Proposed Changes to Mexican FOIA Law Still Worrying

18 March 2015

By David Mora

The author works for Article 19 in Mexico.

On Feb. 19, Ana Cristina Ruelas of Article 19 wrote here on the contradiction of Mexico holding Open Government Partnership’s lead chair while the Mexican President pressed the Senate for regressive regulations in the General Transparency Law currently on discussion.

In that entry, we had the opportunity to point out a list of changes proposed by the Executive’s Legal Advisor on the original draft produced by civil organizations and a group of Senators, which potentially neutralize the effects of the last Constitutional reform and threaten the RTI’s principles and the Supreme Court progressive criteria gained throughout litigation.

In an effort to regain full control and legitimacy of the process, the Senate summoned academics, civil organizations, and authorities to public hearings. The object was to include their perspectives and suggestions on specific sensitive matters regulated by the law. After these, and a long week of preliminary versions, the Commissions in charge finally concluded and approved by consensus a judgement on the draft, that was later sent to the full Senate and is currently waiting to be discussed there.

Worrisome Provisions Persist

Unfortunately, in this process, immersed in politics and negotiation, the Executive and political parties put on hold the complete neccesary legal frame to transform the RTI into the effective and comprehensive tool expected vis-a-vis the Mexican violence and corruption context. In the text approved, Article 19 finds particularly worrying:

–          In a conflict between laws, openness and transparency does not prevail

–          The cases where information can be classified were increased, including exemptions without legitimate purposes or too wide legislation (such as “all the information classified by a law”)

–          Guarantees to free flow of information and access to the files regarding human rights gross violations and crimes against humanity were highly reduced from the draft’s regulations

–          The Constitutional duty to generate information on every act and faculty executed by the authority, and its consequence on producing or reconstructing information declared as non-existant when the authority acted indeed was blurred amidst confusing articles

–          There is not a clear limit of time on non-disclosure cases regarding strategic infraestructure and financial stability

Other Regressive Clauses

Other relevant regressions include:

  • a long list of administrative units exempted from the formal supervision of their disclosure decisions by a Transparency Committee that will be created in every single authority;
  • public international law subjects with significative control over private information of citizens; and
  • poor transparency duties related to public debt and communication interception by authorities.

From this result and facing the events to come, the independence and autonomy of the Senate is decisive, particularly to defend the RTI standards provided in the draft by academics, civil organizations and Senators themselves.

The importance of the points shared above –and their capacity to limit the whole Law do not permit the Senate to stand on ambigous grounds, defending the interests of political groups and acting against transparency, plurality and trust in institutions.

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