Marko Cortés and Jesús Zambrano
"There can be a Dictatorship South of the Border of the United States"
In an exclusive interview with LPO at the historic Hay-Adams Hotel, Marko Cortés of the National Action Party (PAN) and Jesús Zambrano of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) discussed the nature of their visit to Washington, the political persecution against opposition leaders, and the US-Mexico bilateral relationship.

The leaders of three Mexican opposition parties that forged an alliance known as "Va por México" (Go for Mexico) were in Washington D.C. this week to submit a complaint to the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), claiming the June 6 midterm elections were heavily influenced by organized crime.

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In an exclusive interview with LPO at the historic Hay-Adams Hotel, Marko Cortés of the National Action Party (PAN) and Jesús Zambrano of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) discussed the nature of their visit, the political persecution against opposition leaders, and the US-Mexico bilateral relationship.

How was your meeting at the Organization of American States (OAS)?

Marko Cortés: Quite well, Secretary General Luis Almagro was very receptive to the complaint we presented, which is a report that shows how the Mexican federal government worked with criminal organizations in the midterm elections. The government didn't do anything to prevent the involvement of criminal organizations in the electoral process, so in other words, it consented. We presented evidence that confirms that.

102 candidates were executed, persecuted, and intimidated during the past midterm elections. We couldn't allow these cases to be disregarded, so we filed complaints to these international organizations.

The electoral process was clearly influenced by these criminal groups, and we have also brought to light how the federal government has consistently harassed the National Electoral Institute (INE) and the Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF). The government has maliciously used institutions to persecute its adversaries, intimidate the media and anyone who disagrees with its policies.

These actions undermine our democracy, our individual liberties, and our human rights. The trip has been a success. 

The political persecution of Ricardo Anaya is yet another example of the intolerance and polarization that exists against opponents. It was a very personal decision for Anaya to leave Mexico. But he knows that the government is fabricating a crime and tampering with Emilio Lozoya's original statements, which they are using now to accuse him. President López Obrador always wants to have someone to fight with because it diverts attention from the problems the country is facing

What evidence did you include in your complaint?

Jesús Zambrano: The report is a compilation of various documents and complaints, some of them signed by people who experienced firsthand how organized crime was involved before, during and after election day.

Many people did not file complaints because they were afraid for the personal safety and that of their families. Yet, various media networks in different parts of the country reported what was happening during the electoral cycle.

In the report we also denounced the political persecution that exists in the country. The government says "hugs, not bullets" for dealing with crime, but political opponents face violence, there are no hugs, there is no dialogue. The INE and the Electoral Tribunal are also victims of political violence.

Many people died and were arrested during the electoral process. Authorities arrested the leader of the PRD in the state of Veracruz, even though he was under the protection of federal justice. Still, they accused him of several crimes to keep him in jail.

Thankfully, this leader was confirmed by the National Electoral Institute as a future member of the House of Deputies, but we raised this issue with both the OAS and the IACHR. We asked the IACHR to issue a precautionary measure to protect human rights.

What are you expecting the OAS to do?

Marko Cortés: We asked that the matter be addressed in their next General Assembly meeting and asked them to provide specific recommendations for how to resolve this issue. Secretary General Luis Almagro told us that in the next two or three weeks we will receive a response.

We want this international organization- whose mission is to ensure democracy, peace, and freedom- to provide recommendations so that we can fix what is wrong in our country.

What do you think of the disagreement between Mexican Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, and the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro?

Marko Cortés: The Mexican government is uncomfortable with the OAS. It doesn't want international organizations to know what is happening in the country because they could discover that it is moving towards a dictatorship. This is the reason it doesn't want international organizations to comment on its decisions.

They don't like that the OAS is observing how the Mexican government is intimidating the judicial system and electoral institutions, especially when it allowed organized crime to interfere in the June 6 elections. The Mexican government wants to dismantle any institution that doesn't agree with its policies.

What do you think of Ricardo Anaya's statements and his decision to flee the country?

Jesús Zambrano: The political persecution of Ricardo Anaya is yet another example of the intolerance and polarization that exists against opponents. It was a very personal decision for Anaya to leave Mexico.

I think it is inappropriate to say, "I am glad you are leaving" or "I condemn that you have made that decision". These cases are very personal, but he knows that the government is fabricating a crime and tampering with Emilio Lozoya's original statements, which they are using now to accuse him. President López Obrador always wants to have someone to fight with because it diverts attention from the problems the country is facing.

Therefore, we filed a complaint to the OAS. The political violence and political persecution are getting worse and there is no dialogue. We will see in the next few days, when the next legislature of the Chamber of Deputies is installed, if this climate of intolerance, lack of dialogue and unwillingness to reach agreements continues.

We said it a few days ago, we are going to have to look for a neighboring country to offer a platform for us to negotiate and dialogue with the current government, like the government of Nicolas Maduro and the opposition of Venezuela. In Mexico, there is no dialogue between the government and the opposition.

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Are you concerned that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador mentioned the case of García Luna when asked what he thought of you coming to the OAS?

Marko Cortés: The message is clear, it is another way to intimidate us and distract the public. He even said that the United States Embassy in Mexico financed our visit to Washington. During his morning press conferences, the President only tells lies.

Jesús Zambrano: He is a stubborn liar. He is addicted to lying. He diverts attention and disqualifies opposition leaders. Everything he says should be fact-checked. But he always says that "he has other data" and this is the way he justifies his acts.

Do you fear that other candidates in the 2024 elections could be targets of political persecution or investigations?

Jesus Zambrano: Of course. If we let this continue, what we are going to have in a matter of months, if not days, is the formal establishment of this kind of political persecution.

Who is going to dare to be a presidential candidate or candidate for any position under these circumstances? We are working together so that organized crime doesn't decide who the candidates are and who wins an election.

In the different meetings that we have had, we have said to international organizations to make recommendations, regardless of how harsh they may be, because what can happen south of the border of the United States, is the onset of a dictatorship.

Marko Cortés: The government has failed. The economy is underperforming, insecurity is increasing, and its health policies are chaos. There is not a single indicator that shows that this government has made things better.

The government's main promise was to fight corruption. Today, almost 90 percent of government contracts are awarded without competition, they are awarded on a discretionary basis.

The Attorney General only persecutes cases that are of interest to the President. Since the government has failed, it will deepen its political persecution and intimidation efforts.

Will the PRI, PAN, PRD form an alliance in 2024?

Jesús Zambrano: I think it's too early to determine that. We will continue to work together on our legislative agendas. As we agreed, we are discussing which states we can campaign together in the 2022 elections. Then we have elections in 2023 and we have yet to define what will happen in 2024.

Would you be open to form an alliance with Movimiento Ciudadano (Citizen Movement, MC)?

Marko Cortés: We tried to include them in our alliance in these past elections, but they declined the offer. We welcome any party that wants to act as a counterbalance to the current government. If MC would have joined the alliance in 2021, we would have won a simple majority in the Chamber of Deputies, which we almost attained.

This opposition in Mexico has 42 percent of the Chamber of Deputies and that will be allow us to protect the Constitution and our institutions, as well as preserve the balance of powers. We will protect our democracy and our fundamental rights.

If the alliance between the PRI, PAN, PRD, and perhaps with MC is achieved, would you consider nominating a candidate from Morena, like Marcelo Ebrard?

Marko Cortés: That is not on our radar. We are considering a candidate from one of our parties or civil society that can offers a national agenda that can push our country forward.

Today, more than ever, we need to present to the Mexican people a real alternative to the current government. We cannot do that with candidates from the party in power. Mexico needs to correct its course.

Even though Morena promised to place the "Poor First", poverty has increased between 2018 and 2021. We need to do everything to overcome inequality and poverty, strengthen the middle class, create jobs and that is the agenda we will be promoting.

What is your opinion of the current Mexico and the United States?

Jesús Zambrano: There has been some pushback by this government to cooperate with the United States. It is reluctant to share information or accept US funded programs. Mexico condemned the presence of foreign agents under the conditions imposed by the new National Security reform, which, in addition to the government's ineffective security strategy, has led to a growth in crime rates.

The rate of homicides, kidnappings, and femicides has increased. Instead of focusing on establishing an information exchange agreement to see how the illegal flow of guns from the United States to Mexico can be stopped, there should be greater controls at the border. We should collaborate with the United States on issues like drug trafficking and drug addiction.

The current government's relationship with its northern neighbor should also serve as a warning because if violence grows in Mexico, it can quickly become a matter of national security for the United States. Today, the US may be paying very little attention to what is happening south of its border, but it is a pressure cooker that can suddenly explode.

On immigration, what Trump demanded of López Obrador forced the Mexican government to deploy about 30,000 members of its National Guard, which was created to combat insecurity, to its southern border to prevent the flow of Central American migrants to the United States. That is not an immigration policy from a humanitarian, social or democratic perspective.

Marko Cortés: In Mexico, the illegal flow of guns from the United States is not under control. This generates constant and permanent violence. Drug trafficking from Mexico to the United States persists.

Illegal migration creates problems in both of our countries. There are violations of human rights occurring on both sides of our border, and it is in large part due to the lack of opportunities that people have in their countries of origin.

The current economic crisis will cause more people to migrate to the United States. Productive industries in the country do not receive any kind of support and the amount of poor people keeps increasing. It is a vicious cycle. 

The electoral process was clearly influenced by these criminal groups, and we have also brought to light how the federal government has consistently harassed the National Electoral Institute (INE) and the Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF). The government has maliciously used institutions to persecute its adversaries, intimidate the media and anyone who disagrees with its policies

What is your opinion on the lawsuit that the Mexican Government filed against 11 US gun companies?

Marko Cortés: We filed a separate lawsuit on this issue because, in essence, the Mexican government is accepting that guns are passing through customs and the government controls all ports of entry. The Mexican government is responsible for the guns that arrive to the country, regardless of where they were made.

Jesús Zambrano: The insecurity and violence that persists in Mexico is not because guns are entering the country. The problem is that neither the police nor the military have proper intelligence capabilities to prevent those weapons from ending up in the hands of criminal organizations.

In the United States, where almost everyone has a gun, there are 5 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. In Mexico, where the purchase of weapons is prohibited, there are 30 homicides for every 100,000 people.

This clearly illustrates that the security problem in Mexico is not the illegal flow of guns from the United States, but that it is due to other factors.

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