If Mexico were a dictatorship, where pundits were killed, dissenters were jailed as political prisoners, people were tortured, the press was censored and political opponents were crushed, my hope would be that other countries around the world stand up and defend the Mexican people.
Fortunately, Mexico is not a dictatorship; over 30 million people freely cast their ballots last year to elect a new president. But Venezuela is a dictatorship. There, under the grip of a dictatorial regime, people are indeed tortured and killed, and political opposition is repressed, censored and crushed.
Earlier this month the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, was sworn in for a second term despite widespread claims of electoral vote rigging. The Lima Group, a coalition of representatives from North, South and Central American countries seeking to resolve Venezuela’s economic and social crises, recently announced that they would not recognize Maduro as the nation’s legitimate president and called for new elections. But among the 14 member countries of the Lima Group, only one refused to sign the statement: Mexico.
Why would the new administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador refuse to condemn the dictatorship in Venezuela? He cited the Mexican Constitution, which defends the people’s right to “self-determination,” as a reason not to insist on new elections. But Venezuelans cannot determine their destiny; a dictatorship has been imposed on them. So by law, Mexico should actually condemn Maduro’s tyrannical government. Astonishingly, the new administration has failed to do that.
This setback pushes us back many decades. For years the 1930 Estrada Doctrine was cynically used by Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party to prevent other countries from meddling in Mexican affairs, basically by pledging that Mexico would not meddle in theirs. But today’s world is much different from the world of 1930, and reviving this policy in 2019 would be a huge mistake. Human rights should always supersede the preservation of a dictatorship.
López Obrador’s apparent ideological weakness is rooted in the fact that he has always refused to condemn the dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela. Yet it is obvious that both countries are run by brutal regimes. Would López Obrador have treated the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet with such deference? A dictatorship is a dictatorship.
If López Obrador truly believed that Venezuela’s government was legitimate, why did he forcefully reject comparisons to Maduro during his presidential campaign? I get why some people might defend López Obrador’s still-new administration and are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But that isn’t my job. I do not support any government. A journalist’s role is to challenge the people in power.
My criticism of López Obrador’s foreign policy should by no means be interpreted as support for his predecessors. I have written dozens of columns over the years condemning the actions of the PRI, criticizing former President Enrique Peña Nieto and denouncing the preposterous war against the drug cartels launched by Felipe Calderón, a member of Mexico’s National Action Party.
I should also point out that it’s utterly wrong to assume I support American foreign policy, or would attempt to justify America’s long history of invasions and interventions in Latin America simply because I live in the United States. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Those who occasionally read my work or follow me on social media are well aware of the many occasions during which I have publicly opposed the policies of President Donald Trump. Years ago I spoke out against the American invasion of Iraq (let’s not forget that no weapons of mass destruction were found there) and today I oppose any type of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela or any other Latin American country. Nothing could bolster Maduro’s bloody regime more firmly than an American invasion attempt.
The only way Mexico can save face after refusing to join the Lima Group’s efforts is to mediate between the Maduro administration and the opposition in Venezuela, and find a quick and effective way for the country to transition toward democracy. But I’m afraid López Obrador has already made up his mind, deciding that Mexico should step down as a leader in the region.
It is deeply regrettable that an influential country with the international standing Mexico enjoys has failed to defend the most vulnerable people beyond its borders. Who will dare tell opposition leaders like Leopoldo López, or his brave wife, Lilian Tintori, or the more than 400 political prisoners held in Venezuela, that Mexico is not willing to criticize a tyrant? Those who choose to remain neutral and say nothing to oppose dictatorships are complicit in their actions.
And if Mexico were a dictatorship …