An Open Letter to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Human Rights Advocates,
As a follower and friend of Mexico for the past 30 years, I think that we could all use a moment of reflection on our common values.
Mr. President, you have spent your life being a voice for those who have been neglected by traditional economic and political powers, the poor and those in remote or marginalized communities. You have sought to represent their interests, not just voicing their concerns but seeking to better their lives. You believe in justice and equity. You pursue these values as an elected official, through public service.
Human rights defenders, and I consider myself one, hold similar values. We embrace human dignity and justice. We value access to information and transparency as bedrocks of anti-corruption and justice.
The societal role of human rights defenders is different from those in public service. At times we seem at odds. Human rights defenders critique government initiatives that we believe threaten progress or gains made in transparency, accountability and justice.
All of us have seen corruption in previous administrations. But experience has taught us that corruption exists in all governments and that non-partisan institutionalized mechanisms and transparency are the key to ferreting out corruption and holding individuals and institutions accountable.
There needs to be more of a conversation between those outside of government working on human rights, anti-corruption and transparency and those in government about our common values. The current mutual lack of respect and dividing into camps is not constructive.
If we focus on our shared goals, we could make better progress toward achieving a more just and equitable society.
I say the above, not as a foreign agitator. I went to school in Mexico. One of my children was born in Mexico and is a proud citizen. As a US citizen, I appeal to my own government and civil society to find common values as well.
In hope that we can find ways to work together to improve the common good.
* Joy Olson is the former Executive Director of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a research and advocacy organization working to advance human rights. Twitter: @JoyLeeOlson