“We definitely need an impartial, independent head,” she said.
Helen Goodman, who has responsibility for Latin America as part of her shadow ministerial brief, followed up Guzman’s concerns regarding impunity and corruption, citing the recent case of former Veracruz state governor Javier Duarte, who went on the run after he left office following allegations that he and his cronies had siphoned more than $3.2 billion from state coffers.
He was recently extradited back to Mexico, where he has been detained prior to a possible trial on embezzlement charges.
However his wife Karime Macias and their children have moved to London, where British newspapers have reported them as living in a luxury apartment in Chelsea.
Why Macias has chosen to come to Britain is a mystery, however there is speculation that she chose the country as British financial legislation makes it easier to disguise or hide money here.
Goodman referred to a private storage unit in Mexico, said to have belonged to Duarte and his wife, which when opened by authorities was found to contain a large number of disability aids and works of art as well as private diaries belonging to Macias. She said that questions must be answered as to why Macias, who is currently on an Interpol red list, had been living in Britain.
She noted that while there is a well known problem around impunity in Mexico, “in London we have a bit of an immunity problem.”
Goodman added that a future Labour government would look at using Magnitsky Act-style powers to ascertain if wealth brought into Britain was obtained legally and, if not, that sanctions should be applied.
Former Amnesty International Mexico specialist Rupert Knox said he hoped that this year’s electoral process would be “as free and fair as possible” but given the country’s track record and the current climate of violence, he also had serious concerns surrounding the vote, not least with regard to the potential use of the new internal security law which hands unprecedented power to Mexico’s armed forces with very few checks and balances.
Justice Mexico Now, which seeks to raise awareness of the ongoing human rights crisis, called for people to consider joining one of the delegations of international observers which will travel to Mexico at the end of the month.
There are still a few places left to join a number of union-affilated delegates and there are also spaces for individuals.
It is not necessary to speak Spanish to participate but applications need to be in by the middle of the month.
“Elections in Mexico have a strong element of masquerade,” Knox said, cautioning that even while the leftist candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, remains the front-runner with a substantial lead in the opinion polls over Jose Meade and Ricardo Anaya, “nothing can be taken for granted.”
For more information contact Justice Mexico Now on @JusticeMexicoUK.
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