Last Friday, August 28th, during his morning conference, the President of the Republic, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, made some statements that provoke delegitimization and stigmatization, and may lead to the criminalization of independent media and human rights organizations that have denounced the human rights and environmental violations of the extractivist model and, more specifically, those related to the project known as the “Mayan Train”.
In these statements, the President used the reference to funding sources – which are public and reported to the relevant accountability mechanisms – to question and put in doubt the legitimacy and work of organizations such as Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (Mexican Center for Environmental Law), Fundación para el Debido Proceso (Due Process Foundation), Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos A.C. (Human Rights Promotion and Defense), Consejo Regional Indígena y Popular de Xpujil (Xpujil Indigenous and Popular Regional Council), Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible (Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Forestry), Indignación A.C. (Indignation), and Diálogo y Movimiento A.C. (Dialogue and Movement), all with a recognized track record in the defense of human rights; as well as Animal Político, the online communications media with a wide circulation in the country.
These declarations hinder public debate on the Mayan Train mega-project, whose scope and impact oblige the Mexican State to ensure conditions and mechanisms for dialogue that allow people and civil society organizations to express their opinions and criticisms, and to monitor compliance with relevant human rights standards. This includes the cancellation of the project because of the damage to people and the environment. Social movements from all over Latin America have denounced the extractive model as one of the main causes of dispossession and social conflict in the continent.
Even more worrisome is that challenges such as those made by the President of the Republic can lead to criminalization processes and attacks against organizations and communities opposed to the project. We remind the government that Mexico has been repeatedly called out by international human rights mechanisms because of the murders and attacks on environmentalists who defend the territory, with particular impact on women human rights defenders.
Stigmatizing the work of defending human rights not only violates the State’s obligation to protect defenders and promote their work, but it also puts a spotlight on the rest of the groups and people who carry out this work in the country and contributes to legitimizing the attacks that state and municipal governments along with groups in power continually perpetrate against defenders of the territory and other human rights. We must not forget that at least 14 journalists and 26 human rights defenders have been assassinated during the current presidential term.
From IM-Defensoras, the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Mexico, and Luchadoras, we demand a rectification by President López Obrador, and that it be accompanied by public recognition of the fundamental work carried out by human rights defenders and organizations that have historically fought for democracy and opened paths to justice, which are indispensable in all processes of social transformation.