Proposed Budget Cuts Imperil FOI Law in Mexico

1 October 2010

Budget cuts proposed by the Mexican president would degrade the activities of the Federal Access to Information Institute (IFAI), according to comments made as supporters of the Mexican access to information law conducted dozens of workshops and other activities this week.

News about developments in Mexico is available on the Mexico Informate website.

The president’s budget would require IFAI to implement a new data protection law on top of its ongoing access work with the same budget as six years ago and four times the workload of requests/appeals, said Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive in Washington.

IFAI has asked for 200 million pesos to do the data protection work, on top of their existing 300 million pesos budget.

Blanton said in a talk, “Each Mexican citizen pays 3 pesos for transparency, and IFAI wants another 2 pesos to protect your personal data.  How much is that worth to you?”  Two pesos is approximately 20 cents US.  He continued, “What you would give one of those ninos who sprays your windshield at a traffic light and scrapes it off and holds out his hand.” He noted that the budget attack is on top of the attorney general’s refusal to abide by an IFAI ruling about opening investigative files on cases that have been closed.

Kate Doyle, director of the NSA’s Mexico Project, said restrictions on access to information have grown under President Filipe Calderon.

For a published account of their remarks, see a story in IPS News.

Freedom of information advocates in 22 states and Mexico City held more than 65 public events among the myriad activities marking the second annual México Infórmate (Mexico Get Informed), Sept. 26-Oct. 2, with special celebrations on International Right to Know Day on Sept. 28.

 · In San Luis Potosí, a seminar was conducted on “Libraries and Access to Public Information” in the auditorium of the School of Information Sciences at the Autonomous University. This project seeks to partner public libraries with citizens and the IFAI so that a computer with Internet access will be available (at least one in each state) to submit information requests.

· In the state of Guerrero, a lecture and conference was held titled “Memory and Democracy” with Kate Doyle, director of the Mexico Project of The National Security Archive. Afterward, the Observatory for Transparency and Democracy, a center to conduct research on transparency and document Guerrero’s past, was inaugurated.

· In Sinaloa, several events included a Sept. 30 workshop to teach citizens how to monitor the 18 municipalities of the state using transparency laws. Members of Iniciativa Sinaloa will hold press conferences, interviews and a rally in Culiacán.

· Various activities were organized in Nuevo León, including a forum called “The Government Under a Magnifying Glass: Transparency, Security and Freedom of Expression in Nuevo León” which will be in the Auditorium of the Metropolitan Museum of Monterrey.

· In Morelos, lectures were given on FOI laws, focusing on the importance of using these tools to conduct research projects, theses, journalistic research and public policies that directly affect civil society. Events will be held at the Polytechnic University of Morelos.

· Similar activities took place in states in which the México Infórmate program is present including: Quintana Roo, Guanajuato, Tabasco, Veracruz, Chihuahua, Sonora, Chiapas, Baja California, Puebla, Estado de México, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Nayarit, and Coahuila.

México Infórm participated in the Second Transparency Fair which will be held in the Zócalo in Mexico City on Sept. 28. It has organized a forum entitled “The Right of Access to Information: Challenges of Transparency and National Security” at the Law Research Institute of the National Autonomous University (UNAM), as well as workshops around the country to teach journalists how to use the Federal Law of Transparency and Access to Information and file appeals to the Federal Institute of Access to Information (IFAI). is an initiative that provides citizens with the tools to scrutinize their government, such as inspecting the use of public funds and the way in which the authorities make decisions that affect everyone. A calendar of México Infórmate activities is posted online at www.mexicoinformate.org, and the México Infórmate Twitter feed, @mxinformate, will provide regular updates.

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