Mexico City

Capital approves constitution

A new constitution for the second largest city in the Western Hemisphere was approved on Sunday February 5, precisely 100 years since the Constitution of Mexico was promulgated.

“The city has been in continuous pursuit of improvement and consolidation of the rights won in the Mexican Revolution,” commented the Mayor of Mexico City, Miguel Angel Mancera, during the signing ceremony of the executive order for the publication of the constitution. However, the document has been the source of controversy in public discourse, with various groups on the right leading opposition to key articles.

Drafted communally by the 100 members of the Constitutional Assembly, a body which comprises political representatives from across the Mexican political spectrum, the constitution will not come into force in its entirety until mid-September 2018. However, some sections will be enacted within weeks, specifically the parts relating to elections and voting. Mexico will hold both federal and presidential elections in 2018.

The city’s government proudly claims that this is not only the youngest constitution in Latin America, but also the most progressive and innovative on the continent. It recognizes the therapeutic use of cannabis—a law for which is likely to be approved once written—and bans any type of discrimination against people in the LGBT community, as well as allowing for unions between same-sex partners.

Euthanasia and abortion will also be granted legalized to certain extents. Abortion will be allowed until 12 weeks into pregnancy, setting the capital apart from over half of the nation’s states where the practice is totally outlawed. The Catholic Church has deemed the constitution “murderous,” and claims that its concessions for abortion are “abominable.” “The official response stated that abortion is “even worse than that of narcotrafficking.”

However, constitutional reform in Mexico and the decisions of the Constitutional Assembly have been traditionally progressive. Exactly one century prior to the approval of the new constitution the 1917 Constitution of Mexico was the first in the world to guarantee social and property rights to people living in rural areas. Many of the current members of the assembly aim to maintain an equally innovative approach today.
Another two noteworthy rights enshrined in this new constitution include the limiting of maximum working hours to 40 per week, and a guarantee of 20 days of leave for workers, who had previously been guaranteed just one. Limiting timetables to a maximum of 40 hours per week is a major step in a country that ranks the highest in annual hours actually worked per worker, according to the OECD, with a total of 2,246 hours per year.

Additionally, the voting age will drop from 18 to 16 years, and the document affirms the right of citizens to have a high-quality transport system to solve Mexico City’s huge mobility problem. The densely populated capital does not have a public transport system that meets its citizens’ mobility needs, but this element of the constitution will ensure the issue will be dealt with regardless of which party is in office.

The constitution also establishes Mexico City as a federal entity, and defines its government and political structures as such. The approval of this new fundamental law for the capital marks the culmination of 20 years of reforms that began with the first election of a mayor for the city in 1997, when Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas was elected, the son of the celebrated former President Lázaro Cárdenas.

The Secretary of Interior, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, was also present during the ceremony, and stamped his signature on the new legal document. “Just as the 5th of February 1917 was a major milestone for Mexico, so will the 5th of February 2017 be remembered as a turning point in the history of the capital,” he stated.

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