Mexican President Vicente Fox on Thursday posted his personal financial disclosure on an internet site that will be made available to the public. This is one of a number of steps being taken in Mexico to open the government to the eyes of the public.
Sitting at a desk with a laptop computer, President Fox typed in the code word necessary to put his personal financial data in a file system called "Declaranet." This Mexican government system is to be used to store information on 150,000 officials. President Fox said his participation is meant to set an example of a new, more open style of government in Mexico.
He said he had been the first federal deputy to make public his personal finances, the first state governor to do so and now he said he wants to be the first president to take this action. He said the information will be available to the public within a day or so. The information is kept by the Comptroller General's office as a means of keeping track of the financial interests of public officials.
The action is part of a general effort on the part of the Fox government to open government agencies and the officials who run them to the eyes of the public they serve.
On Tuesday, the Mexican senate unanimously approved a bill to establish the country's first ever freedom of information law. The same bill was passed last week by the lower house and is expected to be signed by President Fox sometime in the coming days.
Under this new law federal agencies will be obligated to post basic information on such matters as budget, payroll, debt and contracts on the internet. The law also establishes a Federal Institute for Access to Public Information, which will facilitate requests from the public. The Institute must respond to a request within 20 working days and provide the information within ten more days. If the agency fails to respond to a request within the set period, the request will be considered automatically approved and the agency involved would be required to provide the information.
The only information kept from the public under the new law is that involving national security or information pertaining to private citizens.
In the past Mexican bureaucracies have held most information closely and have provided very little public access to data. Some journalists and academic experts say the culture of the Mexican bureaucracy is not likely to change quickly in spite of the new law, but they still see it as a great advance. In any case, the bureaucrats will have time to adjust, the law will not take effect until one year after the president signs it.