Mexico will have problems with Europe if it doesn’t take human rights issues seriously, according to a member of the European Parliament (EP).
Leopoldo López Gil, a Spanish representative of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), made the remark in the wake of President López Obrador’s pointed criticism of the EP after it condemned the harassment and killing of journalists and human rights defenders in Mexico in a resolution approved on March 10.
In an interview with the newspaper El Universal, López Gil, one of the authors of the resolution, said that the Mexican president’s insults – which included calling European lawmakers sheep – wouldn’t have an impact on the ratification of the updated EU-Mexico trade agreement, but added that EP members would nevertheless consider human rights abuses in Mexico when they vote to approve the pact.
Human rights issues in Mexico “will be present” in the minds of lawmakers and if the Mexican government doesn’t take them seriously “there will be problems,” he said.
López Obrador claims that his administration doesn’t tolerate abuses that were permitted under previous governments, but Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, among others, have denounced human rights violations since he took office, including unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and violence against women and girls.
López Gil, who is originally from Venezuela, attributed the president’s attack on European lawmakers – who he accused of “corruption, lies and hypocrisy” in a statement issued by his office – to personal motivation and the heat of the moment.
He noted that at least 47 journalists have been murdered since AMLO took office in December 2018, and claimed that the president has increased their vulnerability to violence through his repeated attacks on the media.
The EP said in its resolution that it was concerned about “the systematic and tough critiques used by the highest authorities of the Mexican government against journalists and their work” and called on authorities to “refrain from issuing any communication which could stigmatize human rights defenders, journalists and media workers, exacerbate the atmosphere against them or distort their lines of investigation.”
López Gil said the EP’s message is “simple and clear – we’re asking López Obrador to take the decision to defend and protect journalists and [human rights] defenders [and] end the aggressive and incendiary discourse.”
He said that the EP is still waiting for a formal reply to its resolution, affirming that “an insult, for me, is not a response.”
AMLO accused the parliament of being “meddlesome” when it has never acted in such a way, the EPP lawmaker added. López Gil said the EP has simply reminded the Mexican government that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The EP’s only objective is for peace to prevail in the “great country” of Mexico, he said, before comparing Lopez Obrador to Venezuelan autocrat Nicolás Maduro.
“There is a [common] denominator, … populism [and] a way of acting that tramples on the principles of democracy. Of course I’m worried, but the Mexican people should be more concerned,” López Gil said, adding that the EP will remain committed to standing up for Mexican journalists and human rights defenders.
Meanwhile, López Obrador took aim at the EPP representative and other “far-right” European politicians at his Thursday press conference.
“Our adversaries … even reach the European Parliament. … Who initiated this pronouncement against us, against the Mexican government? The far-right, especially from Spain,” he said.
“… A man from Venezuela, from the opposition in Venezuela, goes to Spain, … and the People’s Party, which is a conservative party, protects him, gives him shelter, and turns him into a member of the European Parliament. And the man was one of the promoters of [the EP resolution]. … This man, Leopoldo López,” the president said.
“… If Mexico is an independent, free and sovereign country, why are they interfering? Who gives them the right?” he asked.
With reports from El Universal