Acute human rights crisis in Mexico must become a priority for Canada, visiting Mexican rights advocates say

Ottawa — Days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s state visit to Mexico, nine leading Mexican human rights experts are in Ottawa to seek strengthened Canadian support for their efforts to address an acute and worsening human rights crisis in Mexico.
While Canada has been vocal in its support for the victims of two severe earthquakes that hit Mexico in September, the visiting Mexican human rights experts want Canada to respond with even greater attention to the hundreds of thousands of victims of an acute human rights emergency that worsens with each day.
“Staggering numbers of atrocities are committed with impunity. There is no investigation, let alone justice,” says Santiago Aguirre, Deputy Director of the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center, which was targeted in 2017 with  Pegasus spyware, likely by the Mexican government, as verified by the Digital Rights Defense Network and Citizen Lab Canada. “The enforced disappearance by police in 2014 of 43 students, whose whereabouts remain unknown, is the most visible face of endemic collusion between authorities and organized crime in Mexico. We appreciated the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Trudeau in Mexico City and discuss this case. Now we need Canada to press for justice, to make it clear that impunity is unacceptable and only fuels the human rights crisis. ”
“Countries like Canada could do a lot more to pressure Mexico to put an end to the violence, but they don’t because of their economic interests. This means they also bear some responsibility for the more than 180,000 homicides and over 33,000 disappeared during the last decade,” says journalist Daniela Pastrana of the journalist network ‘Periodistas de a Pie’, whose members face increasing risk of assassination as Mexico has become the most deadly country in the Americas to practice journalism. The escalation of violence has also led to 300,000 persons forcibly displaced. 
 “In Guerrero where I work, Indigenous people have always faced denial of their human rights but the risks they face now have increased to extreme proportions,” says Araceli Tecolapa Alejo of the Jose Maria Morelos y Pavón Regional Human Rights Centre, an organization that is accompanied by Peace Brigades International because of the risk Araceli and her colleagues face defending human rights. “Thousands of families are suffering the disappearance of a relative, yet authorities fail to investigate. Families and entire communities are forced to flee and the authorities are doing little or nothing to protect them from violence and criminal groups.”
“We’re troubled by the silence of Canada’s Prime Minister and his government regarding devastating realities that have resulted from the arrival of Canadian mining projects, in states such as Guerrero where entire territories have been militarized, families forced to flee their homes, and their water and land contaminated,” states lawyer Gustavo Lozano, a member of the Mexican Network of Mining Affected People. “It is time for Canadian authorities to put words into practice and demonstrate respect for the self-determination of Indigenous peoples who oppose mining projects in their territory, and stop advocating on behalf of companies as it has done in violence-ridden states such as Guerrero. Canada should also guarantee accountability from Canadian mining companies for the many harms taking place around their operations in Mexico.”
Labour lawyer Arturo Alcalde Justiniani of Asesoria Juridica Laboral wants guarantees that Canada’s trade and investment goals do not come at the expense of human rights in Mexico. “Millions of Mexican workers are facing a critical situation due to a political and economic system built on starvation wages. The severity of this human drama is being deliberately obscured in the current NAFTA negotiations.”
The visiting Mexican human rights advocates met with the Chair of the Senate’s Human Rights Committee on October 16.  On October 17 and 18, they will testify to Parliament’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights, followed by an extended policy round table at Global Affairs Canada. They also hope to meet with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland before their visit ends.
Mexico has experienced alarming levels of violence, impunity and forced displacement since its armed forces were deployed to fight a war on organized crime. Mexico is now second only to Syria in the number of conflict deaths, with more than 180,000 since 2006. More than 33,000 people are officially reported missing. More than 300,000 are reported forcibly displaced. Public protests are met with arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force by police, including sexual violence against women. Workers and union activists seeking to exercise their right to freedom of association have suffered increasing levels of violence. Violence against women is rampant. A 2017 UN report documents increasing threats and deadly attacks on those who speak up for human rights, search for the missing, report on violence and corruption, or dare to defend Indigenous territory and oppose resource extraction.
For more information or to arrange interviews:
Beth Berton-Hunter, Amnesty International: 416 363 9933 ext 332 or 416 904-7158 (cell)
Jessica Ruano, Canadian Council for International Co-operation:  613 241 7007 ext. 343 or 613 806 0398 (cell)