Mexico’s populist president has accused the United States of undue interference in the country’s internal affairs just before a virtual meeting with the US vice-president, Kamala Harris, which was expected to focus on slowing Central American migration.
Speaking at his morning press conference on Friday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called it “reprehensible” that the US government would fund a prominent anti-corruption group and the press freedom organization Article 19, whose work was cited in the state department’s annual human rights report on Mexico.
“It’s interference, it’s interventionism, it’s promoting coup-plotters,” said López Obrador, who announced that Mexico had filed a formal protest with the US embassy.
The president, known as Amlo, said a diplomatic note was sent because of US backing for Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI), which he has alleged is seeking to undermine his government.
“The financing of [this] group by the US government, is an act of interventionism, which violates our sovereignty,” he alleged. “That’s why we’re asking for them to clarify this, because it’s a foreign government.”
The note asked the US embassy to confirm if MCCI received financial support from the US Agency for International Development – and if so, to suspend it.
The president said he did not plan to raise the issue with Harris, saying that the meeting would focus on immigration.
Amlo has repeatedly employed conspiratorial language to describe the work of civil society organisations – including left-leaning groups with long histories of fighting human rights abuses.
MCCI – whose founder Claudio X González has a history of opposing Amlo – said in a series of tweets that its work was “legal” and the criticism showed a “serious misunderstanding” of international corruption.
A government spokesman, Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, previously accused MCCI of accepting funding from foreign foundations to undermine a railway Amlo’s administration is building around the Yucatán peninsula known as the Train Maya – something MCCI denied.
Article 19 responded by pointing out that aggressions against the press had increased by 13.6% in 2020 – Amlo’s second year in office.
“The [president’s] discourse is repeated in all levels of government and acts as a distraction mechanism in the face of its inability to respond to violence against the press and resolve [Mexico’s] human rights crisis,” Article 19 said. “It also ignores its effects in the lives of victims and society and contributes to distrust in institutions.”
Critics pointed out Amlo’s own interior ministry recently signed an agreement with USAid on human rights issues, while MCCI published investigations into graft before Amlo successfully ran for election in 2018, casting himself as an anti-corruption crusader.