By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Somehow the irony of demanding that the supposedly autonomous National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (INAI) — which has, as its name implies, among its main duties the protection of Mexican citizen’s personal data — to hand over and publicly reveal personal information of one of his main critics seemed to have been lost on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
On Tuesday, Feb. 15, López Obrador demanded that the INAI “investigate and disclose the origin of wealth” of journalist Carlos Loret de Mola, who recently exposed the fact that AMLO’s eldest son, José Ramón López Beltrán, was living in a mansion owned by a senior executive of Baker Hughes , a company that currently holds contracts with the López Obrador administration for more than $150 million in works for the state-owned oil giant Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
And once he were to have that personal data of a private citizen who committed the unforgiveable sin of telling the truth, AMLO said that he intended to “make it public,” replete with invoices and receipts of the journalist’s revenues.
Unable to contain his growing rage against a national media that, despite constant threats and intimidation from the presidential National Palace, has bravely defended the last vestiges of democracy in a country that is rapidly spiraling toward a full dictatorship, AMLO on Tuesday even went so far as to display a letter he wrote to INAI President Blanca Lilia Ibarra, dated one day earlier, in which he called on the organization to not only “make public the perceptions and assets of Loret de Mola,” but — in true tit-for-tat revenge — also insisted that it go after his spouse and relatives.
“This information can surely be obtained from the Public Registry of Properties, the Tax Administration Service (SAT) or the Financial Intelligence Unit,” the president wrote, seemingly oblivious to — or, more likely, indifferent to — the fact that all three of those offices are legally obliged to maintain the confidentiality of the parties involved.
But while Mr. Omni-Powerful AMLO may believe that he has the inalienable right to violate the personal information of all Mexicans — along with the national constitution — he discovered that, despite his open orders, the INAI simply refused to comply with his demands.
In the first place, the INAI does not have the power to disclose data on private citizens, not even by presidential decree.
Yes, the body has the function of guaranteeing the transparency of information on federal authorities, autonomous bodies, political parties, trusts, public funds and unions. But Loret de Mola is none of the above.
In fact, as a journalist, the INAI has the specific legal obligation to especially protect his information and safety.
It has already been noted by top Mexican jurists and legal experts that López Obrador’s unprecedented display of Loret de Mola’s alleged income during his daily presser on Feb. 11 mostly likely falls into the category of a federal crime.
So by complying with the president’s demand, INAI would have, in fact, become a culprit and accessory to that crime.
But, let’s face it, the law has never been a serious obstacle for López Obrador, who, when confronted with the fact that what he did was illegal, argued absurdly that the “public deserves to know” Loret de Mola’s “seditious actions toward the government” (read, AMLO, since in his books, he is the be-all and end-all of the Mexican government).
It is worth nothing that AMLO defined the publication of facts that are uncomfortable for him and his family as an “attempted putsch.” Hence, by deduction, the telling of truth, under the AMLO regime, is an act of treason.
AMLO has made no secret of his desire to do away with any autonomous bodies that could pose checks and balances to his unmitigated power, and the INAI is clearly in his crosshairs.
By ordering the INAI to reveal the personal data of Loret de Mola, he was hoping that — should justice ever come to pass for this heinous act against a journalist — he could eventually pass the blame onto the National Institute of Transparency.
But the INAI didn’t take the bait.
In the end, responsibility for this crime (and crime it is) is going to fall squarely on the president’s shoulders, and — if Mexico ever manages to rid itself of the despotic tyranny of AMLO — López Obrador could find himself in prison.