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Sent: 10 July 2012 13:19 Subject: Research Note: Transparency and Transition in Mexico When the polls closed and the results of Mexico's 2012 presidential elections became public, the declared winner, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, made a promise to the nation. "Anyone who does not have a firm commitment to democracy, to liberty, and to transparency, has no room in this project...there will be no return to the past." President-elect Peña Nieto's ostensible dedication to transparency signals a departure from his party's checkered past and has important implications for those who study Mexico and the politics of intelligence. During the seven decades that members of the PRI controlled Mexico, they kept a tight lid on the inner workings of their government. Citizens and scholars alike had limited access to information; even the media collaborated in the culture of secrecy. The government's monopoly on information suffered a serious blow when the PRI's candidate lost to the National Action Party's Vicente Fox in the 2000 presidential elections. Responding to pressure from civil society actors, Fox signed into law a freedom of information act in 2002. Federal agencies had to create "liaison offices" to respond to citizens' requests for public information. The law also established an autonomous government agency--the Federal Institute of Access to Information (Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Información, or IFAI)--to coordinate implementation. The IFAI created an electronic request system and searchable database to help process the more than two hundred thousand requests it received in the first four years alone. In 2007, a further constitutional reform vertically and horizontally expanded the public's access to information through all levels of government and across all the states and municipalities of the nation. Mexico's freedom of information act has had mixed results. According to a study conducted by researchers from the National Security Archive, the government's responses to requests for information satisfied 76% of the sample group. They found that some federal agencies have proven more cooperative than others; the Mexican Institute of Social Security and the Ministry of Health, for example, have excellent records of compliance, while the Ministry of National Defense answered requests with unsigned Word documents without any letterhead. Archival issues also limit implementation of the freedom of information law. According to IFAI officials, archiving documents created since the passage of the law is a challenging but manageable task, but accessing unorganized historical documents remains nearly impossible without significant budgetary improvements. One of the original goals behind the movement for transparency-prosecuting human rights crimes committed during Mexico's "Dirty War" of the 1960s to 1980s-also remains largely unfulfilled. The special prosecutor that Vicente Fox assigned to the case in 2002 failed to bring any senior government, military, police, or intelligence officials to justice for human rights violations. One of the most promising results of the freedom of information act was the declassification of tens of thousands of formerly secret records from the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of National Defense relating to Mexico's "dirty war." These files, now housed in the national archive in Mexico City, contain an immense paper trail of intelligence reports, press clippings, photographs, transcripts of wiretaps, and other documents. Since the Mexican courts have failed to provide justice for past crimes, human rights activists have begun using this declassified evidence in cases brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In a landmark decision in 2009, the international court found the Mexican government responsible for the 1974 detention and disappearance of a schoolteacher and social activist. Other relatives of victims have also petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights using evidence from the declassified records. The declassification of the so-called "dirty war" records has also been a boon for historians and other scholars interested in Mexico's recent past. Among the files opened were those of the organization that acted as the country's premier intelligence service, the Department of Federal Security (Dirección Federal de Seguridad, or DFS). The DFS records are relatively well organized and easy to use, especially when compared to the un-catalogued and jumbled intelligence files of the Department of Political and Social Investigations. In addition, federal police reports, press summaries, and other materials are available in various states of organization. Historians have already begun using these sources to examine such topics as the contribution of Mexico's intelligence apparatus to the PRI's political dominance and the government's counter-insurgency campaigns against various armed opposition movements. The records could prove invaluable for projects on a wide variety of subjects including intelligence operations, protest movements, opposition politics, international cooperation, migration, and human rights violations. Even scholars who do not focus on Mexico might find useful material, especially for comparative, international, or transnational projects. For example, while surveying the intelligence records for my research on Mexico's international relations with Cuba and the United States, I located a number of reports written in English about worldwide leftist organizations and interrogations of Cuban defectors. These documents and others like them can help historians trace and analyze the information that exchanged hands among intelligence agents in multiple countries. Researchers who wish to use the declassified documents might want to hurry. Enrique Peña Nieto's election and the PRI's likely return to power raise important questions about the future of transparency in Mexico. Will the government's efforts to expand freedom of information continue, or will Peña Nieto's administration return to his party's old habits? What will happen to the declassified intelligence records that have exposed many of the PRI's dirty secrets--will they remain available under a PRI administration? Will the Mexican courts start holding people accountable for past crimes, or will the culture of impunity continue? Peña Nieto has promised that his election will not usher in a return to the past; a large part of keeping that promise will depend upon his dedication to transparency.  José de Córdoba and David Luhnow, "Mexico's Leader Seeks to Shed the Past," The Wall Street Journal, 6 July 2012, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304141204577510841689923290.ht ml?mod=googlenews_wsj.  Benjamin Fernández Bogado, Emilene Martínez-Morales, Bethany Davis Noll, and Kyle Bell, "The Federal Institute for Access to Information and a Culture of Transparency: Follow Up Report" (Philadelphia: Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Philadelphia, 2007).  Kate Doyle, Jesse Franzblau, and Emilene Martínez-Morales, "FOI in Practice: Analysis of the Mexican FOI System" (National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 247, March 20, 2008), http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB247/index.htm.  Fernández Bogado, Martínez-Morales, Davis Noll, and Bell, "The Federal Institute for Access to Information and a Culture of Transparency: Follow Up Report."  Kate Doyle and Jesse Franzblau, "Archival Evidence of Mexico's Human Rights Crimes: The Case of Aleida Gallangos" (National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 307, March 9, 2010), http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB307/index.htm.  Aaron Navarro, Political Intelligence and the Creation of Modern Mexico, 1938-1954 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010); Tanalís Padilla, Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata: The Jaramillista Movement and the Myth of the Pax Priista, 1940-1962 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008); Fernando Herrera Calderón and Adela Cedillo, eds., Challenging Authoritarianism in Mexico: Revolutionary Struggles and the Dirty War, 1964-1982 (New York: Routledge, 2012). --- Renata Keller Assistant Professor International Relations Boston University 152 Bay State Road Boston MA 02215