• Connect with us on Linkedin

Illustrating Troubling Trend, Mexico Govt Seals Information

A protester in Mexico during 2012 elections A protester in Mexico during 2012 elections

Mexico's authorities refused a freedom of information request for details on the country's drug cartels, further evidence that the Enrique Peña Nieto administration is trying to limit the public's understanding of what is happening around the country with regards to organized crime.

Linkedin
Google +

Proceso magazine reported that Reforma newspaper filed a request that the government share information about the number of criminal cartels currently active in Mexico, their leaders, and their areas of influence. In response, the Attorney General's Office (PGR) stated that the information would be sealed for 12 years because the release of such information would put the government's anti-crime strategies at risk. Sharing information about the identities of top criminal leaders and their likely location would give rival criminal organizations a strategic advantage, the PGR said.

Reforma noted that under previous President Felipe Calderon, profiles of the major criminal groups active in Mexico, and their leadership, were usually released in the annual reports of government agencies, including the PGR, the Federal Police, the military, and the now-extinct Secretariat of Public Security (SSP).

The fracturing of major drug trafficking organizations such as the Zetas, the Beltran Leyva Organization and the Gulf Cartel is believed to have contributed to rising violence in the country, as a growing pool of small splinter groups fight for power. Mexico's attorney general has said that between 60 and 80 new criminal organizations have emerged since Calderon initiated the offensive against organized crime in 2006.

InSight Crime Analysis

The PGR's response to Reforma seems to be part of a broader strategy of the Peña Nieto administration to deny access to information to non-governmental and governmental entities alike. Since taking power December 1, the new government has sought to centralize the control and flow of information (the one exception being the debacle over the numerous reports about the "disappeared"). This includes keeping information away from government allies as well, many of whom are muttering privately about their own lack of access to information in this government.  

The specific denial in this case seems is a perfect example of what we can expect going forward. The information requested about Mexico's criminal groups is fairly basic. This denial is particularly odd given that, just a few months ago, the attorney general released a public estimate of how many criminal organizations are currently active in the country. 

Mexican media outlets have recently used freedom of information requests to break organized crime stories that embarrassed the government. El Universal, for example, relied on a freedom of information request in order to reveal that the government hyped up its supposed near-capture of Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in 2012.

Mexico's government has a responsibility to restrict the release of sensitive information to the press if it endangers national security, but this can be interpreted broadly or strictly. It is not always an easy decision. Any government faces the challenge of balancing the public's right to know with the need to censor sensitive information, especially when it could put civilians or members of the security forces at risk. The US government confronts the same problem and often comes to the same conclusion as the Mexicans: last year, the US government rejected over one-third of the freedom of information requests filed.

However, the PGR's arguments that the information requested by Reforma would endanger the government's anti-crime strategy are not convincing. They feed into the larger impression that rather than striving for transparency, the government remains evasive and even misleading on matters related to organized crime as it undermines the administration's narrative that this is "Mexico's moment."

Simply put, the PGR's response to Reforma looks like a federal agency failing to follow even the most minimal standards of disclosure. This is especially troubling since Mexico's freedom of information law, passed in 2002, was once described by Human Rights Watch as "the most unambiguous achievement in the area of human rights during the [Vicente] Fox presidency." And a constitutional reform approved in 2007 further strengthened Mexico's transparency laws, mandating that federal, state, and municipal agencies follow the principle of maximum disclosure. 

The struggle to obtain information goes beyond government censorship. Many journalists have been pushed into self-censorship due to threats and conflicts of interest. It is little wonder that social media outlets have become an increasingly important, if flawed, way for the public to access information about crime. But even these informal watchdogs are sometimes intimidated into silence.

Linkedin
Google +

---

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We also encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, provided that it is attributed to InSight Crime in the byline, with a link to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

InSight Crime Search

The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas

InSight Crime Social

facebooktwittergooglelinkedin

InSight Crime Special Series

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

See entire series »

 

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill

Uruguay: Marijuana, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug.

See entire series »

El Salvador's Gang Truce

El Salvador's Gang Truce

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and the Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with

See entire series »

Juarez After The War

Juarez After The War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality.

See entire series »

The Zetas And The Battle For Monterrey

The Zetas and the Battle for Monterrey

InSight Crime delves into the Zetas' battle for Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, getting to the essence of a criminal gang that defies easy definition.

See entire series »

Slavery in Latin America

Slavery in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into modern slavery, looking at how Latin America’s criminal groups traffic human beings and force them to work as slaves.

See entire series »

FARC, Peace and Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is being dangled before Colombia. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, the enemies of the negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the process are high.

See entire series »

Displacement in Latin America

Displacement in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into the new face of displacement in Latin America, where organized criminal groups are expanding and forcing people to flee.

See entire series »

Target: Migrants

Target: Migrants

The growth of organized crime in Mexico and Central America has led to an increase in violence and insecurity across the region, posing challenges to citizens, public security forces, and travelers.

See entire series »

Zetas in Guatemala

The Zetas in Guatemala

Mexico's Zetas have taken Guatemala by storm, and they are testing this country and the rest of the region: fail this test, and Central America sinks deeper into the abyss.

See entire series »

Most Read

Few Escape Extortion in Medellin, Colombia

Few Escape Extortion in Medellin, Colombia

According to a Colombian business federation, 90 percent of small business owners in the Medellin area are victims of extortion, a figure that underscores both the prevalence of the crime and its enormous economic impact.

Read more

Closer to Global Drug Policy Reform? Not So Fast

Closer to Global Drug Policy Reform? Not So Fast

A report by a panel of high-profile political figures states that the taboo around discussing new approaches to drug regulation has been broken. But while alternative drug policy advocates have enjoyed significant victories in the past...

Read more

Did Narco-Linked El Salvador Congressman Plan Hit on Top Prosecutor?

Did Narco-Linked El Salvador Congressman Plan Hit on Top Prosecutor?

El Salvador's attorney general has accused a congressman of plotting his murder, adding a new twist to an ongoing case that has exposed alleged close ties between the legislator and a major drug trafficking network.

Read more

Latest Criminal Profile