After President Donald Trump's inauguration, Mexico saw a wave of angry protests against his proposed border wall, with more than 20,000 marching in Mexico City on Feb. 12, chanting "Pay for your own wall!" But now this wave of anger is crystalizing around concrete legal initiatives that could be very problematic for the White House. First, the front-runner for next year's Mexican presidential election, the left-populist Andres Manuel López Obrador, has filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the proposed wall.
López Obrador's complaint charges the US government with human rights abuses against Mexican immigrants in the United States, and accuses Trump of enflaming the atmosphere with racist rhetoric and his get-tough border policy.
But Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, the grand old daddy of the Mexican left and himself a former presidential candidate (his 1988 victory was likely stolen by fraud), has gone one better. He is actually preparing an international lawsuit seeking to nullify the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which a militarily defeated Mexico was forced to cede what is now the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California to the United States.
Mexican author and historian Enrique Krauze had an op-ed on the initiative in the New York Times April 6. He writes that Cárdenas "has a solid legal case. In his opinion, the 1848 treaty violates essential international legal norms and a case can be brought before the International Court of Justice, proposing reparations and indemnification. And even if one admits the legal validity of much of the treaty, there are a number of crucial articles—such as those dealing with citizenship, property and the security of 100,000 Mexicans who remained on what became American territory—that have been ignored from the beginning."
Krauze admits some obvious obstacles—such as the fact that the US is likely to simply ignore a ruling in favor of Mexico in the case. Indeed, when the World Court ruled for Nicaragua in 1986, ordering the US to stop mining its harbors and cease support for the Contra rebels, the US openly defied the decision.
But Krauze makes clear that Mexicans don't really expect "the physical reconquest of the territories that once were ours." He writes that "the best and most just reparation would be American immigration reform that could open the road to citizenship for the descendants of those Mexicans who suffered the unjust loss of half their territory."
And, we may add, an end to Washington's oppressive war on drugs that has militarized the US-Mexican border, and is fueling the violence that drives many migrants north from Mexico and Central America alike.