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Clueless: the European Parliament

15 March 2022

Maybe they should have been reading MexFiles?

Violeta Vázquez-Rojas Maldonado in today’s (14 March 2022) Sin Embargo wonders what the F*** the European parliamentarians were talking about in blaming the Mexican administration for the high murder rate of environmentalists and reporters in this country. My translation:

The tone of the response to the [European Parliament’s “condemnation”] was so strange, most of us thought at first it was a joke. However, the statement was disseminated on the Mexican government’s own social networks, so the fake news hypothesis soon vanished, and we began to get used to the idea of ​​what the president would confirm in his morning conference the next day: yes, he had written that incendiary reply to the Europeans.

Predictably, groups opposed to the president — politicians, commentators and businessmen — found the statement confirming their notions about a quarrelsome, rowdy, authoritarian and unmannered López Obrador. On the other hand, some supporters of the president judged that the letter was correct in content, but wrong in form: lamenting only that the language wasn’t more diplomatic.

This is a story that has been read back to front… we learned of it first from the surprising Mexican response only after the fact. The resolution of the European Parliament on the situation of journalists and human rights defenders in Mexico, backed by 607 of its 705 members (with only two votes against and 73 abstentions), is a document that is not false, but certainly bogus.

On the one hand, it states undeniable truths, such as the fact that during the present administration several dozen journalists and human rights defenders have been victims of violence, making this country one of the most dangerous in the world to carry out these activities. And another undeniable truth: that Andrés Manuel López Obrador calls out certain journalists when they publish false news, and tension that exists between the Presidency and the press (without specifying that this tension only reaches the corporate press).

Which doesn’t add up to the conclusion… claiming the statements made by President López Obrador are the reason why journalists and activists are murdered in this country. The two unrelated premises (both true) does not end in their conclusion that the President must cease using his “bully pulpit” to denouce media hoaxes. Apparently, his actions bothered certain media to such an extent that they managed to lobby the European Parliament to demand that it cease.

If the resolution of Parliament addressed to the government of Mexico is annoying, listening to the oral interventions of the parliamentarians in the plenary session where it was approved requires stoicism. It is a litany of insidious and uninformed statements that make it clear why the president responded with undiplomatic phrases such as “we are no longer a colony” and “a mania for interfering”.

Some examples:

Romanian MEP Nicolae Ştefănuță, openly unaware of the framework of violence in Mexico, attributes all responsibility for this serious situation to an elusive entity. For him, the one who attacks journalists is the country itself and in its entirety, and he says: “Mexico is launching a war against the truth, killing journalists and human rights defenders.”

MEP Evin Incir, a social democrat from Sweden, was also clearly confused about the causes and perpetrators of this violence, calling on parliament to “strengthen support for these journalists and activists and all those who are currently suffering at the hands of the Mexican government ”.

The cartoonish opposition to AMLO from the corporate media in this country has seems to be replicated in Europe: with some accusing him of not being sufficiently leftist, others denouncing him for being too leftist.

Thus, Deputy Susana Ceccardi, of the Italian right-wing Lega Nord party, states: “All this can be attributed to the policies of Mexican socialist president Obrador, who was not very proactive in combating criminals, (because) he prefers to invest in socialist policies that block the development of the country, instead of repressing this violence”. Ceccardi takes advantage of the rostrum to introduce a tangential and malicious accusation: “his hallucinatory statements condemning Putin’s invasion of Ukraine are dangerously similar to the pro-Russian position of the communist dictators of Venezuela and Cuba.”

Ignorance and hyperbole are not exclusive to right-wing parliamentarians. Lefteris Nikolau-Alavanos of the Communist Party of Greece, was perhaps the most clueless of those who spoke in favor of the resolution, apparently unaware of what was on the table. “López Obrador applies harsh measures against the workers and increasingly represses popular mobilizations.”

The Spanish MEP María Soraya Rodríguez Ramos, from the center-right Ciudadanos party, is frank and direct, her demand is that the president’s responses to the defamatory press end. “In this context, it is not acceptable for the government to create a government platform used by the president to stigmatize, criticize and ridicule journalists under the pretext of fighting false lies” (sic). [trans. note: “false lies” as opposed to “true lies”, perhaps?]

Perhaps the most revealing statement was that of Francisco José Millán Mon, of the right-wing Spanish Popular Party and one of the main promoters of the document. According to him, Mexico has a populist government that neglects institutions, so “there is no security for people, nor is there legal security for companies. This “institutional neglect, according to Millán is to the detriment of foreign investors in the electricity section, including Europen companies”

[Having what-all to do with crimes against mostly those who are fighting those “investment” this translator is flummoxed to figure out]

The only sensible speaking was Miguel Urbán Crespo, an anti-capitalist militant and founder of Podemos, who agrees: “Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries for the press, a violence that also hits human rights defenders and, most worrisome, environmental defenders. All of these are real problems facing society. . . The problem is that some political groups in this chamber are using this situation as a weapon against the Mexican government with interests that have little to do with defending journalists and human rights defenders, or human rights and this is intolerable.”

Unfortunately, his speaking time limited to less than two minutes, did not allow him to expand upon this point. Only the Catalonian deputy, Antoni Comín y Oliveres, and Ireland’s Clare Daly, point to the involvement of European transnationals in the exacerbation of violence and neo-colonialism, but none manage to perceive what Urbán correctly pointedout: although the situation of journalists and activists in Mexico is alarming, the situation is used as a political weapon to put pressure on the Mexican government to defend other interests, such as those of energy companies, openly mentioned by Millán Mon.

The Mexican State must be required, and is obligated to guarantee life and protect those whose activities puts them at risk. No one denies this, but we can appreciate that the achievements are meager and not enough is being done. But what European parliamentarians do -surely egged on by power groups operating in Mexico- is a worn out recipe for manipulation: they take up just causes and — willingly or unwillingly — undermine the image of a legitimate government to promote the interests of business elites.

The tone of the Mexican government’s statement in response to the European Parliament resolution is much better understood after witnessing the uninformed, manipulative and frankly disrespectful interventions of the majority of parliamentarians. It is easy to deduce that many of them do not even know that they were played.

There was a coda to the story last Saturday afternoon. The president was greeted by a smiling crowd in the drizzle of Huimanguillo, Tabasco. Slowly passing by in his truck, collecting greetings, letting his photos be taken, receiving letters, one of the well-wishers shouted out: “Great response to the Europeans. I feel represented.”

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