As protests promoting Black Lives Matter reach their fourth week in the United States, Mexican society is finding its own ways to reckon with systemic prejudice. On June 15, the Consejo Nacional para Prevenir La Discriminación (CONAPRED), the government agency dedicated to preventing discrimination, announced that it would be holding a forum on racism and classism in Mexico. CONAPRED invited actors Maya Zapata and Tenoch Huerta, journalist Alejandro Franco and Youtube personality, Chumel Torres, to participate in the panel, which was to be moderated by Monica Maccise Duayhe, CONAPRED’s head.
Later that same day, Beatriz Gutierrez Müller, wife of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, may or may not have set off a domino effect after criticizing CONAPRED for inviting Torres via Twitter. Referring to an earlier incident, Müller, a journalist herself, wrote: “This person was invited to a forum on discrimination, classism and racism? I’m still waiting for a public apology from this individual regarding his attacks on my underage son.” (She has since made her Twitter account private).
Within twenty-four hours, CONAPRED canceled the forum on racism and classism. One day later, on June 18, Maccise Duayhe announced her resignation from CONAPRED. On June 19, HBO Latin America “temporarily suspended” its YouTube program with Torres. In a statement released that day, HBO Latin America said: “In light of the recent allegations related to comments made by Chumel Torres on social media, HBO Latin America has decided to suspend its program Chumel con Chumel Torres until further notice, as we conduct an investigation into the issue.”
Critics have responded by questioning the relationship between HBO’s announcement and Gutierrez Müller’s tweet. Over the television program, Agenda Pública, feminist academic Marta Lamas argued that “censorship should come from inside society,” not the First Lady (a title Gutierrez Müller rejects).
This suspicion was echoed by journalist Julio Patán, who, in an essay published on El Heraldo de México‘s website, questioned the timing of the two events. “In good faith,” Patán asked, “did no one at the company know about the opinions of their, until this week, important figure?” Coincidence, Patán believes, it was not.
When asked about the CONAPRED controversy at an early morning press conference, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador responded “I just found out about CONAPRED’s existence.” Last November, President López Obrador appointed Macisse Duayhe to oversee the organization until 2023. He has since stated that CONAPRED’s next leader will be an indigenous woman.