A blogger brought attention to the possible misuse of public funds for Mexico’s participation in World Fairs. His research is raising additional questions over how money is being used to fund the upcoming 2010 World Fair in Shanghai.
The researcher, Cesar Corona, has filed numerous public records requests with Mexican authorities to document the distribution of funds for the World Fairs, according to El Universal. Corona has focused his research on Mexico’s participation in Aichi in 2005 and Zaragoza, Spain in 2008. According to his findings, Mexico spent at least 305 million pesos in the pavilion that was constructed in Zaragoza compared to the more moderate amount of 179 million pesos spent by Japan. Updates on Corona’s public records requests are displayed in several blogs he created, including one for the upcoming Expo 2019 in Shanghai. His findings recently caught the attention of El Universal newspaper, which wrote a story about the issue that credited Corona’s investigations.
Corona, a graduate in international relations at the UNAM, notes that in 2008 Mexico handed over the management of Mexico’s participation in the World Fair to a group called ProMexico. According to the official definition, ProMexico is a group that assists in promoting exports from established countries in the country and coordinates activities to attract foreign investment. Previously, management of the process was done by the Secretary of Exterior Relations. Corona raises the question of whether it was appropriate to transfer responsibilities of the cultural event to an organization involved in promoting investment and commerce.
Corona is hoping to obtain an audit of the money spent on the 2008 World Fair, but in the meantime he has compiled bits and pieces from more than 100 public information requests. In one of the documents, he was able to detail how in 2006 the office of the Secretary of Exterior Relations paid 600,000 pesos to a group called MetaDesarrollo for a preliminary assessment for the project. The final report was an Excel table with eight concepts detailed with costs, more than 100 pages of historical background of previous World Fairs and a synthesis of official information regarding the upcoming World Fair.
No methodology was explained to justify the cost of Mexico’s participation at 66.7 million pesos in “salaries and honorariums”, with a total cost of more than 252 million pesos, according to El Universal. César Corona also documented that there was not a competition to elect the design of the pavilion for Zaragoza, according to El Universal. One example of possible anomalies in the World Fair of Aichi was the payment of 7 million pesos in salaries to 30 employees in one month.
According to the El Universal article, ProMexico officials emphasized that they are committed to transparency and efforts are being made to improve their accountability. For example, Expo Zaragoza 2008 was a more transparent process than Aichi of 2005 because it was organized in a way so that it can be audited. For the upcoming World Fair, ProMexico has designated 344.5 million pesos for a pavilion. The bidding process for the pavilion construction was won by Creatividad y Espectáculos, S.A. de C.V. In reaction to his findings, Corona has been invited to participate in the advisory council for the planning of the upcoming World Fair in China.
Meanwhile, Corona has started another blog that is meant to bring attention to public information requests he files for other matters that catch his eye. The most recent one he writes about is his search for information about the exact location of all the archeological sites in the Federal District. Despite a response from the Federal Institute for Access to Public Information that reserved release of the documents to prevent damage to the sites, the National Institute of Anthropology and History provided him with an exact location of 310 of the sites. He was able to confirm that one of them was just a few streets from his home and 73 others exist in the delegation he lives in.
From the July Justice in Mexico Project’s Monthly News Report:
Aguilar, Julio. “ProMexico gasta mas de Japon en un Expo.” El Universal. June 17, 2009.
Corona, Cesar. http://mexico-expo2010shanghai.blogspot.com/
Corona, Cesar. http://transparenciaporpuroplacer.blogspot.com/
Corona, Cesar, http://mexico-expo2008zaragoza.blogspot.com/