May 17, 2018

EEUU: ¡Justicia, no impunidad! Agente de la Patrulla Fronteriza enfrentará nuevo juicio por el asesinato de José Antonio

Revista Documentos El Derecho de Vivir en Paz - 16 mayo 2018

En la mañana del 11 de mayo, fiscales federales de Tucsón anunciaron su decisión de volver a juzgar al agente de la Patrulla Fronteriza Lonnie Swartz por cargos de homicidio voluntario e involuntario por el asesinato, el 10 de octubre de 2012, de José Antonio Elena Rodríguez. Aunque el 23 de abril, un jurado en un tribunal federal en Arizona absolvió a Swartz de asesinato en segundo grado, la decisión de hacer un nuevo juicio le da a José Antonio, a su familia y a todas las víctimas de la Patrulla Fronteriza una oportunidad más para lograr justicia y detener la impunidad de la Patrulla Fronteriza. El nuevo juicio comenzará el 23 de octubre de 2018. Leer más.

May 15, 2018

Trump’s DHS is using an extremely dubious statistic to justify splitting up families at the border

By Dara Linddara - May 8, 2018

The government says its new policy reduced border crossings 64 percent. They actually increased 64 percent.

The separation of families who cross into the US from Mexico illegally is now official US government policy.

On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Thomas Homan announced that the Trump administration would adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward anyone caught crossing into the US by Border Patrol. All border crossers would be referred to the Department of Justice, and everyone referred would be prosecuted for the misdemeanor of illegal entry. Read More.

May 8, 2018

Killings in Mexico: Collateral damage or the result of a failed security policy?

By Erika Guevara Rosas, Director for the Americas at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International - 19 April 2018

Early in the morning on 25 March, a young couple were driving with their three daughters and niece to the border town of Nuevo Laredo when a Mexican naval helicopter opened fire on them. Caught in the middle of the hail of bullets unleashed by personnel from the Mexican Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR), the mother and two of her daughters were killed instantly.

The authorities have deemed these deaths to be “collateral damage” resulting from a conflict that has coincided with more than 200,000 deaths in Mexico since the end of 2006. The connotation of this phrase is that there is logic to armed conflict and that frontal assault is acceptable. To mainstream the notion of collateral damage is to implicitly accept the standpoint that the armed forces play a role in public security. Read More.

Apr 25, 2018

Colombia's Santos Latest to Cite Failure of War on Drugs Model, So Why Does the US Keep Pushing It?

It couldn't be clearer.  Latin America's staunchest drug warriors, the leaders of nations that have invested billions of dollars and thousands of lives into this, are calling for a new approach. 

This time it was Juan Manuel Santos, president of the country that pioneered the drug war in Latin America at the behest and with the support of a succession of US governments.  Despite that it has been his nation's policy for decades, he didn't mince words when he spoke to the UN General Assembly on April 24:
“The war that the world declared on drugs more than 40 years ago has not been won. The strategy based exclusively on prohibition and repression has only created more deaths, more prisoners, more dangerous criminal organizations.”
He echoes something victims have known for years. In Mexico every grassroots victims' organization has called for an end to the war, calling it instead of the war on drugs, "the war on us".

Yet the governments and their allied NGOs continue to support Calderon's drug war, now Peña's drug war, and the US component the Merida Initiative. They say it will win if we just give it more time. They say the "soft side" is really a new approach that will soon produce different results. They say if we´ll just be patient...

Mexico, and especially Mexican youth, are in no mood to be patient. The latest brutal murder of three film students, who were first announced as disappeared and later identified as remains dissolved in vats of acid, has once again mobilized the outrage that is always latent in a nation where disappearances and executions by cartels and security forces are an every day occurrence.

The soft side--police and judicial reform, "building resilient communites"-- is the way the State Department and others justify the drug war model these days, when faith in the model is waning. These bogus programs, ineffectual at best and profoundly interventionist at worst, keep the war on drugs alive when almost no one believes in it any more. The defense of the millions of dollars spent to enforce the model is justified by those who receive the juicy government contracts and the Pentagon, also a major player in its own right, that gets to operate freely in Mexico.

Where are the millions of dollars alloted to build forensic capacity in Mexico as part of the Merida Initaitive over the past ten years? I know a mother who carries bone fragments carefully wrapped in a rag and asks anyone who will listen when, when? When will someone confirm that they are what's left of her son, or someone else's son.

Mexico still sends fragments to Houston or Austria for testing. And that's an example that could be just the beginning of the list. Millions of dollars through the public policy pipeline: Why is the justice system not getting better? Why are police still corrupt and crimes not solved?

The answer to these questions is obvious--the idea was never to solve crimes or find the disappeared.  The problem is not technical and everyone knows it. It's political, it's a lack of political will.  So the arrogant explanation of the U.S. government that they are training Mexicans to be better is not only racist but false.

Before Santos' speech, it was Peña Nieto who declared the war a failure and the security policy basically a trainwreck.  As if it weren't his fault.

The campaigns are raising the debate. But the interests involved seem to assure that no matter how much consensus there is on its failure, the drug war will continue because it serves important interests. Politicians on both sides of the borders and their think tank and NGO echo chambers will say e too want a change in order to avoid a change.

We're the ones who have to call them on it. We're the ones who will have to make the change, by doing exactly what the students are doing now: Standing up and saying ¡Ya Basta!

Mar 29, 2018

AP Story on New US-Mexico Drug War Cooperation at Sea Raises Questions

This article describes the stubbron refusal of the govenments to recognize that the war on drugs is a total disaster. 

The renewed focus on the drug war is no surprise, given Trump's cozy relationship with the war industry. But it comes at a time when on the grassroots level, people are more sick of it than ever. The March for our Lives' call for controls on firearms is a strike to the heart of that industry. Reaction, including insulting kids whoses friends were just murdered, has come publicly from fanatical gun owners and rightwing ideologues, but not far behind them are the real forces behind the refusal to regulate lethal arms that kill students, the money-makers--the arms manufacturers and sellers and smugglers and hit men. 

South of the border, the Colombian situation is characerized by a very complex effort to implement the historic peace accords. Calling for a return to drug war militarization and fumigation (like this unfortunate article in Foreign Policy does) is the last thing they need now. Peace is a dirty word to the war industry and to the Pentagon with its $700 billion budget, which is why the rest of us have to fight for it so hard. 

Mexico just had the most violent year on record thanks to the binational drug war. The leading presidential candidate's promise to change course partly explains his overwhelming popularity. Concerns over national sovereignty are legitimate--you can easily understand why if you turn the tables. Why instead of US forces coming into Mexico to stop production and transit, don't we have Mexican secuity forces fanning out to U.S. cities to stop retail sales, which is where the vast amount of profits come from that fuel the trade? Both are terribel ideas, of course. Mexico has every reason in the world to ask the United States to mind its own bisness, literally, working on the part of transnational crime that takes place within its own borders. Less intervention and more domestic problem-solving is what "America First" should mean.

I've had several debates with Jorge Chabat and find the quote at the end of this article especially disturbing because they imply that there is no other way to confront the cartels than the war model that has killed more than 160,000 since it was implemented. We can be more creative--and more empathetic--than that. Shirk's comment that the wall impedes drug trafficking, forcing it into the sea, is utterly absurd. Even the DEA, which is heavily invested in continuing the drug war, admits that the vast majority is smuggled over the border in vehicles that cross international bridges and sail right by US Customs agents. LC

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. and Mexican governments are sparring over immigration and trade, but the two countries are joining forces on the high seas like never before to go after drug smugglers.
The United States, Mexico and Colombia will target drug smugglers off South America’s Pacific coast in an operation that is scheduled to begin Sunday and last for the foreseeable future, Coast Guard officials told The Associated Press.

U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Paul F. Zukunft teased the idea during a recent defense conference in San Diego, saying the United States “can’t do it alone.”

“It’s no secret we are besieged with the flow of drugs from Latin America to the United States,” he said.

U.S. and Mexican forces have routinely worked together at sea, but the latest effort “marks a significant step in terms of information sharing, collaboration and cooperation between the United States, Mexico and other partner nations,” according to the Coast Guard.

The Americans and Mexicans will exchange intelligence more freely than in the past, which could mean sharing information on well-traveled routes for drug smugglers or preferred paths for specific smuggling organizations, Coast Guard spokeswoman Alana Miller said.

They will also board the other country’s vessels to view operations and gain expertise, Miller said. In 2015, three members of the Mexican navy boarded a Coast Guard vessel during a port call in Huatulco, Mexico, but this operation calls for more frequent exchanges, and they will be at sea.
The operation will last “for the foreseeable future as long as it’s working for everyone,” Miller said. “It’s sort of open-ended.”

Traffickers over the years have increasingly turned to the sea to move their illegal goods, traversing an area off South America that is so big, the continental United States could be dropped inside. Smugglers routinely move cocaine out of countries like Colombia to Central America and Mexico via fishing boats, skiffs, commercial cargo ships — even homemade submarines.

The operation comes after five years of record seizures by the Coast Guard. But U.S. officials say because of limited resources, the U.S. military’s smallest service still catches only about 25 percent of illegal shipments in the Pacific.

Even so, the Coast Guard annually seizes three times the amount of cocaine confiscated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Yet ocean smuggling has not grabbed lawmakers’ attention like the flow of drugs across the nearly 2,000-mile-long (3,200-kilometer-long) land border, where the Trump administration wants to spend billions to build a continuous wall.

As much as 20 percent of the cocaine moving through South America ends up in the United States,  
and most of it lands first in Mexico from seafaring smugglers. The hope is boats will be stopped before their shipments are loaded onto Mexican trucks that fan out on various routes bound for the U.S. border, authorities said. Large boats can cart 20 tons (18 metric tons) of cocaine or more.

Mexico has historically been among the Latin American countries that are most reluctant to join operations with the U.S., which can be traced back to the Mexican-American War that was fought 170 years ago. The United States cannot open military bases in Mexico, and U.S. officials, for instance, cannot venture into Mexican waters without prior permission, even if they are chasing drug vessels.

The Coast Guard now stops its pursuit and alerts Mexican authorities if suspicious boats cross into their territorial waters.

It’s unclear whether this new cooperation will affect those restrictions.

Treaties with nations such as Colombia have allowed U.S. authorities more latitude, such as permitting Coast Guard officers to board Colombian-flagged ships. U.S. officials have touted Colombia’s joint anti-drug efforts as a model for the region.

The U.S. and Mexican military relationship has strengthened since the two nations signed the 2008 Merida Initiative to work together in the drug war. There have been more cross-border trainings, especially with the Mexican Navy, which is considered less corrupt than the Mexican Army and has raised its profile with the captures and killings of drug bosses.

The combined operation was planned in a series of meetings over the past year. The maritime services signed letters of intent to work together to fight organized crime while respecting each country’s sovereignty and territorial waters.

David Shirk, associate professor of political science at the University of San Diego, said the operation falls in line with Trump’s vow to go after the “bad hombres,” while President Enrique Pena Nieto has recognized organized crime is so severe that Mexico needs help.

“With more walled-off sections of the border, we’ve seen drug trafficking organizations literally go underground or offshore,” he said.

Last year, the Coast Guard seized more than 455,000 pounds (206,000 kilograms) of cocaine worth more than $6 billion and brought more than 600 suspected traffickers back to the United States for prosecution. The Coast Guard has been criticized for holding suspects on ships where they cannot easily access lawyers. Shirk said joint operations could lead “to serious violations of suspects’ rights at sea and possible human rights violations in the process.”

Coast Guard officials say they respect suspects’ rights. Where suspects will be sent with the three countries participating in the operation will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
U.S. military officials have been reluctant to openly discuss details of the cooperation with their Mexican counterparts, sensitive to the Mexican public’s historical view and recent barbs between the two presidents.

Jorge Chabat, a political scientist at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico City, said he doubts the combined operation will get much negative reaction from a Mexican public tired of drug violence.

“The more insecurity we have, the less nationalism we have in Mexico,” he said.
Ultimately, he doubts the joint operation will make much difference.

“This is something they have to do to maintain drug trafficking at the same level, and not allow it to grow,” he said. “That’s the most you can do. You can’t just surrender.”

Mar 27, 2018

Secretive Kushner and Nielsen Visits to Mexico Bode Ill for Binational Relations

As President Enrique Peña Nieto meets with US Homeland Security chief Kristjen Nielsen today, there has been a flurry of opinions and information regarding the US-Mexico relation. Much of it has been centered on Trump's Mexico envoy and son-in-law, Jared Kushner and the future of the binational relationship--at a time when it is at an all-time low.

Fllowing Kushner's surprise visit to Mexico to meet with Peña Nieto on March 7 and now Nielsen's visit there has been a great deal of speculation as to whatis going on behind the scenes.  questions. Business Insider reports that prior to her visit, the two governments signed several bilateral agreements, although details on the content is scanty.
US Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray signed several agreements this week — one aimed at promoting cooperation to stop illegal merchandise from crossing the border, one to implement joint inspection programs along the frontier, and one to promote agricultural trade. Nielsen said around 20 more were being worked on, and White House officials told The Times that several US federal agencies would announce agreements in the coming weeks.
Nielsen met with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray and her counterpart the Secretary of the Interior Alfonso Navarette yesterday, and the president today. The Homeland Security press release states that the two discussed "their efforts to improve border security through close collaboration", and "facilitate more secure trade and travel between the two countries".
Secretary Nielsen emphasized the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) commitment to working with Mexican counterparts to combat transnational crime affecting both the United States and Mexico. She also stressed the importance of the partnership between the United States and Mexico - particularly via intelligence sharing - and thanked the Mexican President for helping to foster a close partnership with the Department during his administration.
The press release actually thanks Peña Nieto twice for his service. It states:
Both sides expressed concerns with migration flows including those caused by the collapse of the Venezuelan economy and its impact in the region.  The partners shared their mutual desire to confront transnational criminal organizations and money laundering. Lastly, both sides reiterated their long held respect for the human rights of migrants. 
The specific reference to Venezuela is not unexpected in the context of the Trump administration's  use of Mexico to denounce and isolate the Maduro govenment--and the number of Venezuelans coming to Mexico has risen sharply in the past year--but it stands out since the vast majority of migratory flows in Mexico and requests for asylum come from Central America.

Most migrants from the Northern Triangle (Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala) report fleeing life-threatening violence and hunger in the region in the context of the US-backed war on drugs and failed economic policies. The flows have been exacerbated recently by the electoral fraud in Honduras-- a crisis confirmed by this year's Easter pilgrimage of Central American migrants from Mexico's southern to northern borders called the Via Crucis.

The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees just released data showing that requests for refugee status in Mexico have increased 580% since 2014. The High Commisssioner stated that anti-immigrant policies in the U.S. under Trump and enforced by Nielsen's Homeland Security are another factor that leads them to predict that these numbers the two governments claimed to be concerned about will continue to grow.

The Mexican government statement on the meeting with Homeland Security emphasized the areas most criticized in the relationship with the United States--protection of Mexican migrants' rights in the United States, national sovereignty and the potential of the shared border where Trump contines to insist on building a sea-to-sea wall. However, it provided no information on any advances in these areas.

The Inconvenient Son-in-Law

Days before the visit, the New York Times published an article entitled "As Ties With Mexico Fray, Kushner Works Quietly to Mend Them". Considering that the article has no new information in it, it is difficult to discern the reason behind the publication. Speculation increases since the Business Insider published an almost identical article under the title "Jared Kushner is still in the driver's seat on US-Mexico relations, but a deeper problem persists".

The NYT piece is a political fluff piece on Kushner, seemingly designed to bolster his role as he falls deeper and deeper into problems. Not only was he stripped of his security celarance in the White House, but his delusions of grandeur have been further curtailed by reality checks and tainted by a slurry of bad press related to his business failings, the Mueller investigation reportedly on his heels for financial deals and security risks, and his failure to actually accomplish anything.

Why would Peña Nieto, a president of the 11th largest economy in the world, break protocol to meet with an advisor who doesn't hold a cabinet position or even high-level security clearance? This isn't the first time Peña has set aside national pride and personal face-saving to seek deals with the Trump administration.

One possibility is that the Peña administration believes that Kushner is its only hope of saving NAFTA before the elections. Kushner is Trump's point person on Mexico and oversees NAFTA negotiations.

Peña is also likely looking to legacy, especially to lock in much-criticized aspects of his structural reforms, given the probable election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in part as a mandate to rescind or modify the broadly unpopular reforms in energy and education in particular. He clearly wants to make sure that his policies favoring the small political elite he forms part of remain in place and one way of doing that is by quickly creating a series of bilateral agreements that nail down cooperation on those policies.

Another side of it has to do with Peña and Kushner's personal agendas. Mexican government insiders say that Videgaray has already taken over the reins in the run-up to the July 1st elections. In this context, Kushner's reception could be a sign that Peña has virtually abandoned the vestments of office and is seeking personal gain and protection. There's a phrase for the PRI tradition of emptying the coffers on your way out of office: "Año de Hidalgo, pendejo el que deje algo" (The year of Hidalgo, only a fool leaves anything behind".

We don't know what Kushner and Peña Nieto discussed in the reportedly three hours they spent in Los Pinos on March 8, but Peña Nieto is as desperate as Kushner to save his hide. Peña's problem is not internal investigations or bad financial deals (he has enough raw power to put a lid on those), but the presidential election in July. His candidate, JoseAntonio Meade, is almost certain to lose, opening up the possibility that the traditional immunity former Mexican presidents have enjoyed could be stripped away.

Kushner, as mentioned above, has a number of weak flanks. The Washington Post reported that the former National Security Advisor, Gen. H.R. McMaster was concerned about Kushner's foreign contacts and diplomats worry openly that foreign governments, including Mexico, could manipulate the famous son-in-law, green in foreign affairs and vulnerable due to his shaky financial standing and erratic father in-law. With Kushner reportedly holding debt in the range of 100 million dollars, he seems desperate for a lifeline to emerge from his privileged role as pseudo-diplomat, which opens up a dangerous and ethically dubious personal agenda in his international dealings.

Within this morass of complex interests that omit the only one that should be present in international diplomacy--the public good of the nations represented--it's utterly absurd to present Jared Kushner as the White Knight who rides in to save US-Mexico relations. 


His visit to Mexico went down badly in Mexican press. Maybe not quite as badly as his father-in-law's August 2017 visit, which got Videgaray fired and then reincarnated as Secretary of Foreign Relations, but it was seen generally as another instance of Videgaray and Peña pandering for Trump's attention.

Mexican magazine, Eje Central, wrote on the eve of his visit:
Jared Kushner, today more than ever, is a burden on President Donald Trump and nothing good can come out of a meeting with President Peña Nieto, with decorated Army Generals above him, and the weight of accusations of business favors as a member of the White House. As a message and as an event, this act confirms Trump's disdain for Mexico and the traps that the Mexican government continues to fall into.
The free daily, Publimetro, referring to upcoming presidential elections in Mexico and the ongoing NAFTA negotiations, concluded:
The visit of the political advisor [Kushner] and envoy of President Donald Trump is neither opportune nor convenient in these times of economic instability and political uncertainty. 
Surprisingly, Lopez Obrador was quoted as supporting the visit, although he demanded that any agreements be made public.

The Mexican government issued a vague press statement on the meeting:
The Mexican and U.S. officials discussed issues of common interest, including the fight against transnational criminal organizations, drug trafficking and the flow of arms and cash between both countries. Also, they discussed issues of border security; orderly and safe migration, including a potential project for a circular program for the mobility of agricultural workers; development in Central America; and fomenting job creation and shared prosperity through fair and reciprocal trade, as well as the continuaton of NAFTA negotiations in an expedite manner.
There continues to be a lot of suspicion regarding the real reasons for Kushner's visit.  One web comment stated:
Obviously [Kushner] didn't come to Mexico just to say hi to Peña and Videgaray because he likes them so much. He came to see what that pair of corrupt scoundrels would offer him in excehage for support from the gringos in the presidential elections...
From what we know so far, there are no real breakthroughs for the beleaguered bilateral relationship in the Kushner and Nielsen agreements. Many are simply the result of the kind of normal neighborhood governance that takes place all the time, and others could be part of an attempt on the part of both governments to cement policies and practices before or in case the center-left candidate comes to power.

Either way, they do not improve the relationship. If the Trump administration is seen to be conspiring to tie the hands of a new democratically elected president, they could cause a further political backlash against Peña and the PRI.

In this context, citizens on both sides of the border must demand that the substance of the talks and the agreements be made fully public.  

analysts said, could lead Mr. Trump to revive the disparaging language about Mexico that first necessitated Mr. Kushner’s diplomatic rescue mission.

Feb 9, 2018

Signs of Progress in Nafta Talks but Countries Remain Deeply Divided

By ANA SWANSON - JAN. 29, 2018

MONTREAL — Discussions to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement moved from stalemate to actual negotiation during the sixth round of talks that concluded on Monday, but a deal was still far from guaranteed as Mexico, Canada and the United States continue to squabble over how to reshape the 24-year-old pact.

Government officials and trade analysts described the mood around the talks as “cautiously optimistic” as Canada, in particular, joined Mexico in offering counterproposals to America’s requests for drastic changes, an outcome that seemed likely to dissuade the United States from imminent withdrawal.

Yet more than six months into the talks, a conclusion still appeared elusive. And tensions between the countries grew as the United States criticized Canada’s suggested changes to the pact on areas including automobile manufacturing and investment.

Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, suggested that Canada had been responsible for the stalled talks. He said discussions were now progressing as the nation recognized the need to protect its trading relationships, though he added that talks were not moving fast enough.

“The reality is some of the participants weren’t willing to talk about anything,” Mr. Lighthizer said in remarks to the media. “Now, they’re starting to realize that we have to begin to talk. I think that’s a reason for guarded optimism. But you know, I’m never really very optimistic,” he added.

Officials from Canada and Mexico sounded more positive about the prospects for a deal. Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, the Mexican economic secretary, said that the three countries were at “a better moment in this negotiation process,” and that progress made so far had put the countries “on the right track to create landing zones to conclude the negotiation soon.”

Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, said that Canada had come to the table “with creative ideas we believed could move us forward.” She also emphasized the benefits of trade with Canada for the United States.

The Nafta pact, negotiated by President George H.W. Bush and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, spurred trade between the three countries by reducing Mexico’s high tariffs on goods from Canada and the United States. But, as President Trump has often highlighted, it also incentivized companies to shift labor-intensive manufacturing to Mexico.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly threatened to walk away from the trade pact if it cannot be renegotiated in the United States’ favor, a position that has put him at odds with many in the business community and Congress, who see trade with Mexico and Canada as integral to industries as varied as manufacturing, agriculture and energy. The auto industry, in particular, has arranged its North American supply chains around the deal’s terms.

With talks now reaching into their seventh month, negotiators are about to butt up against several political events that could make an agreement even more difficult, including the Mexican general election on July 1.

The election could usher in a leftist political party that may be less willing to make concessions. The front-runner, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has advocated a more combative approach to the Trump administration.

“Doing this before the Mexican election is critical, because you don’t know who is going to be leading afterward,” said Representative Will Hurd, a Texas Republican who attended the talks.

The negotiations have faced a series of collapsing deadlines. Last year, officials insisted that the deal must be largely concluded by the end of 2017. Then in October, they decided to extend the talks into the first quarter of 2018, with March widely cited as a deadline.

Negotiators did not specify a new target for concluding the talks. In remarks on Monday, Ms. Freeland said that Canada looked forward to continuing its work at the next round in Mexico City in late February, and in Washington in April.

Officials from all three countries say they would rather have a good deal than a rushed one. But the delay is not without risks — some trade analysts fear that an extended process could cause Mr. Trump to lose patience, and spur an American withdrawal.

Midterm elections in the United States on Nov. 6 could also complicate the deal. The administration will need a simple majority in both the House and Senate to approve their revised trade agreement, which could prove difficult if Democrats win control of either chamber.

Mr. Lighthizer reiterated in his remarks on Monday that he hoped to win the support of some Democratic lawmakers. That may hinge on the administration’s efforts to improve labor standards. Last Tuesday, more than 180 Democrats and one Republican lawmaker sent a letter to Mr. Lighthizer urging the administration to propose stronger measures to improve Mexican labor conditions.

Representative Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat and one of the signatories, said the Trump administration’s current labor proposals just “mask maintaining the status quo.” Mr. Levin said “the traditional view of these issues is that they’ll work out in the wash, but workers have been taking a bath.”

Negotiators said they reached agreement on a Nafta chapter focusing on anti-corruption, and were nearing completion on several other sections. But the ideas Canada brought forward to counter the Trump administration’s proposals were proving a source of contention.

The United States has proposed significantly raising the so-called rules of origin, which govern how much of a car needs to be manufactured within the free-trade area to be exempt from tariffs.

The Canadians last week discussed changing the way the figures were calculated to include design, investment and parts of an automobile like high-tech software and sensors that are common in cars today but not measured under Nafta.

The change is likely to raise the proportion of a car’s value produced by the United States, because many high-tech industries are centered there. But it also appeared unlikely to address Mr. Trump’s primary reason for renegotiating Nafta: strengthening American manufacturing.

Mr. Lighthizer criticized the idea, saying that it “may actually lead to less regional content than we have now” and said “this is the opposite of what we’re trying to do.”

Mr. Lighthizer also used his remarks to criticize a recent case Canada brought to the World Trade Organization, in which it claimed that the United States system for policing dumping and subsidies was unfair. “It is imprudent, and my suspicion is, spiteful,” he told reporters.