Guatemala Looks to Mexican Model for Access Implementation

13 February 2009

By Jesse Franzblau

Mexico City, MexicoOn January 30, 2009, in a testament to Mexicos frontrunner role in the global transparency movement, Guatemalas Vice President Rafael Espada led an official delegation to lay the groundwork for future collaboration with officials from the Instituto Federal de Accesso a la Informacin Pblica (IFAI), the forward-thinking governmental body that oversees Mexicos freedom of information law.

To prepare for Guatemalas freedom of information law scheduled to go into effect in March of this year, the trip gave Guatemalan officials the opportunity to participate in a seminar centered on the implementation of access to information laws. Guatemalas transparency law (Ley de Accesso a la Informacin Pblica) passed through Congress on September 23, 2008, and now poses a new challenge for public officials involved in the implementation of the law. Freedom of information advocates and experts predict that the most difficult tasks at hand include preparing government bodies and providing officials the tools needed to fulfill the obligations spelled out in the legislative text.

The Guatemalan delegation included 27 government officials and legislators, who discussed with IFAI officials the inner workings of Mexicos information system. The discussions encouraged Guatemalan officials to create within their own system an IFAI counterpart that can handle disputes between requesters and government bodies and that can rule on appeals for secondary reviews of agency decisions on citizens requests. Guatemalan legislators noted that Mexicos transparency movement has served as a model in the creation and passage of Guatemalas law, and also that collaboration with IFAI during the next stage will be equally as important.

Drug trafficking was also a major issue addressed during the bilateral exchange between Guatemalan and Mexican officials during this visit. During a press conference, Vice President Espada described the drug trade as not just a problem shared by Mexico and Guatemala, but an international epidemic. As part of the controversial US-sponsored Plan Mrida, Guatemala is set to receive $3.6 million of the $65 million in counter-narcotics funds earmarked for the Central American region. In a country where a UN-backed commission is currently investigating political ties to organized crime, efficient oversight over the distribution of funds such as these will be critical to deter government corruption. Successful implementation of the access to information law and widespread civic engagement in monitoring its compliance are both essential to this process, especially given the history of Guatemalas abusive government security services.

IFAI officials noted that the cooperation between Guatemala and Mexico will include technical support, knowledge sharing, capacity building, and learning from the Mexican experience in archive management, electronic records, and declassifying information. All these will be important elements in the coming months as Guatemala works to fulfill its obligations and meet the publics demand for government openness. That the Mexican freedom of information law can serve as a model for other Latin American countries, and indeed countries in any region, striving toward openness and transparency in government is an major development for freedom of information advocates.

Jesse Franzblau is a Research Associate for the Guatemala and Mexico Projects at the National Security Archive.


Links and Documents

Interés de Guatemala por Conocer Experiencia Mexicana en Materia de Transparencia,” IFAI Press Release

Congreso de la Republica de Guatemala: Congreso Aprueba Ley de Acceso a la Informacion Publica

Decreto Nmero 57-2008: Ley de Acceso a la Informacin Pblica, Text of the Guatemalan Transparency Law (in Spanish)

Instituto Federal de Accesso a la Informacin Pblica (IFAI)

The National Security Archive, Mexico Freedom of Information Program, with the support of The Hewlett Foundation


Related News Coverage

Guatemala y Mxico impulsan transparencia,” La Prensa Grafica, January 30, 2009.

Guatemala se dota de ley para favorecer transparencia y combatir corrupcin, EcoDiario Global, September 24, 2008.

La regin estn en desventaja contra narco: Guatemala, El Universal, El Mundo, January 30, 2009.

EEUU entrega 3,6 millones dlares de Plan Mrida a Guatemala, Univisión, February 5, 2009.

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