Mexico’s Presidential Election is a Critical Moment for Human Rights

On July 1st, Mexicans will head to the polls to vote for 3,400 open positions, including their next President. The new leader of Mexico will inherit the country in a state of crisis, and his agenda must prioritize tackling the widespread violence and human rights abuses occurring throughout the country.

Violence in Mexico reached a 20-year high in 2017, a record that it is expected to surpass this year. Widespread human rights abuses have been complemented by prevalent and enduring impunity for perpetrators. State actors are regularly involved in instances of torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. Over 34,000 people have been reported missing since 2006. Women continue to be disappeared and murdered purely because of their gender. On top of these violations, human rights defenders and the press are constantly threatened for their work.

That same violence has surrounded the upcoming elections, epitomizing the need for human rights to center the country’s political agenda. In state elections, at least 112 politicians and candidates have been murdered since the electoral process began in September 2017, emblematic of Mexico’s broader track record. These abuses cause reverberating damage: they not only create a culture that perpetuates and normalizes human rights violations, but they undermine the fair functioning of Mexico’s democracy. These threats contravene candidates’ rights to bodily security and life, to be elected, and their freedoms of speech, while simultaneously denying Mexicans their rights to vote and to participate in and benefit from a healthy, free civic space.

Instead of continuing the legacy of his predecessors’ “war on drugs”- which has only increased violence by militarizing public security forces and shielding them from judicial scrutiny- the next President must work to reverse decades of harmful policies, to abide by the country’s obligations under international and domestic human rights law, and to systematically fight corruption that perpetuates abuses. No matter who is elected, it is a critical moment in México’s history. The President must provide adequate attention and resources to challenge widespread violence and to hold perpetrators accountable.

Human rights must be at the forefront of this election and the next President’s agenda for the sake of the legitimacy and efficacy of the elected administration and for the future of the country.