The UK is rolling out the red carpet for President Peña Nieto, but his security forces have blood on their hands

There’s been a six-fold increase in the number of reported torture cases in the past decade

Contrary to Richard Hammond's jibe about “lazy” Mexicans, the country’s workforce is generally reckoned to be the hardest working on the planet. A so-called “Mint” country alongside Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, Mexico is tipped for big things by the economists. In short, Mexico is going places.

And indeed Mexico’s president is coming here, beginning a three-day state visit to Britain on Tuesday. How uncomfortable, then, that Mr Peña Nieto’s preparations for dinner with the Queen and high-level Downing Street meetings should be marred by continuing unrest and division at home.

The last few days have included disturbing scenes of bloodied teachers being batoned to the ground by police in the streets of Acapulco, a reported remark from the Pope about “Mexicanisation” in Argentina (apparently a reference to widescale violence perpetrated by criminal cartels and the authorities), high-profile criticism from Birdman director Alejandro G Iñarritu, as well as an undiminished campaign for justice over the missing 43 students from the city of Iguala.

And Amnesty International would add to this list - Mexico’s chronic record on torture. There’s been a six-fold increase in the number of reported torture cases in the past decade, with the numbers rising dramatically following the government’s launch of a “war on drugs” in 2006. Even this is only part of the picture, with incomplete reporting and a failure by the authorities to investigate claims from detainees that they’ve been abused (a detainee is lucky if an independent doctor ever examines their torture-inflicted wounds, however bad they may be). A survey we conducted last year found that 64 per cent of Mexicans fear they would face torture if ever detained by the authorities, one of the highest rates of “torture fear” we’ve come across.

President Peña Nieto’s state visit tomorrow launches a bilateral “Year of the UK, Year of Mexico”, and the UK government clearly sees Mexico as a business opportunity writ large. Downing Street says it wants to establish “a partnership of choice with Mexico as it develops as a major regional economy”, but it’s just this sort of economic boosterism that mustn’t crowd out the space to deal with Mexico’s murky human rights record.

In our own spirit of cultural exchange, Amnesty activists are delivering a two-metre-wide piñata to the Mexican Embassy in central London later today. Instead of the traditional sweets this piñata contains a petition of thousands of signatures calling for an end to torture in Mexico. It’s not a particularly sweet centre, but then torture is not a particularly sweet topic.

The UK is rolling out the red carpet for President Peña Nieto, but his security forces have blood on their hands back home. Our message to the UK government: do your deals, smile for the cameras, but don’t ignore Mexico’s human rights crisis.

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