Between Corruption, Massacres and Forced Disappearances
Since its very beginning, the administration of the former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto was marked by impunity in various corruption scandals and cases with human rights violations. As the examples show, three of the most striking crimes in the six-year presidential term (2012-2018) have been perpetrated or discovered in the second half of the 2014.
One of those involves the former president Peña Nieto and his ex-wife Angélica Rivera, and is publicly known as the White House scandal (in Spanish: el escándalo de la Casa Blanca). In November 2014, a journalistic investigation discovered that the couple was living in a 7-million-dollar mansion, registered in the name of one of the companies of the Grupo Higa, which belongs to Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, a construction industry businessman who received several multimillion public procurement contracts from Peña Nieto’s administration since the time Peña Nieto was a governor of the State of Mexico (2005-2011) and subsequently during his presidency.
To halt the public dissatisfaction around this scandal, Peña Nieto put one of his subordinates, Virgilio Andrade, to oversee the investigation. After several months Andrade concluded that there was no misconduct whatsoever in the White House case. On the contrary, the group of journalists that discovered the scandal, led by Carmen Aristegui and David Lizárraga got fired from MVS noticias, the broadcaster they worked for, and effectively got removed from the Mexican radio.
Before, in September, other journalists acquired testimonies showing that what the Mexican Army had reported as a combat between soldiers and kidnappers in June of 2014 in Tlatlaya, turned out to be an execution of 15 people who had already surrendered themselves to the army, as it was also confirmed later by the National Commission of Human Rights. Tlatlaya is located an hour and a half from Mexico City, and a total of 22 persons were killed in the fight, all of them belonging to a criminal group.
The third case provoked the largest outcry both in Mexico and abroad. It is publicly known as Ayotzinapa, which is the name of the rural teacher training college where the victims were studying. In the city of Iguala, south of Mexico, on the night of 26 and 27 of September 2014, a group of students were attacked by criminals and local policemen. This operation was monitored and protected by state and federal police forces, as well as the Mexican Army. 6 people were killed on the spot and 43 students remain missing ever since.
The work of journalists and experts of the National Commission of Human Rights proved that the official investigation was based on forced declarations and destruction of evidence. The whole investigation was set up to conceal the relationship between the attackers and the most important heroin trafficking scheme on the American continent. The city of Iguala plays a key role as a regional storage and shipment center of the drug packages to the US’ border.
The Impunity Pact
The missing 43 Ayotzinapa students add up to a larger figure: official figures estimate 37 thousand 435 people have disappeared on Mexican territory, to June 2018 with a trend that worsens: The National Database for Missing Persons reports that only from 2013 to 2017 19,156 people went missing.
The lack of capabilities and political will of the authorities to shed light on these crimes puts Mexico on the fourth place in the Global Impunity Index released by the Center for Impunity and Justice Studies. Additionally, Mexico comes out as the country with the highest levels of corruption perception.
The Uruguayan researcher Edgardo Buscaglia classifies the absence of justice as “impunity pact”, where politicians, policemen, militaries, businessmen and transnational companies cover each other’s back under the assumption that the corruption truss is so complex that if one person falls will bring everyone down.
According to the human rights activist Miguel Álvarez Gándara winner of National Human rights Prize 2017, this impunity is “structural and systematic”, a generalized breakdown of the entire justice system. The consequences are observable everywhere: the most prominent case is the spread of femicides as well as the rising number of assassinations of high-profile journalists.
The Legacy of a Crisis
With the highest vote in Mexico’s history, the three times presidential candidate Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (MORENA) became in 2018 the new Mexican president. He received a country plunged into a serious crisis of human rights, security and economic weakening.
125 thousand intentional homicides; 47 murdered reporters and more than 100 aggressions against medias and journalists; around 100 thousand more people in poverty, for a total of 55.3 million; an increase in food deprivation; more then 35 thousand people missing or not located; more than 2 thousand mass grave; an average of 5 femicide every day; hundreds of families displaced; and a judicial system widely reported by victims and human rights organizations as accomplice of the multiple deficiencies that prevent justice.
In this context, López Obrador, originally from the state of Tabasco, was elected to head the executive power. He was supported by the majority vote of a society waiting for results, who chose the alternation after experimenting the deterioration of their living conditions through 12 years of PAN power and 6 years of the come back of the PRI.
During his inauguration speech López Obrador promised that, hand in hand with the people, there would be a radical change in the way of governing, focused on combating corruption and impunity through a national policy and the primary attention of the underprivileged, but without neglecting the demands of other sectors of the nation.
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El Universal (2018). Recibe AMLO un país con crisis en derechos humanos, aseguran organismos civiles. Accessed on 28 February 2019.
Milenio (2018). AMLO recibirá a México con la peor crisis de seguridad. Accessed on 28 February 2019.
Cacelín, J. (2018). Cifras récord de asesinatos, desapariciones e impunidad: el balance que deja Peña Nieto al terminar mandato. Accessed on 28 February 2019.