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Mayor of Mexico City borough flirts with the hard right in Washington, DC trip

Sandra Cuevas, the local leader of Cuauhtémoc, attended a human trafficking summit hosted by the Conservative Political Action Conference

Sandra Cuevas en el Senado de los Estados Unidos.
Sandra Cuevas poses for a photo in the US Senate.Cortesía
Georgina Zerega

Sandra Cuevas’ life is a rollercoaster of unpredictability. One day she wants to become Mexico City’s security chief, and the next day she eyes the top job in the capital city’s government. During a recent trip to Washington, DC, she even flirted with a far-right group of activists and politicians even though she belongs to Mexico’s left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). In late July, Cuevas attended a human trafficking summit hosted by the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an advocacy group that includes conservative Catholics, evangelical Christians, anti-abortionists, opponents of feminism and LGBTQ+ rights, as well as anti-communists. Beaming, the mayor delightedly shared photos and videos alongside prominent leaders of the ultraconservative movement in the United States. “Together, we will ignite an awakening of consciences!” she tweeted.

The invitation to the human trafficking summit was widely distributed in Mexico to politicians from diverse parties through official channels like the national legislature and civilian organizations like the Association of Municipalities of Mexico (AMMAC). Representatives from diverse political parties, including the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) and the Citizen Movement, attended the event. However, some individuals, who preferred to remain anonymous, said they were unaware of the CPAC’s affiliation with the summit or even the meaning of the CPAC acronym. The summit program was late in arriving, and the complete agenda was only available after attendees arrived in Washington.

Sandra Cuevas
Sandra Cuevas at the conclusion of the CPAC Summit on Human Trafficking in Washington, DCCortesía

On July 26, the summit organizers hosted a welcome dinner in an affluent part of Alexandria (Virginia) at the home of Matt Schlapp, a well-known Republican lobbyist, chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU) and Trump ally. Many of the Mexican attendees decided to keep a low profile and avoided sharing photos on social media. Someone even stated that they wouldn’t have attended the summit if they had known who was involved. Cuevas instead chose to enthusiastically share her experience at the welcome dinner on social media and expressed gratitude to the Schlapp family for their hospitality. One video shows her posing confidently under the CPAC logo.

According to several attendees, several summit speakers expressed views that aligned with hard-right and conservative Catholic ideologies. Various Mexican politicians participated in panel discussions, including Patricia Salazar, the mayor of Allende (Nuevo León), and Gala del Carmen Lepe, the municipal president of Unión de Tula (Jalisco), both members of the centrist Citizen Movement party. The event concluded with a screening of The Sound of Freedom, a film exposing child trafficking that has been highly praised by right-wing conspiracy theorists and has done very well at the box office.

Eduardo Verástegui, one of the producers of The Sound of Freedom, visited El Salvador in late July to host a screening with President Nayib Bukele. “We’re so excited to have premiered the film here with the president as our host!” Verástegui tweeted after the free screening attended by about 1,500 people. After seeing the film in Washington, Cuevas said she planned to show the movie in her municipality’s schools to create awareness.

Before leaving Washington, Cuevas vowed to take action. “I’m committed to combating human trafficking by pushing for stricter penalties. Working together with our legislative representatives from Cuauhtémoc, we’ll propose initiatives that ensure the dignity and happiness of our girls and women.” When she returned to Mexico, Cuevas said she would refocus her contentious Operativo Diamante law-and-order program and protect girls and women by eradicating “black spots” – illicit hubs of sexual exploitation in Cuauhtémoc.

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