López Obrador Responds to Blinken: ‘We Are Not a Colony’

The Mexican president reproaches the U.S. secretary of state for acting in an “interventionist” way and promises that there will be no impunity in the murders of journalists.

The White House’s complaints regarding crimes against the press have reflected poorly on Mexico’s presidency. Andrés Manuel López Obrador has dismissed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s questioning of the wave of violence and working conditions facing Mexican journalists as “interference” by Washington. “We ask that they please inform themselves and not act in an interventionist manner because Mexico is not a U.S. colony nor is it a protectorate,” the Mexican president stated in his press conference on Wednesday. López Obrador has said that there is progress in the investigations of the murders of five journalists that have been recorded so far this year, and has insisted that the murders will not go unpunished.

“In all cases we are acting. There is no impunity. These are not state crimes,” López Obrador added. The president has said he ordered Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard to share a state report on the investigations into the murders of journalists José Luis Gamboa, Margarito Martínez, Lourdes Maldonado López, Roberto Toledo and Heber López. The organization Article 19 reports that some 150 Mexican journalists have been killed since 2000 and documents that most of the attacks are linked to state officials. Nine out of 10 homicides go unpunished, according to civil organizations.

In addition to accusing the U.S. of an “interventionist” act, the president raised a long-standing complaint about the economic support of U.S. government agencies to media critical of his government in Mexico and non-governmental organizations. “This shows that there are links between conservative groups in Mexico and the U.S. government,” López Obrador said. “I would like you, since you are acting and opining, to inform us why you are financing a group that opposes a legal and legitimate government.”

On Tuesday, Blinken asked that Mexico provide greater protection for Mexican reporters and accountability in the cases of the murdered journalists. “The high number of journalists killed in Mexico this year and the ongoing threats they face are concerning,” the U.S. official said via his Twitter account. These phrases are the first statements of a member of Joe Biden’s Cabinet about the escalation of insecurity in the country, but they add to a long string of comments from U.S. politicians and officials on the issue.

In line with the recent denunciations from Democratic and Republican senators about the violence in Mexico, the head of U.S. diplomacy has emphasized the need for more security guarantees for Mexican reporters and has expressed his solidarity with the relatives of the five journalists killed at the beginning of the year. “I join those calling for greater accountability and protection for Mexican journalists. My heart goes out to the loved ones of those who gave their lives for the truth,” Blinken added.

Blinken’s messages come after two U.S. lawmakers expressed concern about the wave of violence in some regions of the country, specifically about the growing threat to journalism. Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Marco Rubio signed a letter on Feb. 8, stating that “López Obrador continues his bellicose rhetoric against the press” in an environment where 95% of attacks on the press remain unpunished. They also asked the Biden administration to “work alongside Mexico to develop a more comprehensive plan to reduce the violence that destabilizes Mexico and specifically impacts journalists.”

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz also expressed concern about the insecurity in Mexican territory, specifically about the vulnerable position in which reporters on this side of the border work. “I’m deeply concerned about deepening civil unrest in Mexico and the breakdown in their civil society, the breakdown of the rule of law across our southern border poses acute national security challenges and dangers to the United States,” commented Cruz.

The politician, known in Washington for his recurrent and controversial statements, pointed directly to López Obrador as responsible for the security crisis. Criticism by conservative U.S. figures, such as Cruz and Rubio, and frequent disqualifications of journalists from the presidential podium in Mexico have diverted attention to the political terrain. In response, the Mexican ambassador to the United States, Esteban Moctezuma, sent a letter to Cruz in which he invited him to learn more about the reality in the country and asked him to join the fight against illegal arms trafficking at the border.

Blinken’s statements are yet another criticism of one of the bloodiest beginnings of a year in Mexico. Cases such as the shooting of the photojournalist Martínez — shot at the door of his house — or that of the reporter Maldonado, both in Tijuana, have outraged a country accustomed to counting up to 100 homicides a day. However, the episodes of killings, kidnappings and homicides extend to all kinds of professions and geography, from the north in Sonora, passing through Colima and Michoacán until reaching the tourist enclaves of the Yucatan Peninsula.

In January, there were 2,427 homicides in the country, according to official figures. Although the government has assured that more forces have been stationed in these areas, neither the National Guard nor the Army have prevented gunshots in the states with the greatest presence of organized crime in the last year. These are examples of the growing tension in the relationship between López Obrador’s government and Mexico’s press during his first term.

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