AMLO Determined to Wipe Out Independent Institutions
By MARK LORENZANA
Mexico’s National Institute for Transparency Access to Information and Personal Data Protection (INAI) found itself on the receiving end of yet another verbal tirade from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on Friday, April 14, when he accused the independent transparency organization of being “a useless bureaucratic apparatus” that was “created to pretend that corruption is being fought” and then proceeded to criticize its “high cost to the Treasury.”
“What is it for? It (the INAI) is useless. It was maintained by previous governments, but what is this institute for? Well, it’s a facade to cover up the corruption of officials,” said López Obrador. “I regret that there are those institutions that simulate fighting corruption, but what they really do is hide acts of corruption. Also, do you know how much that office costs the people of Mexico to maintain? One billion pesos.”
The INAI is in charge of two fundamental rights: access to public information and protection of Mexican citizens’ personal data. Established in May 2014, the INAI replaced the Federal Institute for Access to Information and Data Protection (IFAI).
INAI President Blanca Lilia Ibarra on Monday, April 17, reiterated that “the INAI must be defended,” amid the recent statements by AMLO against the organization.
Likewise, Ibarra made a call to the Mexican Senate to finally appoint INAI commissioners and make sure that there is a necessary quorum.
On Friday, March 31, the INAI lost its quorum after the departure of Francisco Acuña, one of its commissioners, who concluded his nine-year term.
For several years now, AMLO has expressed his intention to dissolve the INAI — and not just the INAI, but independent organizations in general, by “absorbing them into the government.” AMLO has said he believes that these independent organizations — chief among them the INAI — are “expensive legacies of neoliberal governments.”
López Obrador, specifically, wants to incorporate the INAI’s functions into the Public Function Secretariat (SFP) and the Superior Audit of the Federation (ASF).
For her part, Ibarra said that the INAI has recently resolved more than 175 appeals in corruption cases, revoking or modifying the response in about 70 percent of them and ordering that information be opened to the public. Likewise, she said that when the INAI guarantees the right of access to information, Mexicans acquire data that allows them to activate and demand accountability mechanisms and other fundamental rights, such as on health and education.
Ibarra also rejected the plan of incorporating the INAI into the SFP and the ASF, saying that neither the SFP nor the ASF — or, for that matter, both of them — will not be able to carry out the INAI’s tasks well.
“Sometimes it is believed that the tasks carried out by the INAI could be performed by the Secretariat of Public Function or the Superior Audit of the Federation,” said Ibarra. “But the institute’s tasks could in no way be absorbed by any other agency,” she said.
The INAI is far from the only independent institution under attack from the AMLO administration. The most prominent, of course, has been the National Electoral Institute (INE), which has been subjected to electoral reforms.
For Mexican journalist and writer Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez, in a Monday column for Mexican daily newspaper Reforma, under the López Obrador administration, “any institution that has its own source of legitimacy, any institution that dares to raise its voice by constitutional mandate is an enemy.”
“The president annulled the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) with an appointment that makes it useless as an autonomous space. Against the National Electoral Institute (INE), AMLO has deployed a complex strategy that has weakened it, but does not leave it dead, as he would have wanted,” wrote Silva-Herzog Márquez.
“With the INAI, another path to institutional annulment is tested: abandonment. The president does not fully assume his role as executive. He imagines himself a character in history, a reenactor of the nation, an evangelizer, a campaign leader — not head of government or state. That is why he encourages the INAI to be disabled, objecting to the appointments made by the Senate and sending the message that it would be convenient to keep it paralyzed. The president, his government and his allies intend to stifle the institutions of the republic.”
For his part, journalist and lecturer Enrique Quintana of business-focused daily El Financiero said he believes that “the institutional demolition process carried out by the López Obrador government has been systematic and consistent throughout this entire administration.”
Quintana wrote that “the argument that many AMLO supporters put forward is that, with all this set of changes, resources have been freed up to be able to allocate them to social programs, as well as to investment by the federal government” but that “when you look at the numbers, it turns out that things are not so clear.”
“The percentage of total spending allocated to social development represented 60.5 percent of programmable public sector spending last year. In the last year of former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, that percentage was already 59.7 percent. In other words, the difference is barely eight tenths of a percentage point,” said Quintana. “When weighing the costs and benefits, I believe that the impact of institutional destruction will be enormous and with long-term negative repercussions for the country.”
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