Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's initiative to shut down the state-run news agency, Notimex, came after the Chamber of Deputies approved the bill by a narrow margin of votes in favor and against.
The result of the vote in Congress, reported the local newspaper El Universal, was 262 to 210 and happened on Wednesday. The move to close the public media outlet took place in the context of suspicions about the new destination of the funds received by the agency and, in parallel, the liquidation of the employees who carried it out, which resulted in protests as early as Thursday.
On October 17, López Obrador sent the bill after having made the decision to suspend the law that created the Mexican State News Agency, published in June 2006.
"Today more than ever, the work of informing can be carried out without the need for intermediaries such as agencies, even without the professional media that at other times served as exclusive channels of information," specified the project promoted by the president of Mexico.
The sanctioned decree - according to the ANSA agency - establishes that the Institute to Return the Stolen to the People (INDEP) will be in charge of liquidating the decentralized body, "guaranteeing full respect for the rights of workers".
The opposition rejected the measure, arguing that it was an attempt to seize "a bag of 1.200 billion pesos" (about $70 million) to "allocate them" to the electoral campaigns of the ruling National Regeneration Movement.
López Obrador's government shut down the state-run news agency after a close vote in the House of Representatives.
The sum corresponds to the money he allocated to the operation of the agency since 2020, when the strike of its workers broke out, despite the fact that it was not working.
"Morena [AMLO's party] wants to finance the campaign with the Notimex bag, because it has those 1,200 million without usingr," said the deputy of the opposition National Action Party, María Elena Pérez-Jaén.
The extinction of this body "is the reflection of a government that despises the practice of freeand responsible journalism," he added.
"Why do Notimex disappear when they are in the middle of a presidential campaign? What cynicism thata month ago we approved the budget they will allocate 237 million to Notimex, and since it is on strike, the budget has not been used since 2020," accused PRI Deputy Cynthia López during the debate.
And he lashed out at the Mexican government: "So Notimex has more than 200.200 billion pesos in the bag, and those <>.<> billion pesos that have not been used go directly to finance Morena's presidential campaign, because they no longer know where to get more money from."
For her part, and in defense of the project, PT deputy Lilia Aguilar recalled that Notimex was created in 1968 "to offer information on the Olympic Games" held in the Mexican capital, but that "it also arose from the need of the PRI members to control the flow of information," and maintained that the agency "was used as a box that served for the social control of the PRI regime that was in power."
More than 200 unionized people and their families "will lose their livelihoods," in addition to "trusted and fee-based" workers, as well as reporters and correspondents abroad, according to the legislator.
Tension between the union of the state agency Notimex and the Mexican government over the liquidation of former employees
Less than 24 hours after the approval of López Obrador's bill to close Mexico's state news agency, members of the Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de Notimex (SutNotimex) demanded that legislators, who endorsed the initiative, "comply with the commitments made to the workers" and that "sufficient resources be guaranteed for liquidations in strict accordance with the law."
In addition, they warned that the ruling establishes that the settlement must be paid with resources from the Budget, so they asked for the intervention of the Treasury in the face of the risk that the money available is not enough due to the complaints of alleged embezzlement.
A postcard of the protests by Notimex, the state news agency that is now the first to share the protests in the country.
The union also reiterated its disagreement with the decision of the head of the National Palace to close the agency after 55 years of history, "because it loses a source that provided employment to more than 300 workers, and a public media outlet that became a benchmark in the national and international arena."