U.S. economic bullying has cornered AMLO's administration into engaging in heightened containment of Central American migrants.
Mexico is beefing up its migration enforcement at its border with Guatemala by sending up to 6,000 National Guard troops, Minister of the Interior Olga Sanchez announced Friday afternoon after meetings between Mexican and White House delegates in Washington. Meanwhile, the country is cracking down on human rights and migrant advocates.
The Mexican delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, arrived Wednesday in the U.S. capital of Washington D.C. to participate in negotiations aimed at avoiding President Donald Trump's imposition of trade sanctions against Mexico scheduled to start next Monday.
The U.S. executive threatened to impose extraordinary tariffs on all Mexican imports, starting first with a 5 percent tariff and progressively increasing it on a monthly basis until reaching 25 percent in October. This measure would be implemented if Mexico did not stem the flow of Central American migrants trying to reach U.S. territory.
Mexico's decision, however, seems to have inflicted an immediate political cost: for some supporters, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO)'s rhetoric has lost credibility as his actions deviate from his principles.
"The message that President Lopez Obrador gives is profoundly ambiguous and contrasts with actions we saw at the beginning of his term," Tania Reneaum, Amnesty International (AI) director in Mexico, said, adding that "the interest in human rights seems more a paper promise than a real one."
Ana Saiz, the director of No Borders, a local NGO, expressed also her concern about the National Guard's respect for human rights because "we still do not know the training or scope of action the government is giving to it."
Trump threatens a 5% tariff on all imported Mexican goods until the flow of undocumented immigrants is curbed. #AMLO succumbs to pressure, sends out National Guard, detaining 600 migrants & arresting 2 migrant rights defenders Cristóbal Sánchez Sánchez & Irineo Mujica this week. pic.twitter.com/0t0MPmJsxQ— Voices in Movement (@VIM_Media) June 7, 2019
To boot, just as U.S.-Mexico negotiations were ramping up, the director of the migrant activist group Peoples Without Borders Irineo Mujica and human rights advocate Cristobal Sanchez, were arrested June 5 for allegedly trafficking migrants.
The Mexican government Thursday also froze the bank accounts of 26 people who were alleged to have participated in organizing the migrant caravans that became an international media focus throughout 2018, as reported by Univision, but no further details are known yet.
Social activists have rejected the arrests of Mujica and Sanchez and pointed out their long-time, outstanding career as human rights defenders.
El director de nuestra organización, Irineo Mujica, y otro gran defensor de derechos migrantes, Cristóbal Sánchez, fueron arrestados hoy. Es una clara represalia por el Gob Mexicano contra defensores. ¡Se nota la presión del gobierno anti-migrante de EEUU!@CIDH #LibertadYa!— Pueblo Sin Fronteras (@PuebloSF) June 6, 2019
"These guys are ... protecting and empowering vulnerable people and dismantling the structures of power and violence that would do them harm," said Amelia Frank-Vitale, a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan who has organized caravans with Mujica and Sanchez over the past several years.
"Mujica has worked closely with Scott Warren, a humanitarian aid volunteer with the group No More Deaths in Tucson, Arizona, who faces up to 20 years in prison for providing water, clean clothes and beds to two asylum seekers in the Sonoran Desert," Democracy Now reported.