Mexico’s transparency body INAI remains paralyzed as lawmakers fail to act
Mexico’s legislature has gone into summer recess without filling at least one vacancy on the board of a watchdog group responsible for enforcing freedom of information rules, leaving the body paralyzed. Journalism and human rights organizations are calling on lawmakers to take swift action to get the organization operating again.
The independent government watchdog known as INAI has been unable to convene since March because it lacks a five person quorum. Mexico’s Senate hasn’t confirmed nominations to three vacant seats on the seven person board. Some vacancies have been open since March 2022.
"A political fight over how to fill the seats turned into what appears to be intentional obstruction of these nominations," said Tyler Mattiace, Mexico researcher with Human Rights Watch, which has called on lawmakers convene an extraordinary session during their summer recess to immediately fill at least one of those seats, something a federal judge has also repeatedly ordered.
However, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and members of his party have suggested the would like to dissolve the transparency watchdog, Mattiace said, and seem to be accomplishing the same end by blocking nominations.
This body not only ensures access to public information that journalists and activists have used to uncover corruption and human rights abuses, but it makes sure Mexicans can access their own personal data — including hospital and social security records. It’s seen as an essential tool in Mexico’s transition to a multiparty democracy.
There are some 4,000 pending appeals cases INAI is currently unable to review, Mattiace said, adding that the transparency institute reviews tens of thousands of cases every year to make sure government agencies are adequately responding to public information requests.
The INAI's inability to convene also makes it impossible for it to raise legal challenges to laws or executive orders that impede the right to access information. Last week, the watchdog was successful in a case challenging a decree by the president to make his infrastructure projects national security matters, exempting them from transparency rules. The Supreme Court ruled that the president could not make such a decree. But hours after it was overturned he issued another nearly identical decree.
López Obrador and his Morena party have also taken aim at other independent government bodies, including the country's elections watchdog. Lawmakers passed a law earlier this year that reduces the electoral institute’s budget, closes local offices and diminishes its ability to sanction politicians and parties that violate election laws, among other changes.
Mexican president @lopezobrador_ and his allies in Congress have effectively paralyzed the independent transparency and data protection agency @INAImexico.— Tyler Mattiace (@TMattiaceHRW) May 24, 2023
Mexicans’ right to protect their privacy and access public information is under threat.
From @hrw:https://t.co/gtVGYh7jAe pic.twitter.com/E26LfZBTLY