November 27, 2019 / 5:16 PM / 15 days ago

Mexico struggling to improve human rights under Lopez Obrador - Amnesty

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s president has failed to make substantial progress resolving human rights problems in his first year in office and his resistance to criticism risks creating a “hostile environment” for the media, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, accompanied by Secretary of Defense Luis Sandoval, attends a military parade in celebration of the 109th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution at Zocalo Square in Mexico City, Mexico November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

In a new report, the rights group said the administration of leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had been more responsive to attacks on human rights defenders and made advances in legislating against arbitrary detentions.

But it said the government, which has tightened federal spending considerably under Lopez Obrador, had been slow to implement changes and allocate resources to problem solving.

Lopez Obrador took office last December pledging to pacify the country after more than a decade of runaway gang violence.

Fueled by turf wars between drug cartels, homicides reached record levels last year, and concern is widespread about the murder of journalists and human rights workers in Mexico.

The president has vowed to take a less confrontational approach to the problem but his creation of a large, militarised “National Guard” to oversee security has raised doubts.

“Militarization, including the creation of the new National Guard, is one of the areas of greatest concern ... because of the high risk of perpetuating human rights violations,” Amnesty International said.

The new government has suffered a string of security lapses and murders are on track to pass last year’s total.

Amnesty also voiced concern about how Lopez Obrador has used his morning news conferences to “vilify” civil society groups and single out critical journalists and media outlets.

“These statements could be taken to suggest that the federal government is opposed to criticism and dissent and could ... contribute to creating a hostile environment for them,” it said.

Lopez Obrador argues he is exercising his right to reply in criticizing his detractors, and has pinned much of the blame for Mexico’s economic and social problems on previous governments.

Violence against rights advocates and journalists has not decreased during the government’s first year, nor has it put in place effective strategies to address the problem of gender-based murders of women, Amnesty said in its report.

Furthermore, use of torture and other ill-treatment continues to be an “alarming reality in Mexico”, it added.

“Amnesty International believes that substantial progress on human rights requires the government to stop blaming previous governments for the situation (and) accept responsibility for what is happening right now,” the organization said.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Tom Brown

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