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Border & Immigration

Activists Investigate US Role In Mexico's Human Rights Abuses

San Diego-based human rights activists meet in Mexico City, June 14, 2016.
Benjamin Prado
San Diego-based human rights activists meet in Mexico City, June 14, 2016.

Activists Investigate US Role In Mexico's Human Rights Abuses
Human rights activists from San Diego and other cities have embarked on a fact-finding mission in Mexico to show how U.S. policies, military aid and arms sales contribute to human rights violations.

International human rights organizations have increasingly brought attention to the involvement of Mexican authorities in kidnappings, mass executions and other crimes. Now they want to show how United States policies and military aid play a role in this crisis.

The American Friends Service Committee is leading a fact-finding mission in Mexico over the next two weeks meant to increase awareness about how the U.S. has fueled human rights violations by providing weapons and funds to Mexican security forces.

The 16-member delegation is collecting testimonies from victims and their families.

"The goal is to meet with the families who've had people disappeared, people who've been victims of state repression, people who have been incarcerated, families of disappeared, to be able to highlight the true impact that U.S. foreign policy is having in creating a climate of impunity in Mexico," said Benjamin Prado, program coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego.

Activists plan to bring recordings of these victims back across the border to inspire U.S. citizens to demand change.

"This way our tax monies are not being used to displace people, to disappear people, to commit crimes against humanity," Prado said. "We have a responsibility to highlight these cases."

He said the delegation is primarily concerned with two policies: the Southern Border Plan in Mexico, which was implemented in 2014 at the urging of the U.S., and the Merida Initiative in the U.S.

Mexico's Southern Border Plan outsourced U.S. immigration control to Mexican customs officials along the border with Central America. Critics say the strategy has been shown to expose Central American migrants and refugees to a rising number of robberies, rape and killings at the hands of criminals and local authorities.

The Merida Initiative has sent about $2.5 billion in U.S. funds for training and equipment for Mexican security forces since 2008. Activists argue the U.S. should stop providing these funds because the authorities benefiting have been implicated in human rights violations. They point to examples including the 2014 case of 43 students vanishing after local police abducted them, and the execution by the Mexican military of 22 people, including unarmed civilians.

In recent years, the Merida Initiative has "shifted its emphasis from providing helicopters and other big-ticket items to focus on institutional strengthening of Mexico's law enforcement agencies," according to the Washington Office on Latin America. But activists remain concerned about ongoing funds for weapons and other interdiction tools.