This week marks one year since Enrique Peña Nieto became president of Canada’s free trade partner south of the Rio Grande, returning the reins of power to the notorious political party, the PRI, which held Mexico in an iron grip from 1929 to 2000.
The always photogenic Peña Nieto campaigned on promises that he was the face of a new PRI and a new Mexico that would break with a history of corruption, inequality and violence. Once in office he announced an ambitious programme of reforms and promised he would end the exponential increase in human rights abuses during the presidency of his predecessor Felipe Calderón.
One year later, it is clear that President Peña Nieto has not delivered on his promises. The situation on the ground remains increasingly dangerous and disturbing. “On the Peña Nieto train, human rights have so far had to settle for the third-class carriage,” concludes Javier Zúñiga, a special adviser with Amnesty International.
Broken promises have a human cost, one that is paid by a growing number of Mexicans from all walks of life who have fallen victim to deadly threats, a wave of disappearances and widespread use of torture by state officials.
Miriam López is one of those Mexicans. On 2 February 2011, after dropping her children off at school, two men wearing balaclavas suddenly appeared. The men, who were later identified as soldiers, tied Miriam up, blindfolded her, and drove her to a military barracks in the city of Tijuana. For a week, a civilian prosecutor of the Federal Attorney General’s Office directed intensive questioning of Miriam and soldiers raped her repeatedly. They applied electric shocks and threatened Miriam’s family. The torture finally stopped after Miriam signed a statement that falsely implicated her in drug offences. Miriam López spent seven months in prison while waiting for a trial that never began. She was released without any charges against her.
But Miriam is much more than a victim. With enormous courage, she decided to report what was done to her and to seek justice. It is only with justice and by bringing those responsible to account that there is hope for a Mexico free from the scourge of torture.
You can help! As part of this year’s Write for Rights, you can write a letter to support Miriam’s efforts and help make the promise of human rights in Mexico a reality. Together, we really can create a different future. Join us!