Mexican Senator Vanessa Rubio Márquez in the Spotlight

An Interview about Women’s Rights and US-Mexico border politics - Márquez speaks about her role in the Mexican Senate and her political vision for Mexico

December 09th, 2019
Mae C. Müller, News from Berlin

When Vanessa Rubio Márquez was given the chance to speak about the political situation in Mexico during the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy’s 2019 celebration of the fall of the Berlin wall, her passionate speech captured her audience immediately. Márquez is not just a dedicated senator of the Mexican Congress, she is a strong-minded woman with a vision and willpower that has the capacity to transform a nation. Berlin Global had the honor of interviewing Márquez on her perspective on Mexico’s most pressing domestic issues, women’s rights and border politics.

Rubio Márquez, you are a Senator of the LXIV Legislature of the Mexican Congress. What motivated you to become a Senator? Was this always something you were working towards?

I have always wanted to become a public servant. I was at the Executive branch for 25 years and moving into the legislative has been a huge challenge in my life. I am adapting to it and learning how to thrive and try to be as effective as possible in order to benefit Mexico and Mexicans.

What does a usual day at your workplace look like. What do you enjoy most about your job and what do you find most challenging?

It depends on the day. Usually, on Mondays and Fridays I have meetings with experts, decision makers and stakeholders of the laws we are planning to present or are currently being discussed at specialized committees. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have plenary meetings at the Senate and they tend to be long hours discussing legal changes and new laws; as well as relevant public policies. These are the days in which most of the voting take place. On Tuesdays, I am also a columnist in two newspapers; “El Heraldo de México” and “Publimetro”.

On Wednesdays, we usually have committee meetings. I am chair of the committee on Latin America and the Caribbean and a member of 5 other committees: Finance, North America, Work and Social Security, Development and Social Welfare and Tourism. I study every single topic that is discussed and voted in every single committee and follow up the different developments (economic, political, legal, social) in Latin America and the Caribbean. I also look after Mexico’s participation in the Latin American and Caribbean Parliament (Parlatino), as I am Mexico’s representative at this forum and finally on average I have 5 media interviews on a weekly basis.

Mexico is a country with a rich history and culture. It’s a place that is characterized by its diversity and a place where people from different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds come together. Yet, it is also a country that is struggling to protect the human rights of its citizens, especially regarding disability rights, women’s rights and the protection of journalists is concerned - With regard to these challenges, what is your political vision for Mexico? Where would you like to see Mexico in the future and what do you personally perceive as the most pressing domestic issues at the moment?

On human rights we have advanced a lot, for the first time we have gender parity in the Congress, however we have to work harder to modify the culture and achieve equal opportunities (health, food, housing, social security, employment and basic housing services). Concerning disability, we have better laws in Mexico but we need to strengthen regulation in order to make them effective beyond paper. We need more resources to enforce the basic rights, especially in infrastructure, education and training. I would like to see a more united Mexico, less divided. A country that recovers the path of economic growth, as our current economic growth is zero, and a Mexico that effectively abates insecurity. Those are the most pressing issues facing my country. Mexicans want peace and prosperity.

I work every day to reinforce the image of Mexico as a trustworthy partner, a nation that welcomes foreign investment; a country whose hospitality and warmth is well-known by millions of tourists that every year enjoy our cities and coasts, pre-Hispanic heritage, cuisine and culture.

The LXIV Legislature is noteworthy for its gender parity, with the most women ever elected to the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. Women will hold 49 percent of the seats in the Senate, a national record and the third-highest percentage of women in a current national upper house, according to data collected by the Interparliamentary Union - As a Mexican woman who is a passionate advocate for women’s rights, how do you feel about being part of the LXIV Legislature and in what ways do you try to promote women’s rights as a senator?

When I was appointed the first woman to be Undersecretary of Finance and Public Credit in 2017, I felt a greater responsibility to promote women empowerment. Therefore, I passed an Act to compel companies listed in the Mexican Stock Exchange (MSE) to make public: 1. the composition of its Boards of Directors in terms of gender equality and 2. Policies being implemented within the company to promote gender equality. Nowadays, the 630 stock issuers in the MSE make this information public.

As a Senator, my first bill approved modified the Credit Institutions Law to require Development Banks to have a gender parity approach for the appointment of their Independent Advisors and to design and promote financing programs exclusively for women. As of today, 7 out of 15 Independent Advisors are women (whereas in 2017, there was only 1 woman and 14 men as Independent Advisors).

During the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall at the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, you gave an inspiring speech about Mexico’s very own problems with regard to border politics. In a truly compelling language, your words took your listeners right to the Mexico-United States border. From the position of someone who observes a woman attempting to cross the border, you asked your audience during this speech: “Will she need to sell her body to repay her debt? Is someone from her family back at home already doing so? Or perhaps, is she smuggling or selling drugs for a cartel? How many times was she raped during her journey? Is she hopeless or hopeful? Did she leave her kids behind? Behind where? In a town in Mexico?”

Rubio Márquez, your vivid description of this woman achieves something that is frequently neglected by politicians who are trying to find a solution for the inhumane conditions that Mexican migrants are facing: it gives the issue of the Mexican-American border politics a human face. As a listener, I felt that the issue of women’s rights with regard to the crossing of the border and the trauma that is related to this journey for women is a very important topic for you. - Could you tell us a little bit more about the struggles that female migrants face when they attempt to cross the border?

Immigrant women are more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in multiple ways, including physical, sexual, emotional and psychological. Women face violence, loneliness, insertion challenges and discrimination in their immigration process in destination countries.

During the same speech you mentioned that you had the opportunity to make a two-day journey to the Tijuana border in 1995 and that you went back to the same place just two months ago. - When comparing your experiences from 1995 to the ones you made this year at the border, how do you think did the situation has changed for those who migrate to the United States from Mexico and the Northern Triangle of Central America?

Migration flows have changed dramatically. In 1995 migration had a “man’s face”. In 2019, migration has a “woman and girl’s face”. When I was Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs for Latin America and the Caribbean, we set up mobile units for migrants across the country that assisted sexually abused women with vaccines and retroviral that prevented and decreased venereal diseases and the mortality rate. Children were also assisted with medicines and their injuries were taken care of.

Despite the fact that many migrants from Central and South America are seeking asylum in the United States from violence in their home countries, President Trump has repeatedly described this group of people as rapists, criminals, and gang members. - If you had the chance to sit down with President Trump in order to discuss the human crisis that emerged from the current discourse of US-Mexican border politics, what would you tell him?

I would tell him that:

  • Migration is a complex phenomenon interconnected to human rights, development and geopolitics at national, regional and international levels.
  • You have to see its structural causes.
  • It is inhumane and incorrect to racially profile and link people to negative behaviors or criminal violence.
  • Historic contributions have been made from immigrants and they play an increasingly role in the society and the U.S economy, for example, the contribution to job creation, as they pay an average of $11.64 billion in state and local taxes a year, even if they don’t have any social security.
  • Immigrants are a substantive workforce that create demand for goods and services, they provide a source of dynamism globally.

The interview with Márquez captures recent successes as well as the most urgent challenges of the political landscape in Mexico today. Márquez paints the picture of a country that has many different facets - be it in the realm of culture, economy, or human rights. While the issues of women’s rights and US-Mexico border politics need to be urgently addressed and transformed in the eyes of the Mexican senator, change is on its way, and Márquez will not tire to function as the catalyst who sets it into motion.

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