01/26/13 – Members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) in the Mexican Congress are pushing to remove all five commissioners of the Federal Institute of Access to Information and Protection of Data (Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Información, IFAI) over concerns of instability in the organization, and allegations of wrongdoing. All five commissioners were appointed during the administration of Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN). In a press conference following a party meeting in Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, the PRI leader in the Mexican Senate, Emilio Gamboa, said that members of his party in the Chamber of Deputies find themselves “unsettled and worried” after an altercation that happened between sitting commissioners and IFAI President Gerardo Laveaga during Laveaga’s election on January 21, in which Commissioner Ángel Trinidad Zaldívar openly criticized the former director of the National Institute of Penal Sciences (Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Penales, Inacipe) for a lack of knowledge in the area of transparency, as well as for his “laziness” in carrying out his professional duties.
According to El Universal, Laveaga has the most unresolved access to information and personal data claims of any of the five commissioners, having accumulated 235 total in 2012 after being appointed by former President Calderón in August of last year. Thus far in 2013, he has accumulated an additional 56 claims. Former IFAI President Jacqueline Peschard follows, with 116 from 2012 and 56 for 2013. Zaldívar, who openly criticized Laveaga at his confirmation, is next, with 121 from 2012 and 55 for 2013. In defending himself, Laveaga acknowledged that he had “around 250” unresolved claims, but rejected Zaldívar’s assertion that it was due to laziness, saying that he dedicates more time to his claims, having to read them multiple times. He pointed out that his colleagues have been with the organization for four years, as compared to his six-month tenure.
Gamboa signaled allegations of conflict of interest against IFAI Commissioner Sigrid Arzt as one of the primary concerns of his party members in the lower house. Late this month, Mexico’s government oversight ministry (Secretaría de la Función Pública, SFP) opened an investigation into Arzt, who was accused of wrongdoing by Zaldívar earlier this month. The commissioners were reportedly alerted by an anonymous email that Arzt had submitted over 100 claims to IFAI under two pseudonyms. According to El Universal, 88 requests for information and 15 writs of appeal (recursos de revisión) were submitted from Arzt’s IP address between May 2010 and October 2012 under the names “María García” and “Alberto Vital Rall.” They were directed to federal governmental offices including the Office of the Presidency (Presidencia), the Interior Ministry (Secretaría de Gobernación), the Executive Secretary of the National Public Security System (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública), the Center for Investigation and National Security (Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional), and the Federal Public Security Ministry (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública Federal), among others.
The news of a possible shake-up in the IFAI comes a month following legislation introduced by President Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI and passed in the PAN-controlled Mexican Senate that, if passed by the Chamber of Deputies and signed into law by the president, would increase IFAI’s powers and autonomy, as well as raise the number of commissioners from five to seven. During his press conference, Gamboa reiterated that the legislation has not yet reached the floor of the lower house, and that the PRI-controlled Chamber of Deputies has the authority to remove IFAI commissioners, adding that the recent tumult in the IFAI was “not what we expected from an autonomous body,” and that given the recent events “it seems that in the Chamber of Deputies they will reflect much more deeply about the transparency law that President Enrique Peña Nieto presented for strengthening the IFAI.”