What Happened With Transparency Legislation Reform in Mexico?

23 May 2013

By Guillermo Ávila

Ávila is a researcher at Fundar, Center of Analysis and Research.

As perhaps you already know, one of the main proposals of the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, during the presidential campaign was a very deep and comprehensive reform to foster the transparency policy in Mexico.

He actually presented a bill, through his party’s parliamentary group in the Senate – PRI – in which he proposed to establish constitutional autonomy for the Federal Institute of Access to Information and Data Protection (IFAI), to increase its mandate in order to provide oversight the Legislative and Judicial branches, and to expand the number of disclosing parties – including political parties, unions, and every party receiving public funding – among others.

On Dec. 12, 2012, the Senate passed the bill unanimously and sent it to the Chamber of Deputies, to continue with the legislative process. As in the United States, in Mexico a bill must be approved by both Houses/Chambers in order to become a law. It is worth highlighting that the discussion and approval process was almost exemplary.: The Constitutional Amendments Committee – which coordinated all the work and is chaired by the PRI – organized a vast number of consultation meetings, both public and private, with transparency and access to information experts, frequent users, researchers and civil society organizations, whose insights and recommendations were included in the final document.

Within the Chamber of Deputies, the bill was submitted also to three committees, each one presided by one of the major parties: Constitutional Amendments (PRD, leftist), Transparency and Anticorruption (PRI) and Rules, Regulations and Parliamentary Practices (PAN, rightist). The legislative process here, however, was the exact opposite from the one in the Senate: it was closed, impervious, and lacked of information. Our representatives in the Lower Chamber received the bill in December and did not start its discussion and analysis until late April – a few days before the closing of the legislative period.

Two Political Incidents

In between, there were two political incidents which we should consider to understand the final outcome of the – to this day – failed reform.

First, in January, the IFAI commissioners elected a new president through a very controversial process. There was high criticism to both the process and the result, mainly because one of the candidates strongly disagreed with and pronounced against it.

At the same time, an internal investigation was disclosed regarding a possible conflict of interests of another commissioner.

Consequently, some deputies from PRI and PRD declared that it would be preferable to remove all the IFAI commissioners, through the new reform, notwithstanding that the institutional performance was not really affected by these scandals.

At the same time, there were other important bills – the education and the telecommunications reforms – presented in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, which overshadowed the transparency reform in the political arena as well as in the mass media. These two bills were passed, not without debate and modifications, but in a very straight fashion. Therefore, the transparency reform discussion was held over.

New PRI Proposal Sets Off Alarms

During the final days of April – the legislative period ends on the 30th – the joint committees convened a meeting. There was no public and open invitation to participate within this process: they did not even publicize their proposals of adjustments anywhere.

The plan failed because the PAN parliamentary group quit because the draft for the discussion – now proposed by the PRI – was changed in the last minute.

The document was leaked the very same day and set off alarms because of its contents: political parties would not be direct disclosing parties, IFAI resolutions would not be unassailable and all the commissioners would be removed.

There could be no quorum without the PAN parliamentarians, so the Constitutional Amendments Committee President declared the meeting adjourned.

If approved, this bill would be an evident step back from what the Senate approved in December 2012.

The reasons of the parliamentarian groups’ positions towards this reform are vague. It is unclear why, being as important as President Peña Nieto declared during his campaign and also at the start of his mandate, his political party did not back up his proposal.

The opposition parties, however, are not putting pressure on this issue. So the future of the transparency reform is uncertain, too.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

Filed under: What's New