Brightly-coloured papier-mâché container to be broken open to release thousands of petitions to President Peña Nieto on torture
Letters to David Cameron and Nick Clegg call for human rights to be raised in talks
On the eve of a three-day state visit to the UK (3-5 March) by the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Amnesty International is staging a stunt outside the Mexican Embassy in central London to draw attention to the country’s record on torture.
The Monday morning (11am) event will see campaigners breaking open a traditional Mexican piñata
, a brightly-coloured papier-mâché container, which in this case will contain a 13,000-strong petition
to the Mexican president calling on him to deal with the country’s “torture crisis”. This will be delivered to the embassy once the piñata has been opened.
The three-metre-wide Amnesty piñata - a bright yellow five-pointed star with multi-coloured tassels and a message saying “Stop torture in Mexico” - will be broken open in the traditional fashion by a blindfolded person wielding a stick, though in this case the blindfold itself will read “President Peña Nieto: Don’t turn a blind eye to torture”. Traditionally a piñata contains hundreds of sweets, and campaigners outside the Mexican Embassy will also be handing out sweets to onlookers and passers-by to compensate for the lack of confectionary in the human rights piñata itself.
Amnesty has recently described torture as being “out of control” in Mexico amid a six-fold increase in the number of reported cases in the past decade. The upsurge in cases of torture has coincided with the country’s nine-year-long “war on drugs”, which has also seen over 100,000 killings and over 22,000 disappearances, including a notorious recent case involving 43 students.
Ahead of President Peña Nieto’s trip, Amnesty has written to David Cameron and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, both of whom are set to meet the Mexican leader. UK ministers are being called on to “ensure that human rights are addressed” at bilateral government meetings during the visit.
Amnesty International UK Stop Torture campaign manager Tom Davies said:
“While President Peña Nieto is getting the red-carpet treatment, his police and security services have serious blood on their hands.
“With public officials complicit in drug cartel crimes as well as thousands of torture cases of its own, President Peña Nieto needs to radically overhaul his country’s woeful response to this crisis.
“Messrs Cameron and Clegg will no doubt want to focus on trade and cultural ties during Mr Nieto’s trip, but they should ensure that the issue of torture in Mexico isn’t passed over in silence.
“Rolling out the red carpet musn’t mean brushing Mexico’s dreadful human rights record under the very same carpet. Our piñata is a beautiful, fun object but its message is deadly serious.”
Torture ‘out of control’ in Mexico
stunt is part of Amnesty’s global Stop Torture campaign
. Last year dozens of Amnesty campaigners wrapped themselves in plastic outside the Mexican Embassy to draw attention to the case of Claudia Medina, a mother-of-three who was tortured by Mexican military officials, including by being wrapped in plastic sheeting to minimise bruising to her body during beatings.
Meanwhile in September Amnesty published a 74-page report - Out of control: torture and other ill-treatment in Mexico
- which showed that there has been a six-fold increase in the number of reported torture cases in the past decade, with over 1,500 cases of torture and other ill-treatment reported to the country’s National Human Rights Commission in 2013, six times more than in 2003, with the number of cases rising dramatically following the government’s launch of a “war on drugs” in 2006.
Piñata with a message
The Amnesty piñata, which has been made by Piñatas London, is based on a traditional Mexican design and measures 165cm across the body and a further 150cm across its frill-fringed points. It is made out of papier-mâché and heavy-duty card and its frills are decorated with multi-coloured tissue paper in the traditional Mexican style.
The Mexican Embassy is located at: 16 St George Street, London W1S 1FD.