October 12, 2022
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard
Dear Secretary Blinken and Secretary Ebrard,
We, the undersigned U.S. and Mexican civil society organizations committed to human rights and the rule of law, are writing ahead of the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue on October 13, 2022, to share observations and recommendations on improving public security and protecting human rights in line with the most promising commitments of the U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities.
There is an urgent need for evidence-based actions to overcome the critical security and public health challenges facing U.S. and Mexican communities. Mexico continues to experience record levels of lethal violence, with over 35,000 homicides in each of the last four years, coupled with a crisis of over 105,000 disappeared and missing people, with half of these cases occurring in the last six years. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that some 108,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2021.
Through the Bicentennial Framework, adopted in October 2021, the U.S. and Mexican governments pledge a public health-based approach to problematic drug use and a focus on reducing the forms of violence that most affect the population on one or both sides of the border, including homicides, disappearances, and gender-based violence.
One year into the Framework’s implementation, however, we are deeply concerned that the Mexican government has doubled down on military deployment in policing tasks as its principal security strategy. In September 2022, Mexico’s Congress approved the president’s proposal to make the National Guard—ostensibly Mexico’s federal police force—part of the Ministry of Defense. The change leaves Mexico without civilian federal police and places these policing tasks exclusively in the hands of the military. This move contradicts international human rights standards and ignores over 15 years of evidence that demonstrate the failure of military deployment as an anti-violence strategy. Mexico’s armed forces have committed widespread human rights violations in recent years, generally without being held accountable. As Mexico channels ever more roles and resources to the military, it is failing to prioritize the consolidation of capable and accountable civilian security and justice institutions, which represent the only sustainable path to security and access to justice.
In the United States, we welcome the adoption of measures designed to reduce arms trafficking. At the same time, we point to the need for the U.S. government to enact further measures to limit the illicit flow of weapons into Mexico. We also welcome the unprecedented inclusion of harm reduction in the Biden Administration’s April 2022 National Drug Control Strategy. However, we note with concern that the Strategy’s transnational components continue to focus largely on supply control efforts abroad “to prevent illicit drugs from ever reaching our border,” in spite of the documented limits of supply-control strategies across decades of such efforts and harms documented in terms of human rights violations and increased violence and corruption in the region.
We also recall the importance for the U.S. and Mexican governments of making available information on activities and advances in bilateral security cooperation and facilitating dialogue and participation by civil society. The preliminary results of the Framework, announced in April 2022 by officials of both governments, emphasized a list of high-profile arrests, drug laboratories dismantled, drugs interdicted, and efforts to combat human smuggling, regulate precursor chemicals, and broaden arms tracing. The main public health action announced at that time was the signing of a memorandum of understanding on treatment for addiction. We hope that the High-Level Security Dialogue is accompanied by updated and more complete information regarding how cooperation is advancing in other areas referenced in the Framework, such as improving homicide investigations and strengthening the capacity of security and justice institutions. While these areas may require more time to show measurable outcomes on the ground, we emphasize the need to keep these transformative goals at the center of bilateral discussion and efforts.
To ensure that cooperation builds sustainable solutions, including especially institutions capable of preventing and responding to violence, addictions, and the other challenges underlying the Bicentennial Framework, we urge you to prioritize actions on promising Framework commitments including the following, and to make available information on advances in these areas:
- “Prevent and reduce substance abuse, while limiting harms associated with addiction”
- “explore alternatives to incarceration for substance abuse cases”
- “promoting human rights and responding to the needs of victims and communities”
- “effectively and consistently conducting homicide investigations”
- “professionalize the criminal justice and law enforcement systems”
- “expand knowledge to implement best practices to combat gender-based violence”
- “building capabilities and accountability”
- “ensure courts support victims and preserve human and civil rights”
Our organizations welcome the opportunity to continue engaging with the U.S. and Mexican administrations to promote greater access to security and justice in our countries, and to continue sharing information based on our documentation of cases, patterns, areas of concern, and recommendations in the areas mentioned above. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Amnistía Internacional México
Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh)
Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan
Ciudadanos en Apoyo a los Derechos Humanos (CADHAC)
Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH)
Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) / Fundación para el Debido Proceso (DPLF)
Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho (FJEDD)
Human Rights Watch
México Unido Contra la Delincuencia (MUCD)
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Servicios y Asesoría para la Paz (Serapaz)
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) / Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos (WOLA)