26 September 2023

MEXICO: President has Transparency Agency in sights

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Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador has renewed his call, made earlier in the year, to close the Institute for Information Access and Transparency (INAI), claiming it is a waste of money.

The Agency oversees Government transparency and freedom of information. Critics claim it is another attempt by the President to limit oversight of some of his more controversial and undemocratic policies.

Speaking at his resumed daily press conferences after recovering from his third COVID-19 infection, the President said the Federal Comptroller’s Office could take over the INAI’s functions.

“Enough playing with appearances — it will save taxpayers’ money,” Mr López Obrador (pictured) said.

Mexico’s freedom of information system was set up in 2002, laying the groundwork for the INAI. A constitutional reform in 2013 granted the Agency autonomy to ensure it could provide transparency reports without interference.

The INAI has the power to compel other Government bodies to submit to freedom of information requests as part of the Government’s checks against corruption.

However, the Agency has been in crisis recently, as appointments to its seven-member governing body have been stymied by the ruling party, the National Regeneration Movement, or Morena.

The INAI needs at least five members to form a quorum. Currently, it has only four, leaving it unable to issue official decisions.

Several days earlier, the Senate failed to appoint a fifth member, amid opposition from Morena.

The deadlock prompted a scuffle on the Senate floor as Opposition legislators unfurled banners calling for immediate appointments to the INAI. Morena Senator, César Cravioto was seen slapping away hands in an attempt to wrestle the banners down.

Mr López Obrador has long criticised the INAI, denouncing it as a waste of Government funds, and last month vetoed two new INAI appointees.

He has also been critical of the country’s judicial system for blocking his policies, and in February supported a controversial Bill to slash the budget of the Electoral Agency.

Mexico City, 2 May 2023

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