Margarita Vargas-Betancourt, International Archives Affairs Section
In past weeks, Mexican scholars, archivists, and LIS professionals have organized forums and issued declarations to make known their discontent with the new General Law of Archives that was presented to the Mexican Senate on November 17, 2016. This new law would supersede the Federal Archives Law which has been in place since 2012. Why is this new law troublesome?
The new law proposes the creation of a Ruling Council of the National Archives System. The Council would be under the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior. The law also states that the president of the country would designate the Director of Mexico’s National Archives. These provisions take away the technical and administrative autonomy of the National Archives and the National System of Archives, and thus eliminate the checks and balances that such institutions should provide.
Although this law is supposed to guarantee transparency, it does not guarantee access to public and historic records. For this reason, scholars and LIS professionals request that the new law sets standards to regulate the transfer of government records to the National Archives and to prevent the restriction of access, the deaccession, or the destruction of such records.
Enrique Chmelnik, President of the Association of Mexican Private Archives and Libraries (AMABPAC) and Director of the Center of Documentation and Research of the Jewish Communities in Mexico (CDIJUM) participated at the SAA’s 2016 Annual Meeting in Atlanta. There he explained two concerns that Mexican private LIS institutions have about the new law. The first is that the new law did not set up a democratic procedure to select the representative of private archives and libraries to the Ruling Council of the National Archives System. The second is that the new law gives the Mexican state the power to expropriate private archives, but does not set up a transparent and accountable way to exert such power, such as the creation of interdisciplinary and autonomous councils that might supervise and advise on the expropriation.
On November 28, 2016, scholars and LIS professionals met with the Mexican senate to discuss the new law. They demanded that the new law be modified to meet the needs for transparency, access to information, and accountability. These needs are especially urgent because in the last years, human rights have been constantly violated in Mexico.
For the petition by scholars and LIS professionals see: http://www.h-mexico.unam.mx/node/18666
For a summary of the meeting see: https://youtu.be/w1x_3h-ZDGQ
For Enrique Chmelnik’s petition to the Mexican senate see: https://youtu.be/kHUjFJGnhEc