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LatinNews Daily - 10 May 2021

MEXICO: Note of protest sent to US

On 7 May Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed that his administration has sent a diplomatic protest note to the US government complaining about its financing of “opposition” NGOs in Mexico.

Analysis:

The protest note could sour relations with the US at time when the López Obrador government is trying to work with the administration led by President Joe Biden to tackle key bilateral issues, including insecurity along the shared border and the Central American migrant crisis. The move also raises concerns about López Obrador’s respect for freedom of speech and his apparent intent to silence those critical of his government.

  • Last week Mexican investigative publication, Contralínea, revealed that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is a major donor of local anti-corruption NGO, Mexicanos contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad (MCCI), as well as the United Kingdom-based international press freedom advocacy group, Article 19. MCCI and Article 19 are critical of the López Obrador government. MCCI regularly accuses it of a lack of transparency, while Article 19 has denounced a deterioration of press freedom in Mexico due to López Obrador’s constant attacks against media outlets and journalists that criticise his government.
  • López Obrador accuses MCCI and Article 19 of being politically opposed to his government and of seeking to destabilise it. Following the Contralínea revelations, he said that if confirmed, he would send a note of protest to the US for funding “opposition and coup-plotting” organisations and interfering in Mexican political affairs.
  • After presenting receipts that appeared to confirm USAID funding of MCCI and Article 19, López Obrador confirmed in his 7 May morning press briefing that his government would sent a protest note. “A foreign government cannot give money to political groups in another country”, López Obrador said, insisting that the US must provide an explanation.
  • The announcement came just hours before López Obrador held a virtual meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss irregular migration. The announcement and its timing were broadly criticised in Mexico, with critics arguing that it was ill-advised and unnecessary.

Looking Ahead: López Obrador has said that the note should not harm bilateral relations and claimed to have had a “friendly” meeting with Harris. But the Biden administration has yet to formally respond to the note and the issue may yet produce tensions.