U.S. lawmakers urge gov't to press Mexico on human rights

Washington, Apr 25 (EFE).- With President Barack Obama set to visit Mexico next week, a group of 23 U.S. lawmakers asked the administration to prioritize the defense of human rights in relations with the Aztec nation.

The legislators expressed their concern over "the persistence of grave human rights violations in Mexico" in a Dear Colleague letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Headed by Reps. James Moran (D-Va.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas), the lawmakers are urging Obama to make the defense of human rights "a central part" of Washington's agenda with Mexico.

During the 2006-2012 government of Felipe Calderon, who militarized the war on drugs, complaints to Mexico's independent National Human Rights Commission about abuses by police and soldiers increased fivefold to 2,723, the congressmen emphasized.

The legislators also expressed concern about "the widespread use of torture in Mexico to obtain confessions," noting that allegations of torture and cruel treatment soared 400 percent under Calderon.

"Since assuming office on December 1, 2012, President Enrique Peña Nieto affirmed that Mexico's biggest challenge is to make sure that 'rights established on paper become reality,'" the missive pointed out.

"We are encouraged by Peña Nieto's strong statements affirming his commitment to human rights and we believe they provide the United States with an important opening to raise our concerns with the Mexican government," the lawmakers said.

Washington has provided Mexico with over $1.9 billion in security assistance since 2007.