National Security and Transparency in Mexico
Panelists agreed that progress is being made in merging the goals of security and transparency in Mexico. They noted that the landmark 2002 transparency law had delivered some benefits, as citizens learn to make information-access requests and agencies realize that they must provide responses. The implementation of the law has also coincided with stepped-up efforts from the legislative branch and from nongovernmental groups to better monitor government actions and policies.
Nevertheless, challenges remain due to the infiltration of organized crime in government and the institutional inexperience in the handling of sensitive government information.
Bureaucratic, Criminal and Data Challenges to Transparency
Sigrid Arzt, a former National Security Adviser to Mexican Pres. Felipe Calderón, cited the following continuing challenges impeding enhanced transparency in government:
The Federal Institute of Access to Information: Progress and Challenges
María Marván Laborde, Commissioner, Federal Institute of Access to Public Information (IFAI), addressed the perceived tension between the order-maintenance function of security policy and the democratic need for transparency, public accountability, and access to government information. She said the two objectives are interdependent and that good levels of transparency and of access to information actually increase the government's capacity to improve security. Yet for individual government agencies the release of information can be fraught with peril since disclosure can spotlight inadequacies.
The IFAI, Marván explained, decides information-access appeals brought by petitioners whose initial requests have been denied by a particular government agency. The Institute determines whether the petitions have merit and whether the requested information should be released. Key questions posed are whether the withholding of information is done to serve the public interest or rather to serve political interests and what harm may accompany the release of such information, she said.
Marván cited the following public information challenges in Mexico:
Drafted by Robert Donnelly, Program Associate, Mexico Institute
Andrew Selee, Director, Mexico Institute. Ph: (202) 691-4088