In the wake of Obama's recent decision to stop deporting DREAMers, discussion of the future of immigrant justice has focused on the Obama-Romney race. As the New York Times reported last week, "Mitt Romney struck a more conciliatory tone toward illegal immigrants on Thursday than he took during the Republican primary season." (Well, NYT, so much for the Drop the I-Word campaign.)
But there's a third, lesser-known candidate -- a future president whose decisions will undoubtedly have significant repercussions for Mexican and Central American migrants. And whereas Romney has a shady past and dirty politics, he looks downright angelic next to this candidate.
Meet Enrique Peña Nieto, the PRI candidate likely to become Mexico's next president on July 1. While I read with horror of Romney's homophobic high-school bullying, those incidents pale in comparison to the violence for which Peña Nieto is responsible.
This video, narrated by Mexican singer Regina Orozco, offers a succinct (and gut-wrenching) introduction to Peña Nieto, who served as governor of the Estado de México from 2006-2011. For those who don't speak Spanish, it compiles some of the most notable moments of Peña Nieto's political career:
- His first wife, Mónica Pretelini, died mysteriously in 2007. In interviews on TV, Peña Nieto has not been able to articulate the cause of her death; many think he killed her.
- As if his wife's death were not already suspicious enough, Agustín Estrada, a teacher in Ecatepec, Estado de México, says he had a relationship with Peña Nieto that lasted seven years. Peña Nieto later ordered Estrada raped and tortured. Human rights organizations took up his case, and he has been living in the U.S. as a political exile since 2010.
- His ignorance is on par with that of Bush: he can't name three books with their correct authors, and he doesn't know the minimum wage in Mexico or the price of tortillas (which is irrelevant to him, as he pointed out, since he's not a housewife).
- He chose Carlos Salinas de Gotari, Mexico's president from 1988 to 1994, as his "jefe de campaña" (campaign manager). Salinas violently imposed neoliberal privatization during his term -- and he signed NAFTA.
- He gave the orders for Atenco, a 2006 incident of massive police brutality in which 207 were subjected to cruel and degrading treatment, including the 26 women who were subjected to sexual torture.
- 922 femicides were committed during his term.
As this video suggests, Peña Nieto's career has been marked by virulent, internalized homophobia and violent misogyny -- but that's just the tip of the iceberg.
At the second, massive anti-Peña Nieto march in downtown Mexico City, held June 10, many marched decrying Peña Nieto's cozy relationship with Televisa:
Others protested a return to PRI rule:
...and this poster, which features Salinas de Gotari (seated) Peña Nieto (shooting), sums up nicely the PRI's violent history of repression.
So when Peña Nieto wins another rigged election in Mexico on July 1, here are a few things for immigrant rights advocates to keep in mind:
- If the Agustín Estrada case is any indicator, the U.S. will likely see more political and LGBT asylum cases from Mexico
- We can count on the Mexican government to continue lobbying for policies like NAFTA, which displace poor and rural Mexicans, limit economic opportunities in Mexico, and spark more waves of immigration.
- We can expect the death tolls from femicide and from the militarized drug wars to keep rising. And femicide and militarized violence are issues of immigrant justice -- consider, for instance, that a large proportion of femicide cases and drug-war casualties so far have been Central American migrants.
I'll close with a recent video of testimonies of sexual torture from Atenco. Peña Nieto gave the orders for Atenco, then later boasted of the police operative's success. The poster below carries one of my favorite anti-EPN slogans: "If your daughter had been raped at Atenco, you definitely wouldn't find him so attractive."
Coyoacán, México D.F