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UK delegation visit to Mexico shows country of stark contrasts

The 6-11 November 2022 BGIPU visit to Mexico was very successful.  The visit was led by Dan Carden MP, and the delegation comprised of Alicia Kearns MP, Wayne David MP, Matt Vickers MP, Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Baroness Coussins and Baroness Bonham Carter.

Our programme of political and cultural meetings showed us a country of stark contrasts, from communities so full of life and vibrancy and the great opportunities for Mexico in the world, to the depths of wanton murder and deep-rooted corruption.

We met with the Mexico Congress’s UK friendship group and were hosted by the Majority Leader in the Senate as well as meeting the Governor of Oaxaca, the Mayor of Mexico City and Presidential hopeful Dr Claudia Sheinbaum. Other regional and local congresses also kindly hosted us, and in between meetings we had the opportunity to visit important cultural sites, such as Monte Albán the awe-inspiring remains of the Americas’ ancient civilisations.

Throughout our time in Mexico we were expertly supported by the BGIPU’s Holly Sloan and the UK Ambassador to Mexico Jon Benjamin and his team. We saw how Mexico’s long-standing policy of neutrality (non-interventionism) in foreign affairs coupled with the current President’s decision to largely absent himself from the world stage (he has not attended any summits or been on any visits beyond the US or other countries in the Americas) created a unique working environment.

During our time in Oaxaca we raised the case of Claudia Uruchurtu and, more broadly, the dire state of human rights and corruption in Mexico as the UK Government embarks on talks with Mexico towards a new free trade agreement. HMA Jon Benjamin briefed us on this significant human rights case that was of interest to the UK Government and UK parliamentarians.

The forced disappearance of the Claudia Uruchurtu – in other words, her murder by state actors with links to organised crime and cartels – had resulted in the arrest of a local mayor and her acolytes and their judicial trial was underway at the time of our visit. In recent years there have been 100,000 plus such disappearances with only thirty or so resulting in any sort of conviction or justice being delivered for families and loved ones; there is near total impunity.

Claudia Uruchurtu’s sisters were residents in the UK and had appealed to their local MPs to raise the case with the Mexican Government which may have made all the difference in getting her case to trial. We held a difficult meeting with Claudia’s mother, son and her sisters during our visit to Oaxaca to try to understand the background to the murder and the impact on their family. Throughout the week our delegation – supported by the Ambassador – were able to raise this case and make clear our determination to see justice delivered, and not scuppered by any kind of political manipulation, at the highest levels of government and judiciary.

It was widely accepted by the Mexican representatives that we met that the country continues to be gripped by a human rights crisis; one that has been long established and which the institutions of the state, including the presidency, the congress and the judiciary, appear unable or unwilling to resolve. We heard a lot about the forced disappearances of journalists, politicians and social activists, especially outside of the big cities in more remote areas where murderous cartels can operate unchecked and often wield or control political power at local level. We heard about many other abuses, including the Ayotzinapa case of the forced disappearance of 43 students by authorities. This case has received widespread public scrutiny and there are many people determined to fight for justice, even at great risk to themselves.

We met many human rights defenders and activists and learnt about the work of these organisations in Mexico City and in Oaxaca. Many of them have suffered the loss of family members, friends and colleagues. Their bravery inspired all of us. We saw how the activism of politicians and human rights groups in other countries, simply by shining a spotlight on human rights atrocities, could bring to bear some pressure on authorities to act. HMA Jon Benjamin and his team at the Embassy have developed important relationships with organisations that monitor such abuses, to enable to UK Government to actively engage with Mexican counterparts on these issues.

Over the course of the week, the representatives we met were engaging, open and willing to have difficult discussions and were accepting of the challenges facing Mexican society. We saw the very best of Mexican culture and a thriving civil society. The upcoming 200th anniversary of UK-Mexico relations is perhaps an opportunity to reinvigorate this important relationship and work together to pursue solutions to the global challenges of climate, peace, human rights and democracy.

Dan Carden MP