Mexican president pressures US to stop aid for NGO

·2 min read

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador upped the pressure on the United States Wednesday to end aid payments to an anti-corruption group.

López Obrador claims that the U.S. payments are tantamount to interfering in Mexico’s internal affairs and funding the opposition to his government.

“It would be like the Mexican Embassy in the United States giving money to the opposition," the president said. “They should not be giving money any more."

In early May, just before an online meeting with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, López Obrador said Mexico had filed a diplomatic note with the U.S. Embassy on the issue.

On Wednesday, he said “there is a commitment by the U.S. government to review this,” but added “they are taking a long time, I say respectfully."

“Let's hope that by this week they stop these payments,” López Obrador said. “This money is being used to campaign against us.”

He said it was “urgent” that the U.S. Agency for International Development stop payments by this week, before the June 6 midterm elections.

The State Department said it does not comment on diplomatic correspondence.

López Obrador has long attacked nongovernmental organizations like Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity, which he says has received about $2.5 million in U.S. money.

He claims the group is aligned with the opposition, though it says it simply monitors government spending and programs for abuses. It was founded three years before López Obrador took office and has criticized previous governments and other parties.

On Wednesday, the group said in a statement that “we repeat that MCCI is not linked to any political party, nor will it be.”

It said that the president's repeated attacks — he has called the group “Mexicans For Corruption” — constitute “political persecution” and that the president had revealed the group's tax information in violation of applicable confidentiality laws.

The organization has issued reports critical of some of López Obrador’s major initiatives, including the cancellation of a partially built Mexico City airport and the construction of a tourist train around the Yucatan Peninsula.

The group's founder, Claudio X. González, has openly endorsed opposition candidates in the June 6 elections, which will elect federal legislators and the governors of some states.

USAID often supports civil society groups, usually related to human rights or democracy promotion, in many countries. In some nations, such groups sometimes run afoul of local governments.

López Obrador is the latest in a round of Latin American presidents who have railed against outside funding for nongovernmental organizations.

In 2013, Bolivia’s then-President Evo Morales expelled USAID from his country, alleging that it was working to undermine his government.

In recent months, the Nicaraguan government has proposed, passed and implemented a number of laws making it more difficult for nongovernmental organizations to operate, and in some cases seized their offices.

The Associated Press