The Mexican Senate voted on Wednesday (October 21) to pass a bill that cuts funding from 109 public trust funds, which the government pays into. These accounts provide consistent funding, unrelated to the national budget. About one-third of the $68 billion pesos ($2.5 billion US) from the government that would ordinarily go into these trusts each year supports scientific research, and the rest is for sports, health initiatives, protections for journalists, and disaster relief.
As the Associated Press reports, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called for the cuts back in April, citing widespread corruption and doubt that the funds actually reach and benefit Mexican citizens. López Obrador has also said that the money is needed to support the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and that his administration inherited a lot of debt when he took office in 2018. According to The Guardian, $3 billion pesos have been earmarked for pandemic response, among other reallocations.
Opponents of the bill have expressed worry that this is a power move intended to make researchers more reliant on annual appropriations, which could fluctuate with political change and do not provide the stability of the trusts.
“[López Obrador] has always referred to scientists as if we were a privileged group that lives in the comfort of our cubicles, enjoying advantages and far away from reality,” Antonio Lazcano, an evolutionary biologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Science earlier this month.
“[Public trusts are] clearly necessary for many scientific projects but also for keeping the arts going, and having a trust fund for attending natural disasters seems to me like a no-brainer—but go figure,” Beatriz Rumbos, a mathematician at the Instituto Tecnológico Autonomo de México, tells Times Higher Education earlier in October.
The loss of the trusts will be an incredible hardship, some scientists claim. “It’s as if we were going back 20, 40 years,” María del Carmen Robles Domínguez, a chemist at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies, tells Science.