Mexican president under fire for defending politician accused of rape

Amlo again clashes with women’s rights activists as he dismisses complaints against Félix Salgado Macedonio, candidate for governor

A growing row over a gubernatorial candidate facing accusations of rape has once again pitted Mexico’s populist president against women’s rights campaigners.

Félix Salgado Macedonio has registered to run for governor in southern Guerrero state with the ruling Morena party, despite accusations of sexual violence and rape by five women dating back as far as 1998.

Salgado has remained silent as the outrage over the accusations mounted, though his lawyer José Luis Gallegos insisted “there’s no proof” and called the accusations “stories of invented crimes”, according to the newspaper Reforma. Salgado has not been charged with any crimes.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has doggedly defended Salgado even as demands escalate for the president to dump him as a candidate. López Obrador initially dismissed the complaints as “politicking” and then alleged that the attacks on Salgado were little more than a ruse against the president himself, saying it was part of a campaign of “media lynching”.

Women in Mexico have responded to Salgado’s candidacy – and the president’s defence of him – with a social media campaign, in which they posted pictures of themselves holding signs reading “President, break the pact”, a reference to rampant machismo in Mexican politics.

“This is the opportunity for the president and Morena [López Obrador’s party] to demonstrate that they really are different and have some decency,” tweeted the writer Alma Delia Murillo, who sent the hashtag #RompeElPacto trending. “Don’t make a pact with machismo by vouching for a candidate like Félix Salgado.”

Amlo, as the president is known, greeted such calls with the terse comment: “Ya chole!” – “Enough already!”

He later said: “They’re linking me to the Félix Salgado case, and there’s a media lynching campaign in all the radio programs, all the press against Félix.”

The episode has again placed Amlo in conflict with women’s rights campaigners and the country’s burgeoning feminist movement.

Throughout his term, Amlo has dismissed protests calling for action against Mexico’s plague of femicides with derision and accusations of conspiracy. He has claimed without evidence that Mexico’s women’s movement has been infiltrated by “conservatives” as a Trojan horse to attack his administration.

His government slashed funding for women’s programs and shelters, even as domestic violence surged amid coronavirus lockdowns.

“Amlo doesn’t get the feminist agenda,” said Bárbara González, a political analyst in Monterrey. “For him, these demands are a distraction from his agenda. It’s something for elites, conservatives and people trying to impede his plans.”

His plans include retaining control of congress and sweeping gubernatorial races in nearly half of Mexico’s 32 states in the 6 June midterm elections. Morena, the party founded by Amlo in 2014, often picks its candidates through polling, though Amlo has the last word on nominations, González said.

Salgado, a senator with a leave of absence, leads polls in Guerrero, which lies to the south of Mexico City and includes some of the country’s most marginalised and violent municipalities.

Nicknamed “El Toro”, Salgado was mayor of Acapulco between 2006 and 2008, when drug cartel violence exploded in what once was the grandaddy of Mexican tourist destinations. He also has a long history of loyalty to Amlo, along with patronage networks across the state, according to analysts.

Female members of Morena have urged Amlo to abandon Salgado and the party’s honesty and justice commission is investigating the accusations against Salgado. But the Morena party president, Mario Delgado, has said Salgado can run so long as he isn’t convicted or sentenced.

“Everything is made so [Salgado] is never sentenced and, in reality, almost no man is ever convicted for sexual violence,” said Paola Zavala Saeb, a lawyer and director of Ocupa México, a violence prevention organisation. “Just 2% of sexual violence complaints end up with a sentence.”


David Agren in Mexico City

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Mexican president accuses US of interference over funding for NGOs
Diplomatic note sent ahead of meeting with Kamala Harris as anti-corruption and press freedom groups draw official ire

David Agren in Mexico City

07, May, 2021 @5:02 PM

Article image
'Amlo made us public enemy No 1': why feminists are Mexico's voice of opposition
A president who claims to represent the dispossessed faces widespread backlash over his tacit support for a politician accused of rape

Elisabeth Malkin in Mexico City

08, Mar, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
A Mexican tragedy: country's crippling Covid crisis comes into sharp focus
Adriana Mejía lost half her family in just 83 days – now a huge death toll of 294,000 is being quietly acknowledged

Analy Nuño in Guadalajara and Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent

03, Apr, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Mexican press freedom dispute erupts as Amlo attacks US and domestic critics
President hits back over critical US human rights report but also singles out Mexican press freedom group Article 19 for censure

David Agren in Mexico City

01, Apr, 2021 @8:12 PM

Article image
Mexican candidate shot while posing for selfie in latest murder of politician
Country braces for further bloodshed as Fernando Purón said to be 112th politician killed since September

David Agren in Mexico City

12, Jun, 2018 @9:14 PM

Article image
Mexican president says he ordered release of El Chapo's son
Ovidio Guzmán was briefly captured in October only to be let go hours later as security was overwhelmed by cartel forces

Guardian staff and agencies in Mexico City

19, Jun, 2020 @9:35 PM

Article image
'He's Mr Scrooge': Mexican president unveils severe cuts amid coronavirus
Andrés Manuel López Obrador compared to Reagan and Thatcher after introducing new severe austerity measures

David Agren in Mexico City

24, Apr, 2020 @11:30 AM

Article image
Mexican president ignores coronavirus restrictions to greet El Chapo's mother
Andrés Manuel López Obrador provokes perplexity and scorn with visit to drug lord’s home town in Sinaloa

Tom Phillips, Latin America correspondent

30, Mar, 2020 @2:21 PM

Article image
Mexico president rebuked for careless response to Covid after testing positive
Andrés Manuel López Obrador tests positive day after saying crisis nearing the end and ‘little lights’ at end of tunnel could be seen

David Agren in Mexico City

25, Jan, 2021 @6:47 PM

Article image
Mexican president Amlo calls on Bolivia to stop harassing diplomats
Comments further stoked diplomatic row between Mexico and Bolivia, which has descended into personal insults

David Agren

27, Dec, 2019 @11:03 PM