The fight for access to information in Puerto Rico says farewell to 2018 with important court victories, but we welcome 2019 with a red flag about how the execution of public affairs that affect us today, and will affect us for decades to come, is taking place under a shroud of darkness worse than the one we had before Hurricane María struck. The intention of being transparent about public affairs was one of the things that the hurricane blew away and which has not been recovered. That said, we anticipate the need — as it happened in 2018 — for more individuals and organizations to turn to the courts to exercise their constitutional right to access to information. One example that the government is counting on secrecy on public affairs now that decisions are being made regarding the hundreds of millions of dollars in recovery funds, the debt adjustment plans and the privatization of assets such as the power system, is contained in two legislative bills moving forward on the issue of transparency: Senate Bill 236 (about open data) and House Bill 1095 (about transparency.)
In both cases, the Transparency Network, a work group that comprises, among others, the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, by its initials in Spanish,) Open Spaces, Sin Comillas and GFR Media, presented amendments so the measures would not represent a step back or even a violation of current constitutional rights to access. However, after the suggestions were accepted and presented by House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, all it took was one call from La Fortaleza to tear the amendments apart and return the bill to its dangerous original state.