The European Union parliament urged Mexico to better protect journalists and human rights defenders. The president of Mexico replied the E.U. should remember Mexico “is no longer anyone’s colony.”
The president of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador disliked a resolution from the European Parliament that gathered two sensitive matters for him: Mexico’s sovereignty and his ambiguous relations with media.
Adopted by 607 votes in favor, 2 against and 73 abstentions, the European Parliament’s resolution condemned “the alarming rate at which journalists and human rights defenders in Mexico, including environmental defenders and indigenous people, are being threatened, harassed and killed.”
Two other urgent resolutions were adopted on March 10 and referred to Myanmar‘s military coup d’état carried out last year and Azerbaijan’s “continued policy of erasing and denying the Armenian cultural heritage.”
Such resolutions mostly show a common position from the European Union and have only a political value, although they may guide E.U.’s future actions and decisions.
A third of journalists killed in 2022 so far in the world are in Mexico
On top of drug cartel threats, the Parliament is concerned by the “systematic and tough critiques” from Mexican public officials against journalists and their works, including the president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. AMLO would often “denigrate and intimidate independent journalists” during his daily press briefings.
Almost half of the verbal attacks on journalists and human rights defenders come from public officials according to Mexico’s undersecretary for human rights, Alejandro Encinas. AMLO already said journalists “lie as they breathe”.
And Encinas also said that the impunity rate in the killings of journalists and human rights activists is above 90%.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries outside official war zones for journalists. It has counted more than 150 deaths of journalists possibly related to their activity in the last 20 years.
At least 33 journalists have been killed since 2018 and the beginning of AMLO’s presidency, according to Articulo19, an organization defending freedom of speech. It is more than the entire Vicente Fox’s 6-year term between 2000 and 2006, and could soon be higher than the previous mandates of Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto.
The European Parliament, therefore, asked Mexican authorities to “guarantee the protection of journalists and human rights activists”.
But López Obrador didn’t appreciate EP’s political stance. During his press conference on March 11, he said the resolution, from “very conservative European legislators with a colonialist mentality,” was incorrect and “calumnious”.
Mexico is “no longer anyone’s colony”
He argued the current violence is inherited from the “neoliberal period, from governments that were allied with organized crime,” but that violence was on a downward trend. “Organized crime stopped to be associated with the authorities, there is no impunity as there was before,” the president justified.
“Unfortunately nearly 5,000 Mexicans have lost their lives in these two and a half months of 2022. And of these 5,000 people, five are journalists. Furthermore, [these murders] have nothing to do with repressive acts of the State, because the State no longer violates human rights,” the president justified as a response to critics against the lack of protection to human rights activists and journalists.
The president issued a statement asking European deputies to know that “Mexico has ceased to be a land of conquest.”
“Mexico is a pacifist country […], we do not send weapons to any country under any circumstances, as you are doing now,” in a reference to weapons some European Union members send to Ukraine in its war against Russia. He also suggested the causes of Europe’s current difficulties are “bad politicians, legislators, rulers.”
“Do not forget that we are no longer anyone’s colony. Mexico is a free, independent and sovereign country.”
Spain recognized Mexican independence in 1836. Very attached to the rights of indigenous communities and Mexican sovereignty, AMLO still sees Spain as the old colonizer and last month ambiguously suggested Mexico should “pause relations“ with the country for a while.
“Leave behind your interventionist mania disguised as good intentions. You are not the government of the world,” the communique the president wrote said. He also argued he would not be so popular if he didn’t serve the people the right way.
The president then defended there were 17 detainees related to four of the recent journalists’ assassinations, and that a report would be released next week about actions against violence.
But while he explains the government respects journalists’ freedom of speech, he doesn’t miss the opportunity to criticize the media environment either. “We don’t know why the power mafias still control, with honorable exceptions, news media in Mexico.”
He called out the “predominance of conservatism” with “politicians, legislators and the media at the service of large businesses and financial corporations, national oligarchies” which are “not at the service of their peoples.”
“We cannot allow them to disrespect us,” concluded the president on the matter. He started his argument jokingly by comparing parliament members in the United Kingdom to sheep for their behaviors during debates. He specified “this is not an insult.”