Events

The State of Rights in Mexico

August 23, 2007 // 9:00am10:30am

Alejandro Anaya, Professor and Director of the Department of International Studies at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City
Security and Human Rights in Mexico: A Difficult Balance

Jorge Hernández-Díaz, Professor at the Universidad Autonoma "Benito Juarez" de Oaxaca
Ethnicity, Multiculturalism and Differentiated Citizenship: The Political Defense of Autonomy of the Oaxacan Indigenous Communities

Moderator: Aurora Adame, Director, the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations

Commentators:
Joy Olson, Director, Washington Office on Latin America
Mariclaire Acosta, Director of the Universal Civil Identity Program at the Organization of American States

On August 23, 2007 Mexico Institute and Mexican Council on Foreign Relations public policy scholars, Alejandro Anaya and Jorge Hernández-Díaz, presented their research from their two-month term in residence at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Aurora Adame highlighted the importance of academic exchange. She stated that scholars play an important role in the bilateral relationship as they are interpreters and translators of US-Mexico realities.

Alejandro Anaya focused his research on the factors that prevent change in the current situation of human rights abuses in Mexico. His findings demonstrate that in order to deter human rights abuses two key elements are necessary: pressure on the government to change their behavior and a method of argumentation. Both are lacking in Mexico. Pressure may arise from shaming diplomacy, but argumentation is often more elusive. Government actors in Europe, including the Prime Minister of Italy and German Members of Parliament, have shown public signs discontent and concern for the human rights abuses taking place in Mexico, but these demonstrated concerns were not sufficient as they did not result in shaming diplomacy or sanctions. They were ineffective in pressuring Mexico to change. Non-government actors such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International closely monitor the human rights situation in Mexico and actively criticized the government, but they are only able to exert limited pressure because they are not state actors. Anaya concluded that the presence of rhetorical action, such as that shown by governments in Europe, is insufficient if it is not accompanied by a process for argumentation.

According to Jorge Hernández-Díaz, , indigenous movements in Mexico have not been as visible or steadfast as those occurring elsewhere in Latin American. While the constitutional amendments of 1992 and 2001 acknowledged the mixed culture of the Mexican State, specifically allowing for rights to indigenous languages and to practice indigenous common law, indigenous common law is still seen as secondary to Mexican laws. For progress to take place, he argued, existing laws must be enforced and mechanisms must be established that allow for a synchronization of national and indigenous interests.

Mariclaire Acosta of the Organization of American States noted that the two papers highlight the main obstacles facing rule of law and human rights in Mexico. She commented that since the election of Vicente Fox there has been very little systematic research about the implications that the transition to democratic governance will have on human rights abuses. While there is a growing constituency that cares about human rights, powerful interests must be dislodged before we are able to see visible progress. Joy Olson of the Washington Office on Latin America added that while shaming diplomacy and argumentation are important factors to improving human rights conditions, an equally important domestic component must be present. Human rights need to be resolved at the federal, state, local and municipal level.

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