•SHOCKWAVES: Since the start of the year, Mexico has already registered the killing of at least six journalists, and the government’s inability to abate this crisis is garnering attention around the world; European embassies, leading European NGOs and now European Union parliamentarians are among those that have taken notice. Earlier in the year, the EU delegation to Mexico, along with the embassies of Switzerland, and Norway, issued appeals to protect Mexican journalists and end impunity (the U.K. also joined the call separately); last month, the EU Ambassador to Mexico, Gautier Mignot, said that denouncing and helping prevent murders of Mexican journalists were a priority of his office. Yet, the most relevant moment arrived this week when the European Parliament in Strasbourg passed an official resolution condemning the violence against journalists and human rights defenders in Mexico. Back in 2010, the European Parliament had already condemned the killings of Mexican journalists as part of a resolution dealing with the Mexico’s recent violence cycle. The new resolution had some tough words for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and placed Mexico among a list of countries (including Russia and Turkey) about which the European Parliament has expressed concerns regarding the state of freedom of speech. Perhaps most ominous for Mexico is that at least one Member of the European Parliament, Diana Riba i Giner, proposed to make conditional the ratification of the newly modernized EU-Mexico Global Agreement until the Mexican president stops criminalizing journalists and human rights defenders and Mexico develops a comprehensive protection policy.
•RESOLUTION + VOTE: This week’s European Parliament resolution considers that the rule of law is seriously deteriorating in Mexico owing to increasing numbers of murdered journalists; according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Mexico (61) is the country with the largest total of journalists killed since 1992, followed by war-torn Afghanistan (55). The resolution was supported by 607 MEPs with just 2 voting against it; 73 other MEPs abstained. In all, 15 MEPs spoke on the resolution, many of them echoing the words of Romanian MEP Nicolae Ștefănuță: Although Mexico is an essential partner of the EU, “we won’t close our eyes when your democracy and rights are being eroded”. Referring to López Obrador, Spanish MEP Inma Rodríguez-Piñero said “we democrats don’t like it when presidents point fingers at journalists,” adding “journalists are there to opine on politicians, not the other way around.” In a fit of rage, another Spanish MEP Leopoldo López Gil said that “to have the president continue to fight against journalists is deplorable”. The resolution noted how López Obrador’s “populist rhetoric” is used to denigrate and intimidate independent journalists, media owners and activists and generates an atmosphere of “relentless unrest” towards journalists. To address this crisis, the European Parliament’s resolution recalled that the EU-Mexico Global Agreement -which originally entered into force in 2000- already contains a clause on human rights and democracy. The new resolution highlights that any credible attempt at improving the situation in Mexico would include bolstering the federal government’s mechanism for the protection of journalists and human rights defenders.
•CONTEXT: Before the debate, Massimiliano Smeriglio, MEP and Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Mexico Joint Parliamentary Committee, told Mexico in Europe that “the situation of human rights defenders and journalists in Mexico is, regrettably, still very worrying.” Drawing a parallel between López Obrador’s increasingly authoritarian stance and that of the PRI, the hegemonic political power in Mexico for most of the 20th century, the Italian MEP added that “it must be remembered that censorship (even self-imposed) was the order of the day in the country during the 71 years of the old PRI.” MEP Smeriglio noted the European Parliament will pile on the pressure for the Mexican government to address this crisis. In the same tone, Paris-based NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was critical about the current government’s attitude towards the press. Artur Romeu, RSF’s Latin America Institutional Development Officer, told Mexico in Europe that “when president López Obrador stigmatizes the press in his public discourses, he is fueling more hostility towards journalists and therefore contributing to a more dangerous environment for journalism.” Romeu says that the government must ensure that the federal mechanism to protect journalists is properly funded; according to rights groups, the number of journalists trying to access it increased by 85% since López Obrador rose to power, leading the mechanism to be “completely underfunded”. Romeu added that the most prescient task for the government is “to show by concrete action that the banalization of violence against journalists will not be tolerated.”
•COVERAGE: Perhaps the most shocking episode that exemplifies López Obrador’s stigmatization of the press happened on February 12th. On that day, the President divulged the salary of Carlos Loret de Mola, one of Mexico’s most famous journalists. Mr. Loret de Mola along with MCCI, an anti-corruption NGO, published a story which revealed that López Obrador’s son had lived in a Houston, Texas house belonging to a former executive of an energy technology firm which had contracts with the Mexican government. The barrage of attacks levied by President López Obrador on Loret de Mola did not escape the attention of the European press; however, their coverage was swiftly disparaged by López Obrador because, according to him, newspapers “like the Financial Times or The Economist” had in the past been “complicit with their government in the sacking of Mexico”. This was not the first time López Obrador criticized European news outlets for their coverage of his administration; in the past, he has accused El Pais, the Spanish daily, and other international publications of being responsible for the orchestration “of a dirty war” against him; López Obrador’s attacks on Loret de Mola and the European press may have hastened the European Parliament’s resolution.
•UK: The Daily Mail, the UK tabloid, carried an article on the recent trend of Ukrainians buying throwaway cars in Mexico and driving them up to the border with the U.S. to seek asylum. .
•Germany: Die Zeit, the Hamburg daily, carried an article written by the director of a new documentary on the Legionaries of Christ, a religious order founded in Mexico in 1941 by Marcial Maciel. The article reveals the vile relationship between the high commands of the order and Pope Benedict XVI (of German origin) which led to the cover-up of thousands of child sexual abuse cases.
•Italy: An article deriding the Mexican government’s strategy of keeping borders open without imposing any restrictions or requirements, which was in force throughout the pandemic, appeared in Italy’s most read newspaper, Corriere della Sera. The article describes President López Obrador’s stance on Covid-19 as “negationist”.
•UK: Tony Barber, the FT’s Europe Editor, published a review of The Last Emperor of Mexico on Maximilian of Habsburg, who reigned Mexico as Emperor of Mexico from 1864 to 1867 after being named by Napoleon III. The book made the best seller list in Amazon UK.