López Obrador announces a reform to eliminate the INAI and other autonomous institutes: “They are useless”

The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has noted one more purpose to the long list of pending issues that he wants to carry out in the nine months remaining until his six-year term ends, on September 30, 2024. The president announced this Monday that will present an initiative to reform the Constitution so that various autonomous bodies disappear, starting with the INAI, the Institute for Access to Public Information, widely used by journalists, civil associations and citizens to find out how the Government spends public resources, in aspects such as the payroll of officials, hiring and granting permits to private individuals. “There are many onerous organizations that are useless, they are superfluous expenses,” he said this Monday in his daily conference at the National Palace. “We have to carry out an administrative reform and all those supposedly autonomous organizations have to disappear, because they do not serve the people, they are at the service of minorities,” he added. López Obrador’s announcement came just a few hours after the INAI elected commissioner Adrián Alcalá as its new president.

López Obrador has indicated that the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT), the Economic Competition Commission (Cofece) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) must also disappear. These institutions have been conceived with a certain budgetary and management autonomy with respect to the Executive and the economic powers, in order to monitor, from a middle point, the management of public goods. Cofece has the purpose of detecting monopolistic practices in business and stopping them; For example, in 2021 it imposed a fine of 903 million pesos on various pharmaceutical companies for colluding in the drug distribution market. The IFT focuses on telecommunications services, and in 2014 declared that Telmex, owned by magnate Carlos Slim, is a preponderant agent and forced it to adopt measures to level the playing field in favor of new competitors. The CRE participates in the distribution of hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation permits to individuals.

For López Obrador, all these functions can be carried out by the Government itself. On other occasions, the president has assured that the autonomous institutes were created in past six-year terms to expand the bureaucracy and place friends in those decision-making positions. “It is another bill that I want to send: how to dismantle all that apparatus that they created, parallel to the Government, to have control of all the decisions of public power?” He elaborated this Monday. He has also assured that these institutions usually act in favor of private interests to the detriment of public interests. “Every time you want to defend Pemex, the Federal Electricity Commission, the Competition Institute comes out [Cofece] to defend individuals,” he indicated.

The president attacked the autonomous bodies this Monday when journalists asked him in his conference if, before concluding his mandate, he would promote a tax reform, one of the great debts of his Administration. López Obrador has ruled out sending an initiative of this type, arguing that it would not be useful to collect more taxes until the reform of public administration is deepened, the government apparatus is reduced and current spending on luxuries for the bureaucracy is reduced. “What have we done? Remove all those privileges and thus free up funds for development. The government cost the people a lot, it was a government that was maintained and good for nothing,” he explained. “We cannot think about a fiscal reform before finishing adjusting the government, for the government to be austere in its entirety, there cannot be a rich government with poor people,” he indicated.

The announcement of the reform to eliminate the INAI is only the confirmation of a long-cherished desire of the ruling party. With a structure of seven commissioners, the Transparency Institute has remained for months with only four of its members. Congress, dominated in both Chambers by Morena, López Obrador’s party, has obstructed the appointment of the replacements. Due to lack of quorum to meet, the INAI was, in fact, in a technical closure that prevented it from reviewing thousands of requests for access to government information promoted by citizens. The Supreme Court of Justice had to intervene, despite the ruling party, to authorize the institute to hold an extraordinary session with an incomplete plenary session until Congress fulfills its obligation to elect the three missing commissioners. To add further to the INAI crisis, the Chamber of Deputies responded with a cut of 71 million pesos to the institute’s budget for next year.

Just this Sunday, in an extraordinary session, the plenary session of the Transparency Institute elected a new president, Adrián Alcalá, after Commissioner Blanca Lilia Ibarra left office. The internal selection process was not free of tensions. Commissioner Julieta del Río was rumored to take office, but in recent days she was the subject of strong criticism in the media. Del Río ended up giving in and withdrew her candidacy to preside over the institution, but she suggested that Alcalá did not have the “ethical and moral solvency” to take the position. After four rounds of voting, and with the casting vote of the outgoing president, Alcalá was elected as head of the body for the period 2023-2026.

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