[JURIST] The US Department of State (DOS) [official website] on Monday announced [transcript] that it has sent a report [text, PDF] to Congress that gives a favorable opinion of Mexico's recent human rights record, paving the way for US aid to the country. The report outlines Mexico's progress in addressing a variety of human rights issues as part of the Merida Initiative [DOS materials], a $1.4 billion aid program designed to combat criminal organizations in Central America and the Caribbean. In order for Mexico to receive $100 million in aid, DOS must verify [AP report] that Mexico is taking steps to promote human rights, but it need not certify that no abuses are taking place. According to the report, the success of the Merida Initiative will promote a continued push for human rights protections in Mexico:
Our enhanced bilateral cooperation with and assistance to Mexico under the Merida Initiative and our other activities also provide the means and opportunity to address and advance some of the issues that [have been raised], including transparency and accountability; consultations with civil society; promotion of a fair, effective, impartial justice system; professionalization of the police and military, as well as the courts and prosecutors; and advancement of human rights.
The DOS report finds that Mexico is making progress in promoting police transparency, engaging civil society groups, investigating allegations of human rights abuses by police and military personnel, and prohibiting the use of coerced evidence in trial proceedings. Critics, including the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center [advocacy website] and US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] have accused the US government of minimizing Mexican abuses in order to facilitate narco-trafficking enforcement efforts. Leahy express disappointment Tuesday that the report fails to address impunity [press release] within the Mexican military.
In April, advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused the Mexican military of failing [JURIST report] to hold soldiers accountable for human rights violations, which it says undermines "the goal of stopping drug-related violence and improving public security." HRW has previously criticized [JURIST report] Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) [official website, in Spanish] for not doing enough to promote remedies and reforms needed to end abuses. Last year, in a report to the Mexican National Congress, CNDH accused the military of committing grave human rights abuses [JURIST report], including the torture, rape and murder of civilians. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] also sent a letter [text, PDF] to President Felipe Calderon [official website] last year raising concerns about human rights violations committed by military personnel.