More on the New Archives Law in Mexico

by Margarita Vargas

As a consequence of the activism of historians and library science professionals, the law will not be presented to the Mexican Senate during the next period of sessions. This gives time for more work, analysis, and proposals. The objective is to have a law that allows transparency and unrestricted access to archives. This way, the law will give way to an inclusive and plural historic memory. To achieve this, the Board of the Mexican Committee of Historic Sciences asks historians to continue the activism against the current initiative: http://www.h-mexico.unam.mx/node/18771.

Por el Derecho a la Memoria (For the Right of Historic Memory)

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

New Law of Archives in Mexico

by: Margarita Vargas, originally posted on SAA’s International Archives and Archivists blog.

Mexico holds the 4th International Seminar on Transparency and Record Keeping Nov. 16, 17, and 18 in the midst of the controversy over the new law of archives in Mexico. In La Jornada newspaper, Soledad Loaeza explains that this new law has been drafted by politicians who have not taken into consideration  LIS professionals or historians. Their intention seems to be censorship. This coincides with the increasing restriction of the materials that researchers can use at the Archivo General de la Nación. This censorship has been justified by the need to protect personal information, but it does not follow an established policy or procedure. For Spanish readers: the text of the law that the Mexican senate is reviewing is here.

Update on Archives in Mexico

Dear Lachistas,

We are lending our support to fellow Mexican archivists and library professionals by making public a collective letter they composed to raise awareness about a governmental reform that seeks to control access and transparency of archival repositories. This reform threatens the humanistic mission of the Archivo General de la Nación (AGN) with budget cuts of 78%; more worrisome, the AGN’s will be placed under the supervision of the Secretaria de Gobernación which might potentially lead to censorship. As Enrique Chmelnik discussed in our annual meeting in Atlanta, the reform will also undermine private archives. Given the violence, constant violation of human rights, lack of accountability, and lack of transparency, this is not a positive picture.

Signed,

Ana Rodriguez, LACCHA co-chair

Link to open letter from Mexican archivists: http://www.h-mexico.unam.mx/node/18497