Thursday, October 15, 2009

Placing Blame for Human Rights Failures

Ernesto López Portillo says it starts at the bottom, and goes all the way to the top:
I have been a direct witness to the most implacable harassment of defenders of human rights. I've watched the total indifference from the criminal justice and public security institutions, and the open obstruction of even the investigations that deal with the death of a defender. But I've also heard on countless occasions society's condemnation of those who work for human rights. Time and again I've heard the repetition of those prejudices that disqualify the sector of civil society and the public organs created to promote and defend human rights.

The most common, absurd, and harmful of these prejudices is the one that reduces the defense of human rights to the defense of criminals. No evidence supports this belief, which more than any expresses a perhaps massive contempt, from the social fabric and from the public sphere, that ends up closing a circle that stigmatizes human rights and all that has to do with them.

The report from the High Commission (on Human Rights) from the UN adds overwhelming and numerous pieces of evidence regarding the extensive and systematic conflict between the authorities and human rights in Mexico. And it does so two months after President Felipe Calderón issued the challenge to "prove one case, one single case in which the authorities have not acted, in which human rights have been violated, in which the relevant authorities haven't responded to punish those who have abused their legal powers: whether they are police, soldiers, or any other authority". As you can see, the conflict I identify is evident from the very pinnacle of Mexican political system.
What a silly and infuriating comment from Calderón. It costs him nothing politically to say that it is an ongoing, deeply rooted problem that Mexico is committed to solving (though mere rhetorical nods would of course be insufficient), while saying that there have been no violations makes him look like a dolt or a liar. The evidence of human rights violations in Mexico is, as López Portillo says, rather extensive, and while we might forgive the president for not being all-powerful in preventing violations of human rights, it's much harder to pardon him for denying their very existence.

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