Human Rights Watch on Thursday accused Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of setting a "dangerous example" amid the coronavirus pandemic by failing to respect social distancing.
Lopez Obrador had initially maintained his routine of public appearances and contact with supporters despite health authorities calling on Mexicans to take more precautions.
"President Lopez Obrador's behaviour in the face of the COVID-19 crisis is a profoundly dangerous example that threatens Mexicans' health," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.
Late in February, after Mexico's first case had been confirmed the president "blatantly misinformed the Mexican public, saying: 'According to the information available, it is not terrible or fatal. It is not even as bad as the flu,'" HRW said.
The New York-based rights group said he had "continued to hold rallies and attend events across the country, hugging, kissing, and shaking hands with supporters despite recommendations to avoid crowds and close contact."
HRW noted that Lopez Obrador had tweeted a video encouraging Mexicans to go out to restaurants to help shore up the economy.
As of Wednesday, Mexico had registered 475 coronavirus infections with six deaths.
The government announced it would suspend all non-essential activities starting Thursday to help stem the spread of the virus.
Lopez Obrador encouraged Mexicans to stay at home after health authorities said Tuesday that the virus was being transmitted locally for the first time.
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