January 22, 2019

From PBI we observe certain important actions from the new government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) that favor the protection of human rights defenders in Mexico. At the same time, we have noted a few tendencies that concern us. In this article we look at a few achievements and challenges for the new government and the reactions from Mexican and international civil society about the first few weeks of the MORENA government.

Political Prisoners

Since they took government, AMLO´s administration has freed 16 political prisoners. Olga Sánchez Cordero, Governance Secretary, affirmed that "We have freed 16 people and have 367 cases on the table. Many of these have had no judgement, nor absolute condemnation after many years of being deprived of their liberty." This process of revision of cases of imprisoned activists and social leaders marks an important precedent and from PBI we applaud the initiative which pertains to end the criminalization of social protest.


Since coming into government, and even before, AMLO´s administration has committed to re-opening the investigation of the forced disappearance of the 43 "normalista" students from Ayotzinapa. On December 3, 2018 a Presidential Commission was created, coordinated by the Subsecretary of Human Rights to take up the investigation done by the General Prosecutor's Office (PGR). The organizations that represent family members of people who have been forcefully disappeared across the country recognize this as an important step in the fight against the phenomenon as well as the generalized impunity that accompany these cases, however they also note that this only represents the beginning the process of searching for the truth. With this in mind, PBI demands that all cases of forced disappearance receive adequate attention by Mexican authorities and the victims have access to justice.


Militarization in Mexico continues to concern both Mexican and International civil society. Since the government of Felipe Calderón, the "war against drugs" has resulted in a drastic increase in violence in the country with very high numbers of human rights violations. The organizations that PBI accompanies link this militarized strategy with the human rights crisis the country is still in. In this framework, the proposal of a National Guard, by AMLO's government, is a serious concern to human rights organizations.

The Mexican Commission for Promotion and Defense of Human Rights has manifested its firm rejection of the creation of a National Guard, ascribed to the National Defense Secretary, and integrated with military and naval police as well as elements of the Armed Forces. They have equally opposed the fact that this institution have prevention, investigation, and detention functions.

Amnesty International has also expressed their concern about the proposal and the prolongation of a militarized public security strategy. Their main concern is that the proposal for a constitutional reform that would create the National Guard does not impose clear limits on the public security functions of the armed forces, as required under international law.

Territorial Defense

During the past year, PBI has expressed concern over the increase in violence against people who defend their land and territory. The organizations that we accompany continue to be concerned for AMLO's position on the rights of indigenous populations, given that his public discourse seems to respect their autonomy, but he continues to propose initiatives of megaprojects such as the Mayan Train or new mining investments. Since his electoral campaign, AMLO has spoken about the benefits of megaprojects and large-scale economic investments in territories across the Republic. Because of this, PBI continues to express concern over the tensions that this exploitation of resources and land will generate, and as a result, the risk that it will implicate for communities in processes of resistance in their territories.

Follow the PBI Mexico website for continued updates.