Professor Jonathan Fox tests the effectiveness of Mexico’s federal transparency reforms.
Mexico’s laws and official political discourse now emphasize transparency. Citizens’ “right to know” is assumed to encourage more accountable governance. But what difference have these reforms made in practice, and how do we know? After the historic presidential elections in 2000, the momentum for institutional change quickly stalled. Once incoming president Vicente Fox proved unable to assemble a working majority in Congress, the “reform of the state” dropped off his list of priorities. National regulatory agencies remained weak and ineffective. Democratic electoral change at the subnational level — widely credited with helping to drive the national transition in the 1980s and 1990s — turned out to produce relatively little in the way of innovative democratic governance. Impunity for human rights violations persisted.