What if Canadian travellers spoke up to protect rights in Mexico

By Kathy Price, Mexico campaigner

You may have noticed an Amnesty International campaign “Think Winter is Torture,Think Mexico” that reaches out to potential Canadian travellers to Mexico.

There’s a compelling reason why Amnesty is reaching out this way and it starts with an alarming human rights situation in Mexico. What has been revealed in the last couple of months in Mexico is a horror story that is simply unacceptable. Yet it’s one that has largely escaped attention in Canada and the condemnation that could help make it stop.

It’s a story illustrated by the tortured, disfigured body of a young teacher-training student found in September after police attacked the bus on which he and his classmates were travelling, taking dozens of them away. Protests spread across the country when Mexicans learned of the killing of three students and “disappearance” of 43 more. It was one atrocity too many, for a country that has descended into a nightmare.

“Out of Control”:
Amnesty’s report on the widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment by military and police forces across Mexico

> Read Report

Official sources confirm there have been more than 7,000 reports of torture and ill-treatment by police or members of the armed forces in Mexico in the last four years alone. But this is likely only the tip of the iceberg, with other victims too fearful to make a complaint. Torture is quite simply out of control, as our latest report carefully documents. So much so that a staggering 64 percent of Mexican citizens are afraid they would be tortured if detained by the authorities, according to a survey commissioned by Amnesty International.

Mexicans have been terribly shaken by the evidence of torture and the disappearance of 43 students

Mexico has legislation that makes torture a crime. Yet the use of torture has increased 600 percent over the past decade, since the deployment of the army and marines in the so-called war on drugs.

The sad truth is that barbaric practices are thriving as authorities turn a blind eye or downplay the severity of the abuse. Tolerance, complicity, impunity, silence: it’s a lethal combination. That’s why men, women and young people in Mexico, whose only crime may have been to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, have been subjected to cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment by those who should be protecting them. The impact is lasting trauma and a crisis of distrust in all state officials.

But Mexico is part of the international community, and a close partner of Canada, tied by trade, investment and the thousands of tourists who make their way to Mexico each year. For these reasons and others, Mexico is extremely mindful of its international reputation and the concerns of citizens in other countries.


What if Canada spoke up? What if Canadian travellers raised their voices to call for action to stop torture and protect human rights in Mexico?

It is with this in mind that Amnesty International Canada has launched a provocative ad campaign that reaches out to Canadians considering travel to Mexico. “Think winter is torture? Think Mexico!” reads the ad, which leads to the Last Chance Travel Club. At first look, it seems to offer what many of us are seeking at this time of the year – a holiday in beautiful, vibrant Mexico. But the site actually showcases the plight of torture victims in Mexico and invites travellers to send a message to Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto to address the crisis.

  Stop Torture and Ill-Treatment in Mexico

It is time to end the silence. It is time to face the facts and raise our voices in solidarity with torture survivors in Mexico who have courageously come forward to tell the truth, to seek justice and try to ensure that no one else suffers as they have. It is time to support equally courageous Mexican human rights defenders who are seeking to hold state security forces and government authorities accountable; to stop crimes against humanity.

Are we discouraging Canadians from travelling to Mexico? Not at all! The Mexico I know is a country renowned for its spectacular beauty, inspiring history, countless achievements and its warm, wonderful peoples. The question is: are we willing to speak up for that Mexico, for the human rights of those peoples, and demand an end to the inhuman abuses that are staining the country with blood?

Who better to speak up than those travelling to Mexico?

Mexican authorities care what Canadians think. The lastchancetravelclub initiative gives Canadian vacationers, business travellers and indeed all of us an opportunity to speak up for human rights before we visit Mexico.