Congress Should Withhold Aid to Mexico Tied to Human Rights Performance

September 16, 2010

Mass killings of migrants. Covering up human rights violations by tampering with evidence. The increase in the number of complaints of human rights violations committed by the Mexican military. Does this sound like Mexico is meeting its human rights performance obligations to receive human rights conditioned funding from the US State Department?

On September 2, 2010, the State Department released a report to Congress indicating that Mexico was indeed fulfilling human rights criteria, and would in turn receive approximately $36 million conditioned Merida Initiative funds. Releasing these funds would send the wrong message to Mexico — that the United States condones the grave human rights violations committed in Mexico, including torture, rape, killings, and enforced disappearances.

Mexico has already received roughly $1.5 billion dollars in security assistance, with 15% of select funds tied to Mexico meeting four core human rights conditions:

  1. Ensuring that civilian prosecutors and judicial authorities are  investigating and prosecuting members of the federal police and military forces who have been credibly alleged to have violated human rights.
  2. Enforcing the prohibition on the use of testimony obtained through torture.
  3. Improving the transparency and accountability of federal police forces and work with state and municipal authorities to improve the transparency and accountability of state and municipal police forces.
  4. Conducting regular consultations with Mexican human rights organizations and civil society on recommendations for the implementation of the Merida Initiative.

While the State Department has withheld $26 million in Merida Initiative funding from the FY10 Supplemental pending the passage of two items in the Mexican Congress: legislation that would enhance the authority of the Mexican National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and Military Justice Code reforms.  Still, the core human rights criteria—mandated by the US Congress, have not been met, and therefore, the additional $36 million should also be withheld.

Human rights violations committed by Mexican security forces are not only deplorable in their own right, but also significantly undermine the effectiveness of Mexico’s public security efforts. When allocating funds, Congress, in consultation with the State Department, should not forget about human rights and should withhold human rights pegged funds from Mexico.  It’s a “shared responsibility” therefore the US and Mexico should work together, to ensure that human rights requirements are met, not just half-heartedly to release money before it expires, but to really ensure that the human rights situation in Mexico is truly better….for the Mexican people.

Aaron Barnard-Luce contributed to this post.