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US Academics and Civic Leaders Call on Congress to Ensure Neutrality and Support for Democratic Norms in Mexican Elections

An open letter to members of Congress

by
Latin American experts
Polling spot in Chiapas, Mexico

A polling station in the Mexican state of Chiapas on June 7, 2015. (Photo: Dimitri della Faille/flickr/cc)

Dear Members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, 

On July 1, Mexicans will go to the polls to elect a new president, both houses of Congress, and thousands of local and state officials. As scholars and representatives of civil society organizations that focus on Mexico, we are concerned about the serious challenges surrounding these elections. We are also concerned about the potentially negative role that the US government may play in light of recent comments from this administration and a mixed track record when it comes to supporting democracy in Mexico and other countries in the hemisphere.

It is important that Mexico, one of the US’s closest allies and trading partners, has a vibrant democracy, one in which citizens can freely and fairly exercise their right to vote, without restrictions or outside interference. We therefore respectfully call on you and your congressional colleagues to do everything in your power to ensure that US government policy with regard to Mexico’s elections remains neutral and supportive of basic democratic norms.

Mexico has a troubling, checkered record when it comes to elections, with frequent reports of major irregularities, vote buying, and the manipulation of results. The 1988 and 2006 presidential elections were strongly denounced as fraudulent by both the political opposition and independent civil society groups. The legitimacy of the most recent presidential elections, in 2012, has also been called into question due to revelations of illegal funding, vast vote-buying schemes, and the lack of independence of official electoral institutions and much of the broadcast media.

The recent 2017 regional elections in Mexico State and Coahuila demonstrated that unfair and fraudulent electoral practices remain a major problem today. In both these elections, there were credible allegations regarding the illegal use of public and private funds in the campaigns of the winning candidates (both belonging to the party of the sitting national government), numerous serious reports of vote buying, reports of attacks and intimidation targeting opposition campaigns, and widespread doubts about the fairness of the vote counting itself.

We are also concerned by recent developments that undermine basic civil liberties, such as freedom of association, freedom of speech, and the right to peaceful protest, all of which are a prerequisite to a healthy electoral climate. Among other things, reports have emerged indicating that the Mexican government has been involved in spying on opposition activists through the use of “Pegasus” software, and has engaged in covering up the role of security forces in the 2014 mass disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. The government also has recently approved a new Internal Security Law that gives the armed forces a greater role in policing, causing many to fear that these forces could be used to suppress legitimate political opposition and social protest.

At the same time, there is growing discontent in Mexico with increasing levels of corruption and violence. Last year, four former state governors were arrested on charges of corruption. Mexico scored at the bottom of Transparency International’s index of perceived public sector corruption, with 61 percent of those polled affirming that the level of corruption had increased. Violent crimes have also risen, with 2017 being the worst year on record in terms of the number of homicides that Mexico has experienced. As in the case of the 43 disappeared of Ayotzinapa, frequent and credible allegations of state security agents’ involvement in disappearances and homicides are rarely investigated.

These and other serious problems currently plaguing Mexico can only be resolved by Mexicans. But for Mexicans to be able to effectively and collectively tackle these issues, they need to have institutions and public officials that they can rely on and believe in. Clean and fair elections are essential to achieving this.

In this context, it is imperative for the US government to support a fair and democratic electoral process in Mexico, and avoid premature statements or actions that could lend legitimacy to elections that are strongly contested on the basis of credible reports of fraud.

Unfortunately, US administrations have at times adopted unhelpful positions with regard to elections in Mexico and other countries in the region.

In last year’s elections in Honduras, the US government was quick to recognize and support elections that raised serious doubts, both within Honduras and internationally. The same occurred after the Mexican presidential elections of 1988 and 2006. Such positions embolden entrenched political actors to carry out further fraudulent and unfair electoral practices. Such a scenario should not repeat itself in the upcoming elections in Mexico.

We urge you and your colleagues to make every effort to ensure that the US supports Mexican democracy by insisting on the strict adherence to fair electoral practices and compliance with laws by supporting the peaceful transition of power, and by publicly condemning any electoral irregularities or human rights violations. The US government should maintain the utmost respect for Mexican national sovereignty and the popular vote and express its commitment to building a strong relationship with any new Mexican administration.

We also encourage you to closely monitor the selection of the next United States ambassador to Mexico, subsequent to the departure of current ambassador Roberta Jacobson on May 1st, so as to ensure that he or she is equipped with the necessary experience and diplomatic skills to effectively navigate the complex and critical bilateral relationship.

Many Mexican and international electoral monitors, including many signers of this letter, will be on the ground in Mexico providing independent reports and evaluation of the elections. We will keep you posted on these monitoring efforts, and look forward to sharing key observations with you before, during, and following the July 1 electoral process.

Sincerely,

*Affiliation for identity purposes only

 

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, Associate Professor, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University

Laura Carlsen, Director, Americas Program, Center for International Policy

Christy Thornton, Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University

Tony Payan, Fellow and Director, Baker Institute Mexico Center, Rice University

Gilbert Joseph, Farnam Professor of History and International Studies, Yale University

Mary Kay Vaughan, Professor Emerita, University of Maryland, College Park

Horacio Larreguy Arbesu, Associate Professor of Government, Harvard University

Jonathan Fox, Professor, American University

Robert A. Blecker, Professor of Economics, American University

Maureen Meyer, Director for Mexico and Migrant Rights, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

Vanessa Freije, Assistant Professor, University of Washington

Ted Lewis, Human Rights Director, Global Exchange

Manuel Pérez-Rocha, Associate Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies 

Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt, Associate Professor of History, University of Maryland

Alexander Aviña, Associate Professor of History, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Arizona State University

David Shirk, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of San Diego

Lisa VeneKlasen, Executive Director, JASS (Just Associates)

Salih Booker, Executive Director, Center for International Policy (CIP)

Margaret Chowning, Professor of History, University of California Berkeley

José Antonio Lucero, Associate Professor of International Studies, University of Washington

Christopher Boyer, Professor, University of Illinois – Chicago

Renata Keller, Assistant Professor, University of Nevada, Reno

John Lindsay-Poland, Coordinator, Project to Stop US Arms to Mexico

Vicki Gass, Senior Policy Advisor for Central America & Mexico, Oxfam

Stephen Morris, Professor, Dept of Political Science and International Relations, Middle Tennessee State University

Paul Gillingham, Director of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Associate Professor of History, Northwestern University

Kevin P. Gallagher, Director, Global Development Policy Center, Boston University, USA

Louise Walker, Associate Professor of History, Northeastern University

John M. Ackerman, Law Professor, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)

James Cohen, Professor, North American Studies, University of Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle

Alexander Main, Senior Associate for International Policy, Center for Economic and Policy

Research

Jocelyn Olcott, Associate Professor of History, Duke University

Tanalís Padilla, Associate Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Senior Associate, Latin America Working Group

William I. Robinson, Professor of Sociology and Global and International Studies, University of California-Santa Barbara

Greg Grandin, Professor of History, New York University

Yolanda Zorayda Avila Toledo, Leadership and Capacity Building Manager, Alianza Americas

Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Geoff Thale, Vice President for Programs, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

David Montejano, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Ethnic Studies, University of California at Berkeley

Carla Garcia Zendejas, Director People, Land and Resources Program, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)

Dan La Botz, Murphy Institute, City University of New York

Casey Marina Lurtz, Assistant Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University

Ericka Beckman, Associate Professor of Romance Languages, University of Pennsylvania

James E. Sanders, Professor of History, Utah State University

Barbara Weinstein, Professor of History, New York University

Raymond Craib, Professor of History and Director, Latin American Studies Program, Cornell University

Amy Offner, Assistant Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania

Luis Herran Avila, Visiting Assistant Professor of History, Carleton College

Laura G. Gutiérrez, Associate Professor of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, The

University of Texas at Austin

Ginapaolo Baiocchi, Associate Professor and Director, Urban Democracy Lab, New York University

Pamela Voekel, Associate Professor of History, Dartmouth College

Sinclair Thomson, Associate Professor of History, New York University

Matthew Vitz, Assistant Professor of History, University of California, San Diego

Susan Gauss, Associate Professor, Latin American and Iberian Studies, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Alejandro Velasco, Associate Professor, Gallatin School, New York University

Robert A. Karl, Assistant Professor of History, Princeton University

María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, Professor of Social & Cultural Analysis, New York University

Gerardo Renique, Associate Professor, City College of New York

Adam Goodman, Assistant Professor of History, University of Illinois at Chicago

Aurelia Gómez Unamuno, Assistant Professor of Spanish, Haverford College

George Ciccariello-Maher, Visiting Scholar, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics

Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University

Judith Aissen, Professor Emerita of Linguistics, UC Santa Cruz

Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor, Pomona College

Benjamin H. Johnson, Associate Professor, Loyola University Chicago

Susan Rose-Ackerman, Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University

Gareth Williams, Professor, University of Michigan

Victor Silverman, Professor, Pomona College

Guadalupe Bacio, Assistant Professor, Pomona College

Gilda Ochoa, Professor of Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies, Pomona College

Guillermo Delgado-P., Anthropologist, Univ of California Santa Cruz

James M. Cypher, Professor of Economics, Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas and California State University (Emeritus)

Ivonne del Valle, Associate Professor, U.C. Berkeley

Bradley Levinson, Professor of Education, Indiana University

Domenico Romero, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Queens College, City University of New York

Kirsten Weld, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University

Rodrigo Aguilar Benignos, CEO, Wiljan Consulting LLC

Susanne Jonas, Retired, University of California, Santa Cruz

Noam Chomsky, Professor (emeritus) MIT, Laureate Professor U. of Arizona, U. of Arizona

Veronica Montes, Assistant Professor, Bryn Mawr College

Lorrin Thomas, Professor, Rutgers University

Alexander Dawson, Associate Professor of History, SUNY Albany

Patricia Escamilla Hamm, Associate Professor, Independent Scholar/formerly at William J Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, National Defense University

Valentina Melgar Bermúdez, Project Coordinator, University and Citizen Network for Democracy (“RUCD”), Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Francisco de Vitoria OP. A.C.

Carolyn Gallaher, Associate Professor, American University

Yann P. Kerevel, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Louisiana State University

Xóchitl Bada, Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago

Neil Harvey, Professor, New Mexico State University

Dana Frank, Professor of History, University of California, Santa Cruz

Norma Klahn, Professor of Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies, U of CA, Santa Cruz

Armando Navarro, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Riverside

Nora Haenn, Associate Professor, North Carolina State University

Maria Anna Gonzales, Retired Public Policy Researcher, University of California, Riverside

Enrique C. Ochoa, Professor of Latin American Studies and History, California State University, Los Angeles

Estelle Tarica, Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley

Suyapa Portillo, Assistant Professor, Pitzer College

Fernando Herrera Calderón, Associate Professor of History, University of Northern Iowa

Janice Gallagher, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Rutgers University-Newark

Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Director of Trade and Global Governance, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Francisco Lara-Valencia, Associate Professor, Arizona State University

Corinna Zeltsman. Assistant Professor of History, Georgia Southern University

Heather Vrana, Assistant Professor of History, University of Florida

Ana Claudia Zubieta, Program Director, The Ohio State University

Chris Tilly, Professor of Urban Planning and Sociology, UCLA

Gladys McCormick, Associate Professor, History, Syracuse University

María L. Olin Muñoz, Associate Professor of History, Susquehanna University

Maria Rosa Garcia, Professor, CSUN

Rachel Nolan, Doctoral Candidate, New York University

Claudia Lucero, Executive Director, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America – CRLN

James Chaney, Professor, Middle Tennessee State University

Diana Schwartz Francisco, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Latin American Studies, Wesleyan University

María José Zubieta, Professor, New York University

Stephen Allen, Assistant Professor, California State University, Bakersfield

Rebecca Watts, Program Associate, Center for Economic and Policy Research

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