Mexican State Violence and Canadian Complicity

As tensions rise in Mexico, Canada is being called on to push for reforms, but our continued inaction is – according to critics – possibly an attempt to protect business interests.

Mexico is Canada’s fifth largest trading partners, where recent events have seen an explosion of state violence. While human rights groups have called on the Harper government to press for improvements – Canada has done nothing.

Kathy Price, Campaigner for Mexico at Amnesty International Canada describes current situation in mexico as a humanitarian crisis of the sort that obligates Canada to push for change.

Luis Horacio Najera told Open Canada that the “situation in Mexico is migrating from the violence by organized crime to the violence against human and civil rights activists by the government.”

Price says Canada’s inaction is likely because “Canada has considerable Economic interests in Mexico. It certainly raises the question as to whether, if you have significant economic interests in a country, is that going to silence your voice around speaking out against unacceptable realities?”

Price says Amnesty is concerned by “what appears to be a climate of tolerance for extra judicial executions. It builds on a situation in which we see torture, disappearances and this is yet another indication of a very serious human rights crisis in Mexico… If you look at cases of violence, you can see that those who dissent and those who engage in social protests are regularly targets of repression and violence.”

Alex Neve, Secretary General for Amnesty International Canada wrote in an op-ed for the Star that while “close connections [continue] between our two countries… Mexico’s president and Canada’s prime minister have, for almost a decade, attended annual summits to further deepen that relationship… Most of these connections are about business, trade and investment. But they provide important openings for Canadian officials to influence human rights in Mexico. Recently, however, Canada has been more inclined to downplay Mexico’s human rights challenges.”

Price says “given the dimension of the crisis in Mexico, it’s really important that the international community apply pressure on Mexico. Particularly Canada because of the close relationship that Canada has with Mexico. We wish that our own government would play a helpful role and to comply with it’s human rights obligations. [However,] We are not seeing Canada speak out publicly about the situation in Mexico… We believe Canada has an opportunity and an obligation to speak out, but so far we have not seen Canada speak out, even on the egregious human rights violations in September 2014 against the students. Whereas you do see Canada making public statements with regards to human rights violations in other countries. “

Meanwhile, Export Development Canada says of Canada’s relation with Mexico: “Mexico’s growing consumer class and favorable labour demographics make it a rich source of opportunities for Canadian businesses.”

This is further complicated by reports of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico helping to push the government to crack down on workers at a Canadian silver mine who were attempting to unionize. The CBC reports that the “embassy had arranged meetings with Mexican authorities at Excellon’s request,” without the embassy expressing concern for the well being of the protesters, seemingly at any point. This is made worse by a freedom of information request which show that one day before Mexican soldiers and police were sent to break up the protest “one trade commissioner sent an email wishing Excellon well.”

This causes problems for Canada’s obligation,according to Amnesty to push for humanitarian reforms, when much of the business community has a direct financial interest in there not being reforms. With this crisis of state violence comes stability for foreign investors, it seems. It creates a problem of conflicting agendas.

The American government has also been called on to push for humanitarian reforms, with similar results. Democracy Now reports that “ human rights groups want Obama to press the Mexican government on its failure to investigate and prosecute abuses by state security forces.” However, “President Obama has signaled he won’t push Peña Nieto on the issue.”

Mitchell Thompson is a journalism student at Ryerson University and a contributor at Disinfo. Read other articles by Mitchell.