Michener, Greg. 2005. "Engendering Political Commitment:
The Grupo Oaxaca -- Expertise, Media Projection -- and the Elaboration
of Mexico's Access to Information Law." Paper presented at the Southern
PSA conference, New Orleans, 6 January 2005.
ATI (FOI) laws are intended to increase transparency, improve investment climates and keep public servants accountable.
Mexico's third goal is to reform endemic corruption.
Sets up Fed Inst. of ATI (IFAI). 30 day response time, limits classified material to 12 years.
Reform measures arouse opposition from existing powers (Geddes, 1991; 1994) and are little understood by the public, hence have shallow constituency (Holloway, 2001). How could a small group of academics and media engender unanimous support of legislative and executive branches for a strong ATI law? Used media extensively to give incentive for political support for ATI. Opposition united to allow Oaxaca to negotiate bill with executive. Transparency urged to cure corruption and secrecy but little written on policymaking for ATI by "epistemic communities" (Haas, 1992), especially media (Lawson, 2002).
Government was subsidizing 70% of media costs, resulting in collusion. Despite fear of losing subsidies, media criticism of government increased in 1970s, stimulated by Tlatelolco massacre 1978. ATI would have threatened selective subsidy system. Subsidized media considered either ATI or elimination of subsidies a "Ley Mordaza" (gag law). At official public fora in 1977 and 1982, most subsidized media declined to support ATI, perhaps from fear of repercussions. 1977 constitutional amendment added this to Chapter 1 (individual rights), Article 6, on the free expression of ideas: "The right to information will be guaranteed by the state." Government interpreted this oddly as a social right, for political parties (hence only PRI) rather than individuals. PAN legislators persuaded new President Zedillo of PRI in January 1995, commission reported 1997. Subsidized media objected and PRD defected from ATI coalition with PAN. Subsidized media saw ATI as threatening "freedom of expression." Lack of consensus justified lack of regulation after the amendment.
influenced by International actors (World Bank, IMF, Journalists, OAS, Transparency International) who suggested transparency and ATI to candidate Fox prior to 2000 election victory with 70% support. Fox included ATI among goals of fighting corruption, improving transparency, and reducing crime, privatization and reforming institutions. Executive commission under SECODAM (Comptroller) gradually developed ATI proposals. Truth Commission to investigate PRI abuses was more actively demanded -- but Fox unable to proceed because PRI still held many Governors and representatives. ATI became a compromise solution, promoted by university conferences in spring 2001. Comptroller's draft leaked -- gave Comptroller complete discretion to withhold information. Grupo Oaxaca, Declaration 24 May 2001: professors and journalists joined hands with human rights NGOs, think tanks, chose ATI law project. Six democratic principles in design of ATI law (Ginger Thompson, NYT, 25 May 2001 -- wife of participant). Frustrated in reforms, the Fox administration emphasized its corruption investigations in May, then issued decrees on privatization and federal job cutting -- but suffered "Towelgate" corruption scandal itself and dropped below Colombia in Transparency International's Corruption index. Summer 2001 executive explored US FOIA and Canadian ATI models. "Pugna," period of struggle. Four leading newspapers established "Joe Citizen" column, parody of closed government. Prof. Villanueva column also. The three leading Left, Center and Right publications may have desired ATI to reduce the competition of less popular publications by weakening the subsidy system. (MS p.18) Both Grupo Oaxaca and PAN leaders agree they did not trust each other to cooperate, Oaxaca wanted stronger law than PAN, and struggle resulted. Oaxaca loudly rejected PAN forums in Autumn 2001. Government learned would have to include all three branches in law. 1 Dec 2001, PAN submitted bill to congress, Oaxaca lobbied for ATI as an opposition tool, 6 Dec. all opposition parties supported Oaxaca as their negotiator. PRI, in disarray from losing presidency and transitioning to democratic processes, (prompted by Left deputy, Beatriz Paredes Rangel) joined last. Negotiations. Official Sergio Lopez Ayllon, former professor and legal craftsman, with open style, drafted exec. version of bill close ot Oaxaca bill. Classified information protection reduced from 20 years to 12 years. Commissioners appointed by president would have to be approved by one chamber of congress. "Positive ficta": federal failure to acknowledge request still requires disclosure in 30 days. (MS p.28 could be clearer.) Watchdog institute created within budget of comptroller -- made autonomous of executive. Ayllon shared mentor at UNAM with Villanueva, shared epistemic community, values & expertise on policy. Senate passed 30 April 2002. Executive added "transparency" to title and had conceded all but 3 provisions: establishing law under Article 6. Repealing all contrary judicial provisions. establishing congressional confirmation for presidential nomination of 5 IFAI commissioners. Negotiations became the domain of the expert rather than politicians. Political parties and politicians unable to contribute to this technical matter.
11 individuals in Grupo Oaxaca, supported by their universities and newspapers, obtained strong law from both government and opposition. Caused by political arena conditions, capabilities of Grupo, and epistemic community. Democratic transition made federal politics more permeable to untraditional actors, traditional actors insecure. Grupo's criticisms facilitated choice of Sergio Lopez Ayllon as official draftsman, with shared values.
Pers. Com. is used to mean not a web site but a personal communication (interview). (MS p.10) Pugna means struggle or competition. (MS p.10)
well written strong combination of case study with awareness of theory personal communications with some participants sense of agenda setting, group incentives sense of political and economic markets unusual media market in Mexico: subsidies maintain broad range of outlets as well as achieving complicity with government.
Could use literature on FOI in US and ATI in Canada. Could use table of analysis of provisions of bill. Could use comparative table of provisions in official and Grupo proposals. Could use comparison of processes or provisions with US and Canadian bills. Could use distinction between information and documents. FOI acts are really public records acts. Could elaborate where MS. p.17 asserts mutual rewards of prestige for media and academics, perhaps discuss their different cultures.
How does Mexico's ATI development process compare with others in developing countries? To what degree does Mexico's ATI law mirror international laws' provisions? Why did no proposal arise to give media subsidies en bloc to an autonomous professional body for dispersal by grants and rules?