Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador Photo: presidencia.gob.mx

By KELIN DILLON

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has drawn intense criticism after calling for the elimination of independent organizations by their absorption into the state, a move that would consolidate the Mexican government’s power and remove its checks and balances.

López Obrador tried to justify his proposal by saying autonomous organizations “cost a lot to maintain,” going as far as to say they cost the country over a billion pesos that could be better distributed elsewhere.

Independent organizations only accounted for 2.3 percent of the federal budget (PEF) according to the Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP), a far cry from AMLO’s alleged billions of pesos, perhaps suggesting his true intentions behind the proposal lie elsewhere.

Raymundo Tenorio, professor at the Monterrey Institute of Technology, warned that absorbing these organizations into government agencies without congruently raising said agencies’ budgets “runs the risk of making them inefficient and inoperable.” 

Opponents to the president’s proposal also noted potential ethical violations if AMLO’s objective comes to fruition.

“In general, the disappearance of autonomous bodies can violate human rights,” said Alejandrá Macías, director of Research at the Center for Economic and Budgetary Research (CIEP). “We believe that it would be a strong setback in terms of generating objective information.”

Critics have raised concerns about the implications of eliminating independent organizations like the National Electoral Institute (INE), which oversees Mexico’s electoral process, and the National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection (INAI), which provides access to public information and protection of personal data, both of which have faced intense scrutiny by AMLO during his daily press briefings.

“Autonomous bodies exist to correct biases in the exercise of power and to guarantee that activities that are essential for the life of the state are carried out impartially and professionally,” said Marco Antonio Baños, former electoral adviser of the INE.

Some are worried that getting rid of the INAI could affect the Mexican people’s constitutional right to public information, since it’s release would be at the discretion of the government.

“The functions of the INAI cannot be replaced by agencies where the president or governors appoint public servants,” said Octavio López, president of the Citizen Participation Committee of the National Anticorruption System. “Because they would be the judge and party, and that goes against not only accountability and the necessary counterweights to power, but the most sacred interests of the people: their freedom and privacy.”

Removing these important institutional counterweights would also put way too much power and control into the AMLO’s hands, something many critics are saying is López Obrador’s exact goal with his controversial proposal to eliminate the government’s independent checks and balances.

“What López Obrador intends is to have absolute control of each matter of these organizations, of their resources that by law correspond to them for their operation,” said Angelica de la Peña of El Sol de México. “Two birds with one stone.”

Talks about just how the reforms would work began during the cabinet’s first meeting of the year on Monday, Jan. 11. While specific details have not been announced, the elimination of Mexico’s independent organizations would require a change to the constitution that would then need ratification by two-thirds of the Senate.

AMLO’s party, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), currently holds a majority in the Senate. However, Morena remains shy of a two-thirds majority, allowing room for opposition party senators to block the proposed elimination through their votes, perhaps providing some slight relief to those concerned about just how much power the presidency can manage to consolidate through this move.

…Jan. 13, 2021

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