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Features - Electronic Guide to the Best Mexican Law Websites

By Jorge A. Vargas, Published on January 19, 2004


Jorge A. Vargas, Professor of Law, University of San Diego School of Law; LL.B. Summa cum laude, School of Law, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City; LL.M. and J.S.D. (Candidate) Yale Law School. Professor Vargas was a guest lecturer on Mexican law at New York University School of Law, International Global Program in October 1999, and a Visiting Professor at Stanford Law School where he taught a Mexican law course in 1994. He is the founder and director of the Mexico-United States Law Institute, University of San Diego, 1983-1987. Prof. Vargas is the editor and contributing author of MEXICAN LAW: A TREATISE FOR LEGAL PRACTITIONERS AND INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS (West Group, 4 vol., 1998 and 2001). The author expresses his personal thanks to Daniel B. Rodriguez, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law, for the generous 2003 Summer Research Award granted for the preparation of this work. The author also wishes to express his sincere thanks to Brian Williams, Reference Librarian, and Sushila Selness, Head of Collection Services, both from USD's Pardee Legal Research Center, and George Decker, Editor of USD's School of Law publication titled The Advocate, for their prompt and most valuable suggestions regarding the content and format of this Note. The author verifies the accuracy of the Spanish language cites and all English translations. Prof. Vargas maintains a website on Mexican law located at http://www.mexlaw.com 

[Editor's note:  Prof. Vargas is also the author of the recently published MEXICAN LEGAL DICTIONARY AND DESK REFERENCE, Thomson West, 2003. See the review on beSpacific here.]

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
1.1 Overview of Mexico’s Legal System
1.2 Mexican Law Information in Spanish
1.3 Mexican Law Information in English
2. Legislative Enactments
2.1 No Mexican Federal Statutes in English
2.2 Mexican Federal Statutes in Spanish
2.3 Mexico’s Major Codes in Spanish
a. Federal Civil Code
b. Code of Commerce
c. Code of Civil Procedure
d. Federal Code of Criminal Procedure
e. Federal Criminal Code
f.  Fiscal Code of the Federation
2.4 Mexico’s Diario Oficial de la Federación
2.5 The Federal Constitution of 1917
a. Mexico: A Federal Republic
b. The Executive Power
c. The Legislative Power
d. The Judicial Power
3. International Treaties and Conventions
3.1 Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE)
3.2 List of International Treaties and Conventions on conflict of laws,
business and environmental questions to which Mexico is a party
3.3 International Judicial Cooperation
4. Mexico’s Federal Government
5. State Governments
5.1 Specific State legislation (i.e, State Constitution, codes, laws, etc.)
6. Legal Background and History of Mexico
APPENDIX II Mexico’s 18 Secretariats of State Web Sites
APPENDIX III Web Sites of Mexico’s 31 States
APPENDIX IV Compendium of the Best Mexican Law Web Sites (5 in English and 6 in Spanish)
 

 

1. Introduction

Today, there are literally hundreds of online resources which contain information on Mexican law (and related subjects) with varying degrees of authoritativeness, accuracy and accessibility.

The prolific and varied universe of Mexican law freely available on the Internet may fall into these major categories:

  1. Official and legal information on Mexican legal materials provided by Mexico’s Federal Government. This is the most reliable, accurate and authoritative source;
  2. Information provided by each of Mexico’s thirty-one States (ranging alphabetically from Aguascalientes to Zacatecas). Most of it tends to be of an administrative and promotional nature rather than legal;
  3. Mexican academic information from UNAM’s (National Autonomous University of Mexico) Legal Research Institute. Rich, varied and comprehensive information on the most important Mexican legal subjects, disciplines and materials;
  4. Information provided by U.S. governmental, research and academic institutions. It is varied, qualitatively uneven and a bit repetitive; and
  5. Information provided by a few international organizations, which is very limited and subject-oriented.1

Surfing the Internet looking for the best web sites on Mexican law may take long hours in front of a computer without any guarantee of finding the right answer to a Mexican law inquiry. Thus, searching for the desired or needed information may be a taxing and sterile effort, especially when one considers that most Internet sites purporting to provide information on Mexican law tend to be of a mediocre quality, with poor English translations, and legal texts that are incomplete, outdated, inaccurate, and usually have no reference to any legal source.

This electronic guide has been prepared to assist anyone interested in having prompt and expeditious access to the best Internet web sites on Mexican law. These web sites are considered to be “the best” because the legal information contained in them is accurate, reliable, relatively current and authoritative, based upon the prestige and reputation of the sponsoring entities. These entities are government agencies and major academic institutions from Mexico and the United States.

Although surfing the Internet in search of domestic and foreign legal information has become a preferred strategy among law students and legal practitioners, as far as Mexican law information is concerned, it should be noted that printed materials published by reputable companies in the United States2 and Mexico3 continue to be the best and most authoritative sources of Mexican legal materials.

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1.1 An Overview of Mexico's Legal System

Mexico’s contemporary legal system emerge as a result of the 1910 revolution and the subsequent promulgation of its Federal Constitution on February 5, 1917 (entering into force three months later). Although historically influenced by the legal systems of Spain, France, and the United States, Mexico has been able to structure and maintain a distinct legal system that incorporates truly unique Mexican components. Let it suffice to mention these leading examples: the institution of “Amparo,” established to protect the constitutional rights of individuals and companies against violations from public authorities; the notion of “social rights” found in Article 123 of the Constitution enumerating the rights of workers as a social class; and the collective land tenure system of the “Ejido,” whose original objective was altered by an amendment to Article 27 of the Constitution in 1994.

Mexico’s territorial area is about three times the size of Texas (almost two million square kilometers or 761,600 square miles), inhabited today by 104 million Mexicans (Mestizos 60%, Indian 30%, Other 10%). Although this country is endowed with important and varied natural resources, about 53% of the Mexican population lives in poverty (including all of the fifty-six Indigenous ethnic groups, many of them living in abject poverty). Mexico’s treatment of its Indigenous populations and a devastatingly unfair distribution of national wealth constitute two of its major social and economic problems.

Unlike the United States, Mexico has no jury trials; no application of the principle of stare decisis; no class action suits; no Bar Exam for Mexican attorneys; no professional regulation of attorneys by state or local Bar Associations; no discovery; no elected judges; legal education is at the undergraduate level and consists of five years; and “notaries” (Notarios Públicos).

Mexico is undergoing a process of modernizing its legal system, especially in the areas of foreign investment, commercial transactions and international trade. As a result of the substantial increase of business and trade since NAFTA became effective in 1994, certain Mexican legal areas, which were under the exclusive control of the Federal Government, are now being updated and privatized. This closer commercial relationship recently developed by Mexico with the United States has led some commentators to suggest that the Mexican legal system is being subject to a gradual but pervasive process of “Americanization.”

A Federal Power divided into three Branches

Patterned after the United States, Mexico is a federal republic, representative and democratic, composed of thirty-one free and sovereign states in matters regarding their internal regime but united in a federation pursuant to the Federal Constitution (Art. 41, Fed Const.). The “Supreme Power of the Federation” is divided into three branches: the Legislative, the Executive and the Judicial (Art. 49, Fed. Const.).

A. The Legislative

The Legislative is deposited in a General Congress, divided into two chambers: one of Deputies (Diputados) and the other of Senators (Senadores). The Chamber of Deputies is formed of 500 members elected in totality every three years (last election: July 6, 2003). The Senate is formed of 128 members, renewed in totality every six years. Both deputies and senators are inviolable for their opinions (Arts. 51, 52, 56 and 61, Fed. Const.).

The Federal Congress is responsible for all the acts and regulations that govern the commercial and business activities of foreign investors and entrepreneurs in Mexico. Most of these legislative enactments are generated in the Executive. Congress has exclusive and broad authority to legislate in a very large number of areas, both in substance and scope (Art. 73, Fed. Const.).

B. The Executive

The “President of the United Mexican States” is the head of the Executive. The President is directly elected by the citizens of Mexico as mandated by the electoral laws. He initiates his office on December 1, and remains if office for six years. Mexico has no Vice-President. In Mexico, the principle of “no reelection” is of paramount importance and applies to all public officials at the federal and state levels (Arts. 80-81, Fed. Const.).

The President appoints the eighteen members (Secretarios de Estado) of his presidential cabinet. He has the exclusive power to conduct Mexico’s foreign affairs in accordance with the explicit “normative principles” enunciated by the Federal Constitution (Art. 89, paras. II and X, Fed. Const.). The Executive is responsible for a large percentage (more than 80%) of the legislative bills submitted to Congress.

During a period of seventy-one years, Mexico’s presidential elections were systematically won by the candidates of Mexico’s official party: PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party). This undemocratic status changed in July 2000 when the presidential candidate of the major opposition party, PAN (National Action Party), Vicente Fox Quesada, was elected. Federal elections in Mexico are controlled by the IFE (Federal Electoral Institute) formed by representatives of all the officially authorized political parties. Today, Mexico has eleven political parties; the following three carry the most power and influence: PAN, PRI and PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution). Presidential elections will next be held in July 2006.

C. The Judicial

The “Judicial Power of the Federation” is vested in the Supreme Court of Justice, the Electoral Tribunal, the Collegiate and Unitary Circuit Tribunals, and the District Courts (Art. 94, Fed. Const.). The Organic Act of the Judicial Power regulates the activities of the Judicial Power of the Federation.

The Supreme Court is composed of eleven Justices (Ministros) who function in Plenary sessions (En banc) and in Chambers (Salas). The President submits a list of three candidates to the Senate when there is a Supreme Court vacancy. Each Justice serves for fifteen years and may only be removed as provided by the Federal Constitution in Title IV: Responsibilities of Public Servants (Arts. 108-114, Fed. Const.).

The Federal Council of the Judiciary, with the exception of the Supreme Court, is empowered to administer, supervise and discipline the Judicial Power of the Federation.

Federal courts are exclusively empowered to exercise jurisdiction over “Amparo” cases, as directed by a reglementary federal statute derived from Articles 103 and 107 of the Federal Constitution: the Amparo Act (D.O. of January 10, 1936, as amended).

State Courts

Each of the thirty-one states has its own civil and criminal courts, organized in accordance with the respective State Judicial Power Act. At the local level, appellate cases are decided by a Superior Tribunal of the State, formed by three Magistrates and located in the state capital, which is the venue of the state powers.

Cases decided by these courts apply “the law” enunciated in the State codes, containing both substantive and procedural laws, which closely resembles in substance and format the corresponding federal codes.

Federal and State courts suffer a multitude of grievous problems. These problems include: corruption of judges and administrative personnel; inefficiency and incompetency of judges and personnel; lack of sufficient and modern technical equipment due to very limited budgets; and inadequate installations. Federal judges and courts are the best and most efficient, with relatively larger budgets and modern technical equipment, due in large part to the excellent work of the Council of the Federal Judiciary.

Recently, Mexico has enacted a number of federal statutes dealing with organized crime; rights of handicapped persons, elderly people, children and teenagers; e-commerce; domestic violence; anti-discrimination; transparency and public access to government information, etc.

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1.2 Mexican Law Information in Spanish

From a substantive viewpoint, the best resources are in Spanish and consist of the official web sites (i.e., electronic portals) sponsored by Mexican institutions at the official (federal and state), academic, and private levels.

The very best information on Mexican law is found in the electronic portals sponsored by the Government of Mexico at the federal level. These portals merit special recognition for their authoritativeness, attractive presentation and current legal content. All of them are easy to navigate and contain excellent legal and official information.5

  1. www.cddhcu.gob.mx/leyinfo 
    Legislación Federal de México (Federal Legislation of Mexico). This site is sponsored by the Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies) and gives access to the official texts of 214 federal statutes, the most important federal codes, legislative enactments for the Federal District (Mexico City), and the Federal Constitution of 1917, as amended.
     
  2. www.senado.gob.mx 
    Cámara de Senadores (Senate of the Republic). This site (recently updated, June 2003), is sponsored by the Mexican Senate. The sections of special legal interest are: (1) Legal Framework (Marco Jurídico). It contains a list of the “Statutes and Decrees” (Leyes y Decretos) passed between September 2000 and April 2003. The current text of the Federal Constitution is also available; (2) Legislative bills sent by the Executive to the Senate; (3) Texts of all the treaties and international conventions approved by the Senate; and (4) International Parliamentary Relations (Relaciones Parlamentarias Internacionales).
     
  3. www.scjn.gob.mx 
    Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación. This site is sponsored by the Supreme Court of the Nation and makes available the Ejecutorias and Jurisprudencias rendered by both the Supreme Court and the Circuit Collegiate Courts from 1917 through 1996, updated monthly since 1996. In addition, this site contains federal statutes, international treaties, 367 federal legal norms, and the text of the Federal Constitution of 1917, as amended, as well as historic information about the Supreme Court, press releases and miscellaneous administrative information.
     
  4. www.presidencia.gob.mx 
    Presidencia de la República. This official and award winning site is sponsored by the Presidency of Mexico. The Spanish version is the most complete, with summaries in English and French. It is not a legal web site; however, it features the President’s activities, special programs, press releases, and a historic archive of presidential speeches, both domestic and international. Occasionally, this site includes information on legal subjects, legislation, international treaties and conferences, and bilateral meetings between Mexico and the United States.
  5. www.precisa.gob.mx 
    Precisa” is an electronic clearinghouse to access federal agencies. This is not a legal web site; however, it is the most comprehensive and useful site providing access to all the numerous agencies of Mexico’s Federal Public Administration. Pursuant to Article 49 of the Federal Constitution the government is divided into three branches: the Executive, the Judicial and the Legislative. This site claims to have links to 2,400 governmental agencies. The site recently added access to government public information in compliance with the Act for Transparency and Access to Public Governmental Information (Ley de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información Gubernamental).6
  6. www.segob.gob.mx 
    Diario Oficial de la Federación (Federal Official Gazette) This web site is sponsored by the Secretariat of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación) which is the federal agency empowered to publish in the Federal Official Gazette (known by its Spanish abbreviations D.O. or DOF). Each and every legislative enactment passed by the Federal Congress must be published in the D.O. in order to enter into force at a given date and thus be legally binding throughout the Republic of Mexico.

The Secretariat of the Interior (Segob) maintains an archive of all the Diarios Oficiales published by the Federal government since 1917. Access to a given legislative enactment (i.e., statute, regulations, amendment, etc.) must be conducted based on either: (1) the name or title of the enactment; or (2) the date of its publication in the D.O.

The individual web sites of each of the eighteen Secretariats of State as well as those of the Administrative Departments, which constitute Mexico’s centralized public administration (Administración Pública Centralizada)7, may be consulted to access general and administrative information - not legal information on Mexican law per se - relative to the specific functions, attributions, and programs of each of these secretariats and departments.

These Mexican Secretariats compose the Presidential Cabinet (Gabinete Presidencial) and are the counterparts of the U.S. federal departments.

Turning now from the official, governmental portals, to the world of academia, the best and most complete information by a Mexican academic institution on Mexican law is available at: www.juridicas.unam.mx 

This site is sponsored by the renowned Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas (Legal Research Institute or IIJ) of Mexico’s National Autonomous University (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México or UNAM) in Mexico City. This site makes available the texts of each of Mexico’s thirty-one State Constitutions, federal statutes, Jurisprudencias, and an International Legal Navigator (Navegador Jurídico Internacional), as well as academic books, law review articles, bibliographies, etc. A rich and varied section titled: “Virtual Law Library” (Biblioteca Jurídica Virtual) on Mexican law academic materials has been recently added.8

For those legal practitioners, judges and magistrates, government officials, academicians, law students and researchers who are fluent in Spanish and are familiar with Mexico’s legal and political system, these official electronic portals, as well as the IIJ’s web site, are a must and should be consulted first. Unquestionably, these are the best web sites on Mexican law today.
 

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1.3 Mexican Law Information in English

There are also resources online in the English language which provide information on Mexican law; however, the legal content of most of these sites tends to be severely limited with respect to, for example, the quality of the English translation, the accuracy and validity of the legal text, and the authoritativeness of the Mexican source.

Unfortunately for monolingual U.S. researchers, only a minimal number of Mexican legal materials are currently available in the English language, which may be considered current, reliable and authoritative. The best sites in English on Mexican law are listed in the corresponding sections of this Note.9

Thus, any Mexican law information in English which has been taken from an on line site (especially if the site is not officially sponsored by the Government of Mexico), should be handled with caution. If said information is to be utilized to prepare a legal opinion, for example, or used in relation with any judicial, criminal, or administrative proceedings; or if it is to be submitted to a U.S. authority; or be cited or analyzed in a law book, an academic work or a law review article, it is imperative to first ascertain its accuracy, validity and authoritativeness.

2. Legislative Enactments

Mexican legal research differs drastically from U.S. research. In Mexico legal research is principally directed not at finding case law or analyzing the value of precedents (as it seems to be the rule in our country), but at determining the precise legal provision that is found in a given Mexican legislative enactment—whether a statute, a regulation or a code at a federal or state level - that applies to the legal issue in question or governs the case at bar.

In most cases, Mexican researchers do not search for case law. The reason is quite simple: since Mexico does not adhere to the Principle of stare decisis,10 the significance of case law in that country is secondary compared to the importance given to the legal principle, rule or norm found in the applicable provision of a given statute or code. Thus in Mexico - unlike the United States - rather than focusing on case law and the legal value of precedents, Mexican legal research focuses on identifying the specific provision in a statute or in a code that applies and controls the contested issue or governs the case at bar.

Whereas it is reasonable to speak of the common law as the law of the judges, according to Prof. John H. Merryman: “no one would think of using such terms in speaking of the civil law.” He writes:

  • Legislative positivism, the dogma of the separation of powers, the ideology of codification, the attitude toward the interpretation of statutes, the peculiar emphasis on certainty, the denial of inherent equitable power in the judge, and the rejection of the doctrine of stare decisis –all these tend to diminish the judge and to glorify the legislator.
    .....Although it is now admitted that civil law courts have an interpretive function, the fiction is still maintained that in performing that function the judge does not create law, but merely seeks and follows the express or implied intent of the legislator.11

    However, Mexico’s sound legal research principles dictate that it is always recommended to ascertain the tenor of the latest interpretation given to that specific legal provision by, a Federal Collegiate Circuit Court (Tribunal Colegiado de Circuito) or by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación) in their most recent Ejecutoria or Jurisprudencia.12

    Although Mexico’s legal system does not strictly adhere to the dictates of stare decisis, it should be evident by now that when a Jurisprudencia is finally reached (and reaching this fifth decision may take not one but many years depending upon the subject), this immediately establishes an obligatory judicial precedent to be followed not only by all of the federal and state lower courts but also by Mexican authorities. Therefore, Jurisprudencia constitutes the only case under Mexican law where Mexican courts must abide by a given precedent and proceed to formulate their judicial decisions accordingly.

    The decisions of the Supreme Court of Mexico and those of the Federal Collegiate Circuit Courts are published in the Semanario Judicial de la Federación (Judicial Weekly of the Federation). As noted earlier, the text of Jurisprudencias and other federal court decisions are available at the official portal of the Supreme Court of Justice and at the site of UNAM’s Legal Research Institute.

    The bulk of business, investments and trade conducted in Mexico by foreign investors and U.S. companies (or by any other foreign legal entities), is governed by federal statutes (Leyes Federales), regulations (Reglamentos), and by federal codes (Códigos federales).

    For example: the visa required to enter Mexico for business purposes, any type of foreign investment, the establishment of a Mexican company, company administrative and commercial activities, labor contracts and working conditions, environmental matters, the handling and disposal of toxic waste and hazardous materials, environmental impact statements, industrial property, technology transfers, civil aviation, radio and television, cellular phones and telecommunications, import-export activities, customs issues, Maquiladoras, transportation and communications, ports and marina activities, commercial and sport fishing, acquisition of real estate and Fideicomisos, government procurement, taxation, are controlled by federal statutes (Leyes Federales).

    Accordingly, for practical and business reasons it is essential for any foreign investor, or for a legal practitioner with clients doing business in that country, or for law students interested in Mexican law, to be familiar with and to know where to find and how to access each of the federal statutes (and their corresponding regulations) which control and regulate the conduct of business and commercial activities by foreign investors and U.S. companies in Mexico.

    It should also be evident that, although the overall activities of foreign investors and foreign companies in the Republic of Mexico are controlled by specific federal statutes, the local day-to-day activities of a given U.S. company, factory, Maquiladora, are governed by municipal and state laws and regulations, depending upon their physical location.13 Some of these state laws and regulations may be available in the respective web site of the State in question.14
     

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    2.1  No Mexican Federal Statutes in English

    Currently, there are no Internet sites that provide English translations of the totality of the Mexican federal statutes that control and regulate the commercial activities of foreign investors in Mexico. There are, however, a number of web sites that make available the text in English of one or more Mexican statutes.

    In the alternative, there are commercial companies that sell English translations of solicited statutes (and their regulations) for a fee, or as a service to paying subscribers. The listing of these commercial companies is outside the scope of this Note.

    In the absence of comprehensive Internet sites with English texts of Mexican federal statutes and regulations, possibly the best single source of these legal materials is the bilingual (English/Spanish) collection of Mexican federal statutes published in the series titled: MEXICAN LAW LIBRARY: COMMERCIAL CODES:

    Vol. 1: Business and Commercial (Seven statutes): (1) Commercial Companies Act; (2) Foreign Investment Act; (3) Foreign Investment Regulations; (4) Economic Competition Act; (5) Federal Labor Act; (6) Industrial Property Act; and (7) Bankruptcy Act, already repealed;

    Vol. 2: Tax (Three statutes): (1) Income Tax Act; (2) Value Added Tax Act; and (3) Asset Tax Act;

    Vol. 3: Financial Services (Five statutes): (1) Credit Institutions Act; (2) Negotiable Instruments Act; (3) Securities Market Act; (4) Act regulating Financial Groups; and (5) Insurance Institutions and Mutual Insurance Companies Act;

    Vol. 4: Foreign Trade (Six statutes): (1) Customs Act; (2) Maquiladora Decree; (3) Car Industry Decree; (4) Oil Act; (5) Natural Gas Regulations; and (6) Federal Telecommunications Act;

    Vol. 5: Environment and Natural Resources (Seven statutes): (1) Environmental Act; (2) Hazardous Wastes Regulations; (3) Atmospheric Pollution Regulations; (4) Environmental Impact Regulations; (5) National Waters Act; and (7) National Waters Regulations.15

    However, the text of these materials is now outdated considering that the statutes and regulations included in this series have been amended after publication in this series in 1997-1998.

    2.2 Mexican Federal Statutes in Spanish

    The volume of information on Mexican law in Spanish available on the Internet is plentiful. In particular, the official electronic portal titled: Legislación Federal de México (Mexico’s Federal Legislation), provides the most complete and current text of 229 federal statutes and the most important federal codes, as well as local enactments that only apply to the Federal District (Mexico City). All of the federal statutes included in this site govern the commercial activities of foreign investors and foreign companies in Mexico.

    1. www.cddhcu.gob.mx/leyinfo
      This website is sponsored by the Chamber of Deputies of Mexico’s Federal Congress (Cámara de Diputados del Hon. Congreso de la Unión). Legislación Federal de México (Mexico’s Federal Legislation). The texts are in Adobe Acrobat Reader format.

    This site contains the complete text of Mexico’s Federal Constitution of 1917, as amended, as well as the texts of the following federal codes: (1) the Federal Civil Code; (2) the Code of Commerce; (3) the Federal Code of Civil Procedure; (4) the Federal Code of Criminal Procedure; (5) the Federal Criminal Code; (6) the Code of Military Justice; (7) the Federal Code of Electoral Institutions and Procedures; (8) the Fiscal Code of the Federation.

    All the texts are current, updated and in force. The complete list of these federal statutes, regulations and codes (and an informal English translation of their titles) appears in Appendix I of this Note.

    From the U.S. business perspective, the most important federal statutes in this site include:

    (1) Act Against Organized Delinquency; (2) Airports Acts; (3) Civil Aviation Act; (4) Consumer Protection Act; (5) Copyright Act; (6) Credit Instruments Act; (7) Customs Act; (8) Environmental Protection Act; (9) Expropriation Act; (10) Federal Labor Act; (11) Firearms and Explosives Act; (12) Gambling and Lottery Act; (13) Fishing Act; (14) Foreign Investment Act; (15) Foreign Trade Act; (16) General Means of Communications Act; (17) Immigration Act; (18) Industrial Property Act; (19) Insurance Contracts Act; (20) International Extradition Act; (21) Investments Companies Act; (22) Mercantile Bankruptcy Act; (23) Mercantile Companies Act; (24) Mining Act; (25) Navigation and Maritime Commerce; (26) Nuclear Energy Regulatory Act; (27) Oil Regulatory Act; (28) Ports Act; (29) Radio and Television Act; (30) Stock Market Act; (31) Telecommunications Act; and (32) Tourism Act.
     

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    2.3  Mexico’s Major Codes in Spanish

    The same website: www.cddhcu.gob.mx/leyinfo, also reproduces the texts of these eight federal codes: (1) the Federal Civil Code; (2) the Code of Commerce; (3) the Federal Code of Civil Procedure; (4) the Federal Code of Criminal Procedure; (5) the Federal Criminal Code; (6) the Code of Military Justice; (7) the Federal Code of Electoral Institutions and Procedures; (8) the Fiscal Code of the Federation. All the texts are current, updated, and in force.

    Mexico is a civil law country. Accordingly, codes in Mexico play a primary role in defining the relative legal rights and obligations of parties. As legislative enactments, codes are unitary works that integrate all norms in a given branch of Mexican law in a systematic, comprehensive, organized and logical manner.

    Mexico has distinct codes to regulate: (1) civil matters, (2) civil procedure, (3) penal matters, (4) criminal procedure, (5) commerce, and (6) tax matters, at the federal and state levels. Pursuant to Mexico’s Federal Constitution of 1917, its government is structured according to a federal system (Art. 40, Fed. Const.). Thus, the federal government and each of the thirty-one Mexican states (Art. 43, Fed. Const.) maintain separate sets of codes. For the most part, state codes closely parallel the format and the language of the federal codes.

    a) Federal Civil Code (Código Civil Federal)

    Originally enacted in 1928 as the local code for the Federal District on ordinary matters and for the entire Republic of Mexico on federal matters (D.O. of March 26, 1928), a special Federal Civil Code was recently enacted by the Federal Congress (D.O. of May 29, 2000), as amended.16

    From a substantive viewpoint, the text of the Civil Code for the Federal District is virtually the same (except for minor changes), as that of the Federal Civil Code. In essence, the Federal Civil Code constitutes the core of Mexican Civil Law and occupies a most salient place within Mexico’s legal system. Furthermore, the thirty-one local Civil Codes of the Mexican States, which compose the Republic of Mexico, are a virtual copy (with insignificant changes) of the Federal Civil Code. Accordingly, this means that, de facto, regarding civil law matters the Federal Civil Code governs throughout the entire country.17

    The Federal Civil Code is composed of 3,074 Sections (Articles) divided into four sections (Books), and preceded by some preliminary provisions. Book One (Persons) refers to the rights and obligations of individuals and legal entities including: questions relative to their domicile, civil registry, marriage, divorce, adoption, relationship and support, parental authority, guardianship, emancipation, absent and missing persons, and the homestead. This new code substantially modernized most of its family law provisions. Book Two (Property) governs real property and personal property, possession, ownership, usufruct, easements and prescription. Book Three (Successions) deals with successions by will, legal and testamentary successions, executors and partition questions. Book Four (Obligations or Contracts) pertains to: contracts, special obligations and their effects, leases, agency, professional services, associations and companies, mortgages, credits and public registry.

    Under Mexican law, it is important to identify the number of Article(s) that explicitly refer to the specific topic or legal issue. For example, Article 14 of the Federal Civil Code refers to the application of foreign law in Mexico; the content of a marriage certificate is given in Article 103; the community marriage legal regime (Sociedad conyugal)18 is described in Articles 183-206, as opposed to the separation of property regime (Separación de bienes), which is regulated by Articles 207-218; the twenty grounds for divorce are listed in Article 267; and the principles that govern personal injury cases19 are enunciated in Articles 1910-1934 of the same Federal Civil Code.

    b) Code of Commerce (Código de Comercio)

    The provisions of the Code of Commerce apply exclusively to acts of commerce, and to the activities of merchants. This code composed of 1,462 Sections (Articles), was originally enacted in 1889, and has been amended several times.

    Book One (Merchants) governs merchant activities. Book Two (Overland Commerce) regulates acts of commerce and mercantile contracts, commercial transactions, commercial companies, agents, factors and employees, mercantile bailments and loans, purchase and sale transactions. Book Three (Repealed, now substituted by a federal statute on maritime commerce). Book Four (Repealed, and substituted by the recent federal Bankruptcy Act). Book Five (Mercantile Actions) refers to mercantile judicial proceedings, pre-trial and trial procedures, general rules of evidence, judgments, appeals, and commercial arbitration and its procedure.

    c) Federal Code of Civil Procedure (Código Federal de Procedimientos Civiles)

    This Code is the exact counterpart to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, first adopted in our country in 1938 and then used as a model for similar state codes. Mexico’s code was enacted in 1943, and then substantially amended in 1988 to allow for the application of foreign law by Mexican courts and to establish clearer rules in the area of international procedural cooperation.

    It is interesting to point out that Mexican judges should apply foreign law in the same manner the law would be applied by the respective foreign judge; that the non-existence, absence or lack of Mexican legal institutions, or precise procedural rules, are not to hinder the application of foreign law provided there are “analogous” institutions or procedures under Mexican law; and that different phases of a given judicial proceedings may be governed by “different laws,” whether foreign or Mexican, when applied harmoniously with the aim of achieving the intended purposes of the different applicable laws.20

    The Federal Code of Civil Procedure consists of 577 Sections (Articles) divided into four parts. Book One (Parties) regulates the parties who may intervene in a federal civil trial, the judicial authorities, the rules of evidence, judicial resolutions and judicial formalities. Book Two (Litigious Matters) regulates the trial phases, including the initial complaint, the answer, evidence, the final judgment and incidents, as well as precautionary measures and enforcement. Book Three (Special Procedures) details liquidation proceedings, demarcations and boundaries, and expropriations, closing with voluntary jurisdiction. Book Four (International Procedural Cooperation) includes some basic principles, letters rogatory, jurisdiction over procedural issues, evidence, jurisdiction over judgments, and enforcement of judgments.

    Book Four (Arts. 543-577) is particularly important; its provisions, jointly with those of other applicable federal statutes as well as treaties and international conventions to which Mexico is a party, govern cases involving international civil litigation. The Code was recently amended (D.O. of May 29, 2000).

    d) Federal Code of Criminal Procedure (Código Federal de Procedimientos Penales)

    The constitutional guarantees (Garantías individuales) enunciated by Mexico’s Federal Constitution in the criminal law area (i.e., Arts. 14, 16, and 18-23. Fed. Const.), are enunciated, protected and detailed in the Federal Code of Criminal Procedure enacted in 1934 and amended several times (D.O. of February 6, 2002).

    This Code consists of 576 Sections (Articles) divided into these Titles: Title One (General Rules) establishes the rules which govern the criminal procedure: jurisdiction, search and seizure warrants, summons, judicial resolutions, etc. Title Two (Initial Investigation) covers all aspects pertaining to pre-trial proceedings. Title Three (Causes of Action). Titles Four and Five (Pre-Trial Initial Investigation and Trial Initiation) pertains to evidence to prove the criminal offense and the probable responsibility of the alleged offender. Title Six is devoted to evidence and Title Seven to conclusions. Title Eight cover acquittals and Title Nine the criminal trial and irrevocable judgments. Title Ten refers to appeals, and Title Eleven to the incidents to free the alleged offender. Title Twelve refers to mental cases, minors and drug addicts, and Title Thirteen to the implementation of the final judgment, reduction and lessening of sanctions, pardons, amnesty and rehabilitation.

    Interestingly, this code regulates the procedure to be followed in cases taking place before a popular jury (Jurado Popular), which is a rather atypical and unusual procedure since Mexico, unlike the United States, has no jury trials. An overwhelming majority of criminal cases in Mexico are resolved by a judge (Juez de Primera Instancia) sitting as both trier of fact and of law. This includes trials at both the state and federal level.

    e) Federal Criminal Code (Código Penal Federal)

    Mexico’s Federal Criminal Code is applicable throughout the Republic of Mexico to criminal offenses of a federal nature. Enacted in 1931, this code has been amended numerous times, in particular since 2000 (D.O. of January 4 and June 12, 2000; June 1, 2001; and February 6, 2002).

    The Code is formed by 429 Sections (Articles) divided into twenty-six titles, ranging from penitentiary rules, sanctions, enforcement of judgments to professional responsibility, termination of criminal responsibility, detailed enunciation of the federal crimes, etc.

    Unlike the United States where criminal offenses are divided into “felonies and misdemeanors,” depending upon their seriousness, in Mexico criminal offenses are categorized under the social value protected by the law. Therefore, the Federal Criminal Code enunciates in detail only federal crimes (Delitos federales) which are, in turn, classified under numerous categories of “crimes against” a protected legal value under Mexican law (Delitos federales en contra de...). These categories range from crimes against the nation’s safety, international law and public security, to crimes against the person’s property and patrimony, electoral crimes, crimes against the environment, and copyright violations.

    The following list of examples may give a better idea of the specific “federal crimes” under each of these categories: the Nation’s safety (treason, espionage, rebellion, sabotage); international law (piracy, immunity and neutrality violations, war crimes, genocide); public security (prisoners’ evasions, police evasion, prohibited weapons, organized crime); general means of communication (unlawful obstacles to highways, unlawful acts against airports, mail violations); public authorities (disobedience, resistance to authorities, acts against public officers, violations to Mexico’s national symbols); health (production, possession, trafficking, inducement and other drug-related acts, sexually-transmitted diseases); public morality and good customs (obscene and pornographic acts, corruption and prostitution of minors, sexual exploitation); secrets and unlawful access to systems and information equipments; public servants (official impersonation, abuse of authority, bribery, public theft, unlawful enrichment); the administration of justice; professional responsibility; falsehood and forgery (destruction of currency and bills, bill forgery, forging of documents); the public economy (consumer crimes, criminal offenses against national assets); sexual freedom (sexual harassment, adultery); civil status and bigamy, burials and exhumations, the peace and safety of persons (unlawful home intrusions); life and physical integrity (injuries, battery, homicide, infanticide, abortion, abandonment of persons, family violence); honor (injurious insults, defamation); unlawful deprivation of freedom (unlawful detentions, kidnapping); persons’ property or patrimony (grand theft, unlawful disposition of movable assets, fraud, extortion, unlawful use of movable and real estate or waters, property damages,); electoral crimes; against the environment (technological and dangerous activities, biodiversity, biosecurity, unlawful transportation of hazardous wastes and materials); and copyright violations.

    Each Article in this code enunciates or defines in detail the corresponding criminal offense, its modalities, its essential component, and the corresponding sanction. Recently, this code has been amended to include relatively novel federal crimes such as sexual harassment, family violence, corruption and prostitution of minors, crimes against the professional malpractice of attorneys and medical doctors, electoral crimes, and certain acts against the environment. Moreover, in recent years the Government of Mexico has enacted federal statutes formulated to punish certain criminal activities; in this regard, the Act against Organized Delinquency (D.O. of October 28, 1996) deserves mention.

    f) Fiscal Code of the Federation (Código Fiscal de la Federación)

    This important Code regulates the payment of taxes in Mexico by both individuals and companies, including certain foreign nationals, as mandated by the Federal Constitution (Art. 31, para. IV), and other federal statutes. The Code was published in the D.O. of December 31, 1981 (last amendment in D.O. of December 31, 2000). This Code provides definitions of the legal tax terms, such as types of taxes, residents of the Mexican territory, fiscal domicile, impounding of assets, business activities, financial transactions, business markets, etc., all of them indispensable for tax purposes to foreign investors, foreign business persons, and foreign legal entities which transact business in or with Mexico.

    This Code is composed of 263 Sections (Articles) that range from rights and obligations of tax payers, power of tax authorities, violations and fiscal crimes to administrative appeals, challenging of fiscal summons, and the procedure for impounding assets. It also governs the procedure to be followed in suits before the Federal Tribunal of Fiscal and Administrative Justice (Tribunal Federal de Justicia Fiscal y Administrativa), which is Mexico’s highest tax court.
     

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    2.4 Mexico’s Diario Oficial de la Federación (D.O.)

    www.segob.gob.mx - This is the official web site for the Diario Oficial.

    This official gazette may also be reached through: www.precisa.gob.mx, which is the general web site providing access to the Secretariats of State (Secretarías de Estado), administrative departments and other federal agencies compose Mexico’s Federal Public Administration.

    Mexico’s Secretariat of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación or Segob) is the most politically active and the most administratively powerful entity of Mexico’s Presidential cabinet. Under the PRI’s dominance, the Secretary of the Interior was the natural candidate to succeed the President of the Republic at the end of his six-year term. Segob’s possible counterparts in the United States would be formed by the combined powers of: the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

    Segob is empowered to exercise control over national security, domestic political activities at the national and state levels, internal and international migration, legislative bills signed by the Federal Executive, religious affairs, admission and expulsion of foreigners, freedom of the press, radio and television, etc. In addition, Segob is empowered “to publish the statutes and decrees enacted by the Congress of the Union, either of its two Chambers, [of Deputies and of Senators] or by the President of the Republic.” This is done by administering, organizing and publishing the Official Gazette of the Federation (Diario Oficial de la Federación) generally recognized by its acronyms: D.O. or D.O.F.), which may be compared to the FEDERAL REGISTER in the United States.

    The D.O.’s official web site gives access to the best Mexican law information since the legislative texts in this site are officially provided by the Government of Mexico; taken verbatim from Mexico’s Diario Oficial. Pursuant to the Federal Civil Code, for any statute, regulation, etc., or any other enactment of general observance, to be legally binding throughout the Republic of Mexico they must appear in print and be published in the D.O. The texts of these federal statutes, codes, regulations, international treaties and conventions as approved by the Mexican Senate, etc., which are available on this web site are official and authoritative.

    Any federal legislative enactment may be found in the Diario Oficial with the date of their respective publication. Accordingly, in Mexico it is customary to give the title of each legislative enactment followed by the date of its publication in the D.O. At the end of each legislative enactment, both at the federal and state level, in the section titled: Artículos Transitorios (Transitory Articles or transient provisions), the reader will find the specific date of the entering into force of the enactment in question.

    As described above, most of the business and commercial activities conducted by foreign investors and foreign companies in Mexico are governed by federal statutes and corresponding regulations. It should be added now that the monitoring and enforcement of these statutes and regulations corresponds exclusively to the Federal Executive Power through its federal agencies (Secretarías de Estado or Secretariats of State), and administrative departments.

    These federal agencies and departments constitute Mexico’s centralized public administration, whose jurisdiction, administrative powers, duties and responsibilities are enunciated in the Federal Public Administration Act (D.O. of December 29, 1976, as amended). Mexico’s presidential cabinet is formed of eighteen Secretariats (federal departments or agencies), and the Office of the Legal Counsel to the Federal Executive.23
     

    2.5 The Federal Constitution of 1917

    The complete and current text in Spanish of Mexico’s Federal Constitution is available on this web site: Legislación Federal de México: www.cddhcu.gob.mx/leyinfo

    Mexico’s current Federal Constitution resulted from the popular and violent revolution initiated in 1910, which led to the emergence of contemporary Mexico. From a substantive viewpoint, the fundamental law of Mexico was inspired by the content and structure of the U.S. Constitution.

    This influence is eminently clear in two parts of Mexico’s fundamental law: first, in the initial part, which enunciates the constitutional rights, as the Individual Guarantees or Garantías individuales. Second, in the organic part establishing a form of government divided into three major branches: the Executive (Ejecutivo, Articles 80-93), the Legislative (Legislativo, Arts. 50-70, Fed. Const.), and the Judicial (Judicial, Arts. 94-107, Fed. Const.) which closely parallels the U.S. political system.

    However, the format and length of Mexico’s Constitution emulates the European models (in particular those of Spain and France). Its text is composed of 136 Articles (or sections) divided into two major parts: (1) the dogmatic part formed by the express enunciation of the constitutional rights that limit the power of the State vis à vis individuals or groups (Arts. 1-29, Fed. Const.); and (2) the organic part which refers to the structure of the public powers and their respective jurisdictions (Arts. 49-107 and 108-114, Fed. Const.).

    Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the fundamental law of Mexico may be characterized as programmatic and aspirational. It is programmatic because the body of the Constitution has been traditionally used as a political platform by the President to in turn publicize his personal presidential program and to reflect the public policies he is politically bound to implement during his six-year term. It is also aspirational because a number of its provisions do not reflect Mexico’s current reality. Rather, these provisions advance certain objectives or goals that the Mexican people, with their unity, industry and collective effort, aspire to accomplish or materialize in the near future.

    The Federal Constitution occupies the apex of Mexico’s legal pyramid. It has been amended some 450 times since it was enacted eighty five years ago (D.O. of February 5, 1917). In recent years, the idea that Mexico should have a more modern and new Constitution has attracted special attention in political, legal, academic and business circles.

    From a legal perspective - independently of its political and historic importance—the Constitution of Mexico may be of practical interest to foreign investors, foreign companies and foreign legal practitioners for two reasons: first, many constitutional provisions directly affect the presence of U.S. nationals in that country and the conduct of business and commercial operations by U.S. and other foreign companies within the territory of the Republic of Mexico.

    For example: Article 1 provides - unlike the United States - that in Mexico the constitutional rights are enjoyed “by any individual,” whether a Mexican national or a foreigner. Articles 14 and 16 guarantee due process in judicial proceedings and the right of any person not to be unduly molested in his/her family, home, documents or possessions, except by judicial order of a competent authority. When these constitutional rights are violated, Articles 103 and 107 of the Federal Constitution guarantee the right to be protected via “Amparo.” Article 73 enumerates the exclusive powers of Congress to impose taxes and legislate in a number of federal areas, all of them affecting the commercial activities of foreign investors in that country. Article 33 prescribes that federal agents have the exclusive power “to make abandon the national territory, immediately and without any trial, any foreigner whose presence is deemed inconvenient.”

    The second reason is that numerous provisions of Mexico’s Constitution have served as the legal basis for enacting more detailed federal legislation on a particular subject. These are known as “Leyes Reglamentarias.” This is the case, for example, of Article 27, which establishes the legal regimes applicable to public and private property, and to the utilization of mineral and natural resources, in particular oil. Article 123, which generated the Federal Labor Act and governs all labor relationships in Mexico, including collective contracts, unions, workers’ compensation, labor courts, and labor procedure.

    a) Mexico: A Federal Republic

    Originally enacted in 1928 as the local code for the Federal District on ordinary matters and for the entire Republic of Mexico on federal matters (D.O. of March 26, 1928), a special Federal Civil Code was recently enacted by the Federal Congress (D.O. of May 29, 2000), as amended.

    Mexico is a federal, democratic and representative republic, composed of thirty-one free and sovereign states in matters regarding their internal order but united in a federation established pursuant to the principles set forth by the Constitution (Art. 40, Fed. Const.). The national sovereignty rests with the people who exercise said sovereignty through the Powers of the Union in cases within their jurisdiction, and through those of the states in matters that relate to their internal affairs, under the terms established by the Federal Constitution, and those of the State, respectively (Art. 41, Fed. Const.).

    Prior to 2000, the federal government exercised for decades an almost omnipotent power, to the detriment of the autonomy of the States and their municipal governments. During President Vicente Fox’s administration (2000-2006), an effort to enhance the true notion of federalism seems to be underway in an attempt to bring back a less asymmetrical relationship between the federal government and the states.

    Mexico’s federal constitutions of 1824 and 1857 were clearly inspired by the U.S. Constitution. In turn, the federalist notions present in these two leading constitutional documents influenced the debates and the content of Mexico’s current Constitution of 1917.

    b) The Executive Power

    www.presidencia.gob.mx is the electronic portal in Spanish of the Presidency of the Republic. By clicking on the picture of the world, information in English and French is made available.

    In Mexico the Executive Power is in the hands of the President of the Republic. The President is freely elected for a six-year, no re-election period, by the direct vote of Mexican citizens who have attained 18 years of age and have an honest way of living (Arts. 34-35, Fed. Const.). The presidential elections are organized and controlled by the Federal Electoral Institute, and controversial electoral issues are decided by an Federal Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judicial Power, established in 1990.

    The powers and obligations of the President of Mexico - as expressly enunciated in Article 89 of the Federal Constitution—closely parallel those of his counterpart in the United States.

    When the respective Presidency of these two countries are compared, these may be the most salient differences between them: (1) the Mexican President, to run as a candidate for that position, must be a Mexican citizen by birth, “the son” [sic] of Mexican parents, and must have resided in Mexico “at least during twenty years,” including the year immediately preceding the presidential election (Art. 82, paras. I and III, Fed. Const.); (2) the Mexican President occupies that high office for a six-year term (starting on December 1 of the election year) and cannot be re-elected (Art. 83, Fed. Const.); (3) in the conduct of Mexico’s foreign affairs, the Mexican President shall observe these “normative principles”: (a) the self-determination of peoples; (b) the proscription of the use of threats or force in international relations; (c) the legal equality of nation-states; (d) international cooperation for development; and (e) the struggle for peace and international security (Art. 89, para. X, Fed. Const.); and (4) the Mexican President, in filling up a vacancy for a Supreme Court justice (Ministro de la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación), must submit to the Senate the names of three candidates for the Senate to choose one among them (Art. 89, para. XVIII, Fed. Const.).

    After the long period of seventy-one years during which the candidates of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional or PRI) exercised an absolute monopoly over presidential elections, this undemocratic situation changed in 2000 when Vicente Fox Quesada, the candidate of the opposition party Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party or PAN), defeated the PRI candidate and became the President of Mexico. This unprecedented change in Mexico’s political regime is still producing both predictable and unanticipated consequences in Mexico’s political, legal, and socio-economic arenas.

    In sum, the presidential victory of PAN in 2000, as it is now reflected in the administration of President Vicente Fox, is profoundly transforming not only the traditional powers and the role of the Executive Power in Mexico but, more importantly, is changing the country itself. For political and legal observers it is clear that the so-called “Meta-Constitutional Powers” enjoyed by the President of the Republic during the PRI era, are now being seriously questioned and subjected to what may be described as a cautious but methodical diminution to make them fit within the explicit parameters prescribed by the Federal Constitution. In other words, the political and legal contours of the President of Mexico are in the process of being transformed and re-defined.

    c) The Legislative Power

    This power is vested upon a General Congress, divided into two Chambers, one of Deputies (Diputados) and the other of Senators (Senadores) (Art. 50, Fed. Const.). At the opening of Congress, on September 1st of each year, the President of Mexico submits a written report describing the general state of the country’s public administration (Art. 69, Fed. Const.) analogous to the U.S. State of the Union Address.

    The General Congress has annual ordinary and extraordinary sessions (Art. 65, Fed. Const.). There are two periods of ordinary sessions: the first runs from September 1st to December 15th; and the second from March 15th to up to April 30th (Art. 66, Fed. Const.). Extraordinary sessions take place when convoked by the Permanent Commission (Comisión Permanente) to discuss a specific matter (Art. 67, Fed. Const.).

    • (i) Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados)
      www.cddhcu.gob.mx/leyinfo is the electronic portal (exclusively in Spanish) of the Chamber of Deputies.
      This web site can also be accessed through: www.precisa.gob.mx by searching for: “Camara de Diputados.”

    The Chamber of Deputies is composed of 500 representatives of the country elected in their entirety every three years. Of this total, 300 are elected under the principle of relative majority vote (Principio de votación mayoritaria relativa) through the system of individual electoral districts (Distritos electorales uninominales), and 200 under the principle of proportional representation (Principio de representación proporcional) through the system of regional electoral lists (Listas regionales votadas en circunscripciones plurinominales) (Arts. 51-52, Fed. Const.). The election of these 200 deputies is subject to special electoral rules (Art. 54, Fed. Const.). The last election of Congress took place on July 4, 2003. A deputy cannot be re-elected for the immediately succeeding term.

    • (ii) Chamber of Senators (Cámara de Senadores)
      www.senado.gob.mx  is the electronic portal (exclusively in Spanish) of the Chamber of Senators.
      This web site can also be accessed through: www.precisa.gob.mx by typing searching for:
      “Camara de Senadores” or “Senado.”

    The Senate is composed of 128 senators (Art.56, Fed. Const.) elected for a six-year term renewed in its entirety every election. Thus, there are four senators for each state (thirty-one) and for the Federal District (one). Out of this total of 128, two are elected for each state and the Federal District by relative majority vote; a third one goes to the largest political minority; and a fourth one is given based on the principle of proportional representation (Art. 56, Fed. Const.) A senator cannot be re-elected for the immediately succeeding term.

    Any resolution passed by Congress acquires the category of a law or decree (Art. 70, Fed. Const.). Under Mexican Constitutional Law, (1) the President of the Republic, (2) federal deputies and senators, and (3) the State legislatures, have the right to submit legislative bills to Congress (Art. 71, Fed. Const.). Both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate have exclusive powers to legislate in certain areas.

    d) The Judicial Power

    www.scjn.gob.mx is the electronic portal (exclusively in Spanish) of Mexico’s Supreme Court of the Nation.
    This web site can also be accessed through: www.precisa.gob.mx by searching for: “Suprema Corte de Justicia” or “Suprema Corte.”

    Pursuant to the Federal Constitution, the exercise of the Judicial Power of the Federation is vested in four entities: (1) a Supreme Court of Justice; (2) an Electoral Tribunal; (3) Collegiate and Unitarian Circuit Courts; and (4) the District Courts (Art.94, Fed. Const.). Save for the Supreme Court, the administration, monitoring and disciplining of Judicial Power is conducted by the Council of the Federal Judiciary (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal), as regulated by the Federal Organic Act of the Judicial Power (Ley Orgánica del Poder Judicial de la Federación, D.O. of May 26, 1995).

    The Supreme Court is composed of eleven Justices (known in Mexico as Ministros or ministers) and functions in plenary (En banc) or in Chambers (Salas), which is composed of five Justices (Art. 94). Every four years, the Justices elect a Chief Justice among themselves, who cannot be reelected for the immediately succeeding period. Justices are nominated by the President of the Republic in a list submitted to the Senate that contains the names of three candidates; the Senate, after hearing the candidates, makes a final selection (Art.96, Fed. Const.). Justices are appointed for fifteen years and may be removed only for serious cause.

    The Federal Constitution (Art. 105, Fed. Const.) and the Organic Act of the Judicial Power enumerate, in detail, questions relative to the composition, functioning, obligations, powers and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the Circuit Collegiate Courts and the District Courts, including their budget and other administrative matters. In general, the Supreme Court and the federal courts serve as appellate courts to lower federal and state courts.

    The Supreme Court of Mexico and the Circuit Collegiate Courts, as indicated earlier, are responsible for rendering especially crafted decisions—known as Jurisprudencias—which constitute the sole instance under Mexican law whereby judicial decisions become legally binding to lower courts and authorities, in something akin to the stare decisis principle.

    The Federal Suit of Amparo30

    In addition, federal courts exercise exclusive jurisdiction over Amparo proceedings, resolving controversies arising out of: (1) laws or federal authority acts that infringe upon constitutional rights (Garantías individuales); (2) laws or federal authority acts that violate or restrict the states’ sovereignty or the Federal District’s jurisdiction; and (3) laws or acts of authorities of the states or the Federal District that invade the jurisdiction of federal authorities (Arts. 103 and 107, Fed. Const.).

    Accordingly, Amparo is a sui generis federal suit filed by an individual (whether a Mexican national or a foreigner) in a federal court against a Mexican authority (federal, state or municipal) for the alleged violation of any of the constitutional rights (Garantías individuales) expressly enumerated by the Federal Constitution (Title I). The filing of this kind of an Amparo suit would be expected, for example, when a Mexican is detained by the police and subjected to long interrogatories without a valid cause; when a Mexican is tortured by military personnel; when a U.S. tourist is expelled by agents of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute (similar to the former INS in the United States); when a U.S. attorney is denied a permit to render professional legal services in Mexico; when a U.S. religious cult is denied a permit from Gobernación to open a temple and offer religious services in that country, etc.

    The filing of Amparo results in the immediate cessation (injunction) of the violation of the constitutional right(s) invoked by the Quejoso (aggrieved party), as ordered by the federal court (Suspensión del acto reclamado); the mandate by the same court ordering the authority in question to render a detailed report substantiating the case and its involvement (Informe Justificado); and an investigation by a Federal Prosecutor (Agente del Ministerio Público Federal) to determine whether any criminal offenses (federal or state) were committed, including the responsibility of the public servants involved in the case, etc.

    Once in possession of all the necessary information, documents and data, and after the initial constitutional hearing (Audiencia constitucional) takes place, the federal court analyzes the evidence and the merits of the case and then renders its decision.

    A second prong of a Judicio de Amparo is found when individuals or legal entities challenge the constitutional validity of (1) a given legislative enactment which has already been passed and published in the D.O. or (2) when a legislative bill is in the process of being discussed by Congress (Acción de Inconstitucionalidad). This is the case of the two final paragraphs of Article 103 of the Federal Constitution, and it may consist in a form of constitutional control or judicial review.

    Both the substantive and the procedural aspects of an Amparo suit are governed by the Amparo Act (Ley de Amparo, D.O. of January 10, 1936, amended numerous times).

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    3. INTERNATIONAL TREATIES AND CONVENTIONS

    www.sre.gob.mx is the electronic portal in Spanish of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs
    This web site can also be accessed through: www.precisa.gob.mx by searching for: “Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores” or simply “SRE”

    This electronic portal makes available the text of the treaties and international conventions entered by Mexico at the bilateral, regional and global levels (including dates of signature, publication in the D.O. and entering into force). It also includes the text of the Mexican Foreign Service Act (Ley del Servicio Exterior Mexicano, D.O. of January 25, 2002), and some historic information on the administrative evolution of the SRE, special programs, a diplomatic glossary, etc.

    3.1 Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE)

    For decades, Mexico has been a very active player in the international legal community at the global, regional and bilateral levels. In recent years, Mexico has enhanced its political and diplomatic presence in Central America and the Caribbean, the European Union, and the United Nations. Today, for example, Mexico maintains diplomatic relations with ninety countries; it has in place 228 treaties and international agreements with the United States and fifty-two with Canada, and maintains forty-two consulates in this country.

    Like the United States, foreign affairs in Mexico are exclusively vested (by and through the Federal Constitution), upon the President of the Republic, who operates through the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (which corresponds to the U.S. Department of State). The President is empowered “to conduct the foreign affairs [of the nation] and to enter into international treaties, submitting them to the approval of the Senate.” (Art. 89, para. X, Fed. Const.). In performing this function, the President must abide by the “normative principles” enshrined in the Constitution.

    At the domestic level, the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE) plays a crucial role in the areas of foreign investment, establishment of U.S. companies, acquisition of real estate involving foreigners and U.S. companies, the entering into Fideicomisos, Permits Artículo 27, and naturalizations. None of these transactions can take place in Mexico without obtaining the corresponding permit or authorization from the SRE.

    Outside Mexico, Mexican embassies and consulates render important legal services, including civil registry certificates (i.e., marriages, divorces, adoptions, deaths), official conduit for letters rogatory, taking of evidence abroad, extraditions, issuance of the “Consular I.D.” (Matrícula Consular), notarial acts, etc. Given the high number of Mexicans in the United States, the SRE recently established a special program tailored to be in contact with and provide some services to those Mexicans who are abroad (Comunidades Mexicanas en el Extranjero).

    3.2 Treaties and International Conventions on Conflict of Laws, Business and Environmental Questions to which Mexico is a party

    For legal and business purposes, it may be useful to list here some of the treaties and international conventions to which Mexico is a party. This is not a comprehensive list.

    1. GATT (1986);
    2. New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1971);
    3. U.N. Convention on the International Sale of Goods (1989);
    4. Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory (1978);
    5. Inter-American Convention on Conflict of Laws concerning Bills of Exchange, Promissory Notes and Invoices (1978);
    6. Inter-American Convention concerning Commercial Companies (1979);
    7. Additional Protocol to the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory (1983);
    8. Inter-American Convention on Proof of Information regarding Foreign Law (1983);
    9. Inter-American Convention on General Norms of Private International Law (1984);
    10. Inter-American Convention on the Legal Regime of Powers to be Utilized Abroad
      (1987);
    11. Inter-American Convention on the Domicile of Physical Persons in Private International
      Law (1987);
    12. Inter-American Convention on the Personality and Capacity of Juridical Persons in
      Private International Law (1987);
    13. Inter-American Convention on the Extraterritorial Validity of Foreign Judgments and
      Arbitral Awards (1987);
    14. Inter-American Convention regarding Conflict of Laws regarding Adoption of Minors
      (1987);
    15. Inter-American Convention on Competence in the International Sphere for the
      Extraterritorial Validity of Foreign Judgments (1987);
    16. Additional Protocol to the Inter-American Convention on the Reception of Evidence
      Abroad (1987);
    17. Convention on Representation on International Sale of Goods (1987);
    18. Convention on Prescription regarding the International Sales of Goods (1988);
    19. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
      (1991);
    20. Basel Convention on the Transborder Movement of Hazardous Waste (1992);
    21. North American Free Trade Agreement (1994);
    22. Universal Convention on Copyright (1975);
    23. Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1976);
    24. U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982);
    25. Inter-American Tropical Tuna Convention (1954).
    26. The Hague Convention regarding the Obligation of Evidence from Abroad in Civil or
      Commercial Matters (1988).
    27. Convention suppressing the Legalization Requirement of Foreign Public Documents
      (1994).

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    3.3 International Judicial Cooperation

    The Federal Code of Civil Procedure prescribes the central principle that governs in the area of international judicial cooperation. In matters of a federal nature, this cooperation shall be regulated by this Code (Book Four) and by other applicable laws, except for what is provided by the treaties and conventions to which Mexico is a party (Art. 543).

    Regarding international civil litigation, federal and state agencies shall be subject to the special rules, which this federal code sets forth in Book Four (Art. 544). One of these rules provides, for example, that federal and state agencies, and their public officials, “shall be impeded from producing any documents (or copies of them) which exist in the official archives under their control in Mexico; except for those cases which involve a personal matter and the documents or personal archives are permitted by the law and when, through the implementation of a letter rogatory, it is so ordered by a [competent] Mexican court.” (Art. 559).

    To produce legal effects in Mexico, foreign legal documents must be duly “legalized” by the competent Mexican consular authorities in accordance with the applicable laws, and be translated into Spanish by a duly authorized translator. However, foreign legal documents sent through official channels to produce legal effects need not be legalized (Art. 546).

    Letters rogatory (Exhortos) to be sent abroad by a Mexican court are the official communications requesting a foreign judge to carry out certain procedural acts required by a pending lawsuit in Mexico. Said communications must contain the necessary information as well as certified copies, notifications (or summons), copies of the initial complaint, or of the final and definite judgment rendered by the Mexican court, depending upon each individual case, as may be necessary (Art. 550).

    When a foreign judgment requires an act of repossession to take place in Mexico, for example, or any other judicial act to be enforced in that country in an “executive manner” (i.e., against the defendant’s will or his/her voluntary cooperation), said judgment is to be judicially provided by the competent Mexican court with “executive force.” In most cases, the competent court is one with jurisdiction over the defendant’s domicile or over the place where the real estate (or assets) is located. The judicial proceedings to endow a foreign judgment with “executive force” requires, in essence, a “mini-trial” requiring the presence of the two contending parties advancing their respective rights and the corresponding evidence. Under Mexican law, these technical and lengthy proceedings are known as Incidente de Homologación (Art. 574).

    3.4 Web Sites of International Organizations with Mexican Law Information

    Only two international organizations provide information on Mexican law. These are:

    www.cec.org/infobases/law/index.cfm 
    Summary of Environmental Law in North America
    The Commission for Environmental Cooperation, established as a result of NAFTA, sponsors an excellent trilingual (English/Spanish/French) web site with very useful information describing the environmental law framework in each of the three NAFTA parties: the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

    This information covers twenty-five subject areas, and includes an acronym list and a bibliography. The environmental subjects are: (1) Introduction to the Legal System; (2) Institutional framework; (3) Constitutional provisions; (4) General environmental law and policies; (5) Environmental information; (6) Public participation; (7) Environmental impact assessment; (8) Protection of the atmosphere; (9) Protection and management of water resources; (10) Protection of the oceans and coastal areas; 11) Chemical substances and products; (12) Waste management; (13) Responding to environmental contamination; (14) Environmental emergencies; (15) Private land use planning and management; (16) Environmental management of public lands; (17) Conservation of biological diversity and wildlife; (18) Mining; (19) Agriculture; (20) Forests and forest management; (21) Energy; (22) Transportation; (23) Military or federal facilities; (24) Other environmental issues; and (25) Transboundary and international issues.

    This is an excellent web site. It includes some two hundred pages of principally environmental legal information presented in a methodical and clear way. This site is current, authoritative and easy to navigate.

    www.ilo.org
    This web site is sponsored by the International Labor Organization (ILO).
    It gives access to the treaties and conventions to which Mexico has become a party in the area of labor law, welfare and social protection.

    4. MEXICO’S FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

    www.presidencia.gob.mx 
    This electronic portal of the Presidency of Mexico makes available day-to-day information on the most salient acts of Vicente Fox Quesada, President of Mexico, and other members of his administration, including sporadic reports on current legal developments. Although some information is also available in English and French, the most complete information is found only in Spanish.

    www.precisa.gob.mx 
    This electronic portal is the official clearinghouse of the Federal government of Mexico. It provides a conduit to access any federal agency by simply typing up the name (in Spanish) of the agency in question. This portal claims to give access to 2,400 federal agencies.

    From an administrative viewpoint, Mexico’s federal government is structured in a centralized system known as the Federal Public Administration, as indicated earlier. This federal public administration resides in México, Distrito Federal (Mexico City or México, D.F.), which is the capital of the Republic of Mexico and the venue of its federal government (Washington, D.C. is the exact counterpart to México, D.F.).

    Composed of eighteen Secretariats (Secretarías de Estado), the Presidential Cabinet is highly specialized and enforces all federal legislative enactments throughout the Republic of Mexico as part of the Executive Power in the specific fields of their administrative jurisdiction, as prescribed by the Federal Public Administration Act (D.O. of December 29, 1976, as amended). Furthermore, each of these Secretariats regularly engages in the preparation of legal memoranda or draft legislation in their respective fields of their administrative sphere, which are then submitted to the Office of the President for his consideration. Among the important functions of the President of Mexico is the constitutional right to introduce legislative bills to Congress (Art. 71). A substantial percentage of federal legislative enactments passed by Congress are initiated by the President of the Republic.

    Each of the seventeen Secretariats sponsors its respective electronic portal. Evidently, these portals contain general and administrative information relative to the official work and activities of the Mexican federal agency in question. It should be noted, however, that a selected number of these agencies make available the texts of important legal materials, such as federal statutes, regulations, administrative resolutions, etc.

    A case in point, for example, is the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources whose official portal is: www.semarnat.gob.mx. This attractive portal has twenty five active frames in Spanish with information on: (1) Administrative requests and permits; (2) Transparency and Access to Information; 3) What is Semarnat?; (4) Semarnat’s administrative structure; (5) What is new?; (6) Semarnat in the States, etc.

    However, in this portal there are three active frames that should be of great interest to U.S. legal researchers because they make available Mexican legal materials relating to environmental questions. These active frames are:

     

    1. Normatividad y Leyes (Normativity and Laws):
      www.semarnat.gob.mx/legislacion_ambiental/index.shtm 
      This “legal” sub-portal is divided into the following five sections:
      1) Articles of the Federal Constitution
      This section reproduces the texts of Articles 4, 25, 27, 73 and 115 of Mexico’s Federal Constitution due to their importance in the environmental area.
    2. International environmental agreements
      This useful and lengthy section makes available the texts of seventy-five international environmental agreements at the bilateral, regional and global levels to which Mexico is a party. The dates of signature and entering into force are also given, as well as the official language(s) of each agreement.
    3. Federal environmental legislation
      This section makes available the texts of thirty-five federal statutes, regulations and decrees of interest in the environmental area. The substance of these federal legislative enactments includes fishing, national waters, vegetable health, forestry, environmental crimes, wildlife, vegetable varieties to environmental impact, etc.
    4. Regulations
      This section reproduces the texts of twenty-five regulations in the areas of hazardous waste, marine pollution, mining, air pollution, the federal maritime land zone, utilization of marine spaces, etc.
      Each enactment is identified by its official name (in Spanish), and the date of publication in the D.O. In addition, they may be downloaded in portable document format (PDF).
    5. NOMS
      These “Mexican Official Norms” (Normas Oficiales Mexicans known by the acronym NOMS) are the technical specifications mandated by Semarnat, as published in the D.O. that must be complied with by commercial companies in a given environmental area.
      -This section makes available the texts of ninety-seven NOMS divided into: (1) Primary Sector and Natural Resources (twenty-eight); (2) Energy and -Extracting Activities (nine); (3) Industry (twenty-seven); (4) Urban Development, Transport and Tourism (twenty-one); and (5) Emerging Norms (fifteen).
      -Each NOM is identified by the official title, name, number, and date of publication in the D.O.

      2. Enlaces (Links to Other Federal Agencies)
      www.semarnat.gob.mx/enlaces 
      This section gives access to fifty-four electronic portals of federal agencies whose functions and activities are related to the environmental area. The agencies are grouped
      This section gives access to fifty-four electronic portals of federal agencies whose functions and activities are related to the environmental area.  The agencies are grouped into six categories: (1) Entities derived from Semarnat (five); (2) Entities connected with Semernat (two); (3) Secretariats and the Presidency (nine); (4) Parastate Public Administration (ten); (5) International organizations (nine); and (6) Other Sites of Interest (nineteen).

      3. English Section
      www.semarnat.gob.mx/dgeia/web_ingles/environmental.shtml 
      This section provides information translated into English on the following twelve topics:
      (1) Semarnat; (2) Mexico’s Environmental Law; (3) Environmental Program 2001-2006; (4) Environmental Policy Background; (5) New Environmental Policy; (6) Protected Natural Areas; (7) Environmental Justice Program 2001-2006; (8) Environmental Crimes (Articles 414-423 of Mexico’s Environmental Act); (9) Megadiverse Countries; (10) International Dialogue and Adaptation to Climate Change; (11) Our Main Achievements 2001; and (12) Our Main Achievements 2002.

      The other electronic portals sponsored by Secretariats of State appear in Appendix II of this Note.

      <Table of Contents>

  • 5. STATE GOVERNMENTS

    Patterned after the U.S. political system, Mexico is a federal republic composed of thirty-one states and one Federal District (i.e., Mexico City, commonly abbreviated D.F., meaning Distrito Federal). Each of the thirty-one states has its own Constitution, which closely parallels the substance and format of the Federal Constitution. The local legislature of each state enacts legislation (i.e., codes, laws, decrees and regulations) which apply within the territorial boundaries of the state in question.

    In general, the legislative enactments of each State may be grouped under these four categories: (1) the Constitution; (2) the four major codes (civil code, code of civil procedure, criminal code, and code of criminal procedure); (3) local laws and statutes; (4) decrees, regulations and other administrative material. These legislative materials are available at the individual web site of each state.

    5.1 Specific State Legislation

    Although homepages for each individual State may be accessed directly by typing its respective homepage address, it is recommended to make the first contact with the State in question through “Precisa” because this federal clearinghouse provides an initial page with relevant information on local agencies and other useful links for each State.

    www.precisa.gob.mx 
    This E-portal is the clearinghouse for all of Mexico’s federal agencies.

    After selecting Enlaces a los Sitios del Gobierno Mexicano (Links to the Mexican Government Sites), this leads to the menu of State homepages and other links; click in the line titled: “Gobiernos Estatales” (State Governments) to access the desired State..

    Individual State homepages of each of the 31 States is given in Appendix III of this Note.


    6. BACKGROUND, HISTORY AND MEXICAN LEGAL SOURCES IN ENGLISH

    In this section, the reader will find the best web sites in English containing legal and historical information about Mexico.

    www.llrx.com/features/mexican.htm
    Electronic Guide to Mexican Law (Published March 1, 2002)
    Authors: Francisco Avalos and Elisa Donnadieu
    Contents: (1) Brief History of the Mexican Legal System; (2) Federal Government; (3) Major Primary Federal Legislation; (4) State Governments; (5) Mexico’s Legal System; (6) Mexico Government; (7) Legislative Sources; (8) NAFTA; (9) Overall Coverage of Mexico; and (10) Free Translation Sites.
    Source: LLRX.COM “This is a unique, free Web Journal dedicated to providing legal and library professionals with the most up-to-date information on a wide range of Internet research and technology-related issues, applications, resources and tools, since 1996.”

    www.mexlaw.com
    Mexican Law with Prof. Jorge A. Vargas (Originally published in 1994; last update: August 2003).
    Author: Jorge A. Vargas, Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law. Summa cum laude graduate of UNAM’s School of Law, Mexico City; LL.M. and J.S.D. (Candidate), Yale Law School.
    Contents: (1) Information about his Mexican Law Treatise; (2) Mexican Law Synopsis; (3) Recent Developments; (4) Electronic Guide to Mexican Law Web Sites; and (5) Author’s personal resume.

    www.loc.gov/law/guide/mexico.htm
    Portal Mexico
    Source: Law Library of Congress, Global Legal Information Network (GLIN)
    Contents: (1) Constitution; (2) Executive; (3) Judicial; (4) Legislative; and (5) Legal Guides and Miscellaneous. As of July 1, 2003, GLIN (Global Legal Information Network) offers 6,269 searchable English language abstracts of laws, decrees and regulations issued from December 1944 to the present.

    Source: “The Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) is a database of laws, regulations and other complementary legal sources. The documents included in the database are contributed by the governments of the members from the original, official texts which are deposited, by agreement of the members, in a server presently located in the Library of Congress of the United States of America. Anyone may sign on to the system as a guest and view the summaries and citation information for the laws and legal writings in the database. Searches can be done by jurisdiction, subject, date or type of legal instrument, or by a combination of these elements. Subject searches are done through a dedicated list of terms, collected in the GLIN thesaurus. The summaries are written in English; in some cases a summary in a second language has been appended. Access to the full texts of the documents is restricted to members. To learn about the types of memberships available see Membership Information.”

    CONTACT INFORMATION: GLIN Law Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave., SE Washington, D.C. 20540-3000, USA. Tel.: 202-707-5065; Fax: 202-707-1820. E-mail: glincen@loc.gov

    www.law.cornell.edu/world/namerica.html
    Legal Information Institute
    Source: Cornell Law School; World Legal Materials from North America; Mexico
    Contents: Mexico: Constitution; Alternate copy (Spanish); High Court (Spanish); Senate; Chamber of Deputies; Consejo de la Judicatura Federal; Electoral Tribunal; Superior Court of Justice; Attorney General; Legislation; Selected Laws; Intellectual Property; Mexlaw; Legislation Links; Government Links; Other Legal Links; Legal Information

    NOTE: “Other Legal Links” provides access to interesting and useful legal links, such as: Comisión Federal de Competencia, Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Comisión Federal de Telecomunicaciones, Comisión Reguladora de Energía, Instituto Mexicano de la Propiedad Industrial (IMPI), Instituto Federal Electoral, Mexican Investment Board, Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente (PROFEPA), etc.

    Source: LLI Generally “...One of the oldest and most useful law related sites online. The Legal Information Institute is a mixture of a gateway to locate other law related Web resources, and a provider of law related content, such as the United States Code and Supreme Court opinions.”

    www.washlaw.edu/forint/america/mexico.html
    Source: Washburn University School of Law; WashLaw Web; ForInt Law; Mexico
    Contents: (1) Constitutional Law; (2) Courts of last resort; (3) Foreign Relations; (4) Heads of State; (5) Intellectual property; (6) Law and legislation; (7) Legal Research; (8) Legislative bodies; and (9) U.S. Law School Study Abroad Programs to Mexico.

    http://library.law.smu.edu/resguide/mexico
    Legal Research Guides: Mexican Legal Materials (English and Spanish)
    Source: Southern Methodist University Underwood Law Library
    Contents: (1) General Considerations; (2) Constitutions; (3) Researching Legislative, Scholarly, and Judicial Materials; (4) Diario Oficial de la Federación; (5) Researching Mexican Law by Subject; (6) Finding Mexican Legal Materials at Underwood using PONI.

    www.sandiego.edu/lrc/broaderborders/nafta/html
    Broader Borders
    Source: Legal Research Center, University of San Diego School of Law
    Authors: Librarians John Adkins and Mary Sexton
    Contents: (1) International Boundary; (2) NAFTA; (3) Environment; (4) Immigration; (5) U.S.-Mexico Border Issues: Drug Traffic; (6) Indigenous Peoples of the Border; (7) Mexican Legal Materials; (8) Mexican Websites; and (9) English Language Websites about Mexican Law.

    www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/1838pf.htm
    Background Note: Mexico (March 2002)
    Source: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
    Contents: (1) People; (2) History; (3) Government; (4) Political Conditions; (5) Economy; (6) Foreign Relations; (7) U.S. Relations; (8) Travel/Business

    www.usembassy-mexico.gov/ 
    U.S. Embassy in Mexico
    Source: U.S. Government, U.S. Department of State
    Contents: This is a dual language site (Spanish/English). It contains a great assortment of pertinent diplomatic U.S.-Mexico bilateral information. Contents include: (1) Current Issues; (2) Services for Mexican/U.S. citizens; (3) Press/Media; (4) Visas; (5) Immigration and Borders; (6) Environment and Health; (7) Consulates; (8) Trade and Commerce; (9) Drugs; and (10) Law Enforcement.

    NOTE: It also includes a section titled: “U.S. and Mexico at a Glance.” A collection of crucial general data, trade information, materials on migration, border cooperation and foreign aid issues at: http://www.state.gov.p/wha/ci/mx/ 


    <Table of Contents>



    Appendix II

    MEXICO’S 18 SECRETARIATS OF STATE WEB SITES
    (Secretarías de Estado)

    Mexico’s Presidential Cabinet is composed of 18 Secretariats of State, in addition to the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the President’s Legal Counsel. All of these Secretariats (equivalent to the U.S. Departments), jointly with a number of other Administrative Departments, compose Mexico’s centralized public administration, governed by the Federal Public Administration Act (Ley de la Administración Pública Federal, D.O. of December 29, 1996, as recently amended).

    Each web site of these Secretariats may be accessed directly using the respective individual address. However, it is recommended to access any Secretariat’s web site through www.precisa.gob.mx, Mexico’s federal clearinghouse, because “Precisa,” in addition to serving as the conduit to a given Secretariat, provides related information as well as a number of pertinent and useful links.

    For the political and administrative hierarchy of these Secretariats, please consult Article 4 of the governing Act. The official web site address of each of Mexico’s Secretariats of State (in alphabetical order) follows:

    Agrarian Reform (SRA)
    (Reforma Agraria)
    www.sra.gob.mx
    No legal materials available.

    Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food (SAGARPA)
    (Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación)
    http://ganaderia.sagarpa.gob.mx 
    No legal materials available.

    Communications and Transport (SCT)
    (Comunicaciones y Transportes)
    www.sct.gob.mx/inicio 
    Legal materials Y Marco Jurídico del Sector

    Economy (SE)
    (Economía)
    www.economia.gob.mx
    Inversión extranjera (Foreign Investment) Tratados (Free Trade Agreements)
    No legal materials available.

    Energy (SENER)
    (Energía)
    www.energia.gob.mx/wb/distribuidor.jsp?seccion=1 
    Marco Jurídico (Legal Framework).
    Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT)

    (Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales)
    www.precisa.gob.mx/index/php?Direcotrio=precisa&viewCat=392 
    For description of legal materials see supra.

    Foreign Affairs (SRE)
    (Relaciones Exteriores)
    www.sre.gob.mx
    Tratados (Collection of treaties entered into by Mexico).

    Health (SSA)
    (Salud)
    www.precisa.gob.mx
    No legal materials available.

    Interior (SEGOB)
    (Gobernación)
    http://www.gobernacion.gob.mx/
    Marco Jurídico (Legal Framework).

    Labor and Social Welfare (STPS)
    (Trabajo y Previsión Social)
    www.precisa.gob.mx
    Sistema de Información Jurídico Laboral (Labor Law Information System).

    National Defense (SEDENA)
    (Defensa Nacional)
    www.sedena.gob.mx
    Administración y Procuración de Justicia
    No legal materials available.

    Navy (SEMAR)
    (Marina Armada de México)
    www.semar.gob.mx/index.php 
    No legal materials available.

    Public Education (SEP)
    (Educación Pública)
    www.sep.gob.mx/wb2/ 
    La Educación y sus Normas Jurídicas (Education and Its Legal Norms).

    Public Function (SFP)
    (Función Pública)
    www.funcionpublica.gob.mx
    Normateca (Collection of Administrative Norms and Rules by subject and key words).
    In addition Comisión para la Transparencia y el Combate a la Corrupción (Commission for Transparency and Against Corruption).

    Public Security and Justice Services (SPSJ)
    (Seguridad Pública y Servicios de Justicia)
    www.precisa.gob.mx
    No legal materials available.

    Social Development (SEDESOL)
    (Desarrollo Social)
    www.sedesol.gob.mx/index/main.htm
    Mexicanos en el Exterior (Mexicans Abroad)
    No legal materials available.

    Tourism (SECTUR)
    (Turismo)
    www.turismo.gob.mx
    Marco Jurídico y Normativo

    Treasury and Public Credit (SHCP)
    (Hacienda y Crédito Público)
    www.precisa.gob.mx
    Legislación (Tax legislation) Documentos (Tax forms and other documents)
    In addition Investor Relations Office (English site created in 1995 “to enhance disclosure of economic data and develop an ongoing dialogue between investors and analysts with Mexican financial authorities.”).

    Attorney General’s Office (PGR)
    (Procuraduría General de la República)
    This is not a Secretariat of State but an important component of Mexico’s Federal Public Administration.
    www.pgr.gob.mx
    Marco Jurídico (Legal Framework)
    In addition an English Site
     

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    Appendix III

    WEB SITES OF MEXICO’S 31 STATES

    Pursuant to Article 43 of Mexico’s Federal Constitution, the Republic of Mexico is composed of 31 States and one Federal District (i.e., Mexico City). Each of the States has its own Constitution, codes (i.e., Civil Code, Civil Procedure, Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure, and some a State Tax Code), decrees and regulations, all of them passed by the State Legislature, and published in the corresponding Official State Gazette (i.e., Periódico Oficial del Estado).

    Although each of the homepages of each individual State may be accessed directly by typing its respective homepage address, it is recommended to make the first contact with the State in question through “Precisa” because this federal clearinghouse provides an initial page with relevant information on local agencies and other useful links for each State.

    www.precisa.gob.mx 
    This e-portal is the clearinghouse for all of Mexico’s federal agencies.

    Select Enlaces a los Sitios del Gobierno Mexicano (Links to the Mexican Government Sites), this leads to the menu of State homepages and other links; click in the line titled: “Gobiernos Estatales” (State Governments) to access the desired State..

    Each individual State homepage may be accessed directly by using its own homepage address. Most of the State’s homepages give access to the four major State Codes, the State Constitution, and some State legislation. The pertinent key words needed to access these legal materials is given below.


    Aguascalientes
    www.aguascalientes.gob.mx 
    Click: Leyes Estatales÷Leyes o Códigos
    This homepage also links to the Periódico Oficial del Estado on line.

    Baja California
    www.congresobc.gob.mx
    Better to use: www.precisa.gob.mx, Click: Leyes del Estado de Baja California.

    Baja California Sur
    www.gbcs.gob.mx
    Click: Cortes y Tribunales÷Tribunal Superior del Estado÷Códigos y Leyes.

    Campeche
    www.campeche.gob.mx
    Click: Gobierno÷Poder Legislativo÷www.congresocam.gob.mx÷Compendio de Leyes.

    Chiapas
    www.chiapas.gob.mx
    No legal materials available.

    Chihuahua
    www.chihuahua.gob.mx 
    No codes only a few statutes
    Click: Gobierno÷Leyes del Estado.

    Coahuila
    www.coahuila.gob.mx
    Click: Legislación÷Selecciona la Ley.

    Durango
    www.durango.gob.mx
    Legal materials only through: www.congresodurango.gob.mx  ÷Legislación

    Estado de México
    http://gem.edomexico.gob.mx/portalgem/ 
    Better to use: www.precisa.gob.mx, Click: Leyes Vigentes/Códigos Vigentes.

    Guanajuato
    www.guanajuato.gob.mx 
    Better to use: www.precisa.gob.mx, Click: www.congresogto.gob.mx 

    Guerrero
    No legal materials available.

    Hidalgo
    www.hidalgo.gob.mx
    No legal materials available.
    Some information relevant to foreign investment in English. Click: Business/Negocios.

    Jalisco
    www.jalisco.gob.mx 
    Legal materials only through: www.congresojal.gob.mx (Legislación Estatal)
    No the State Codes available.

    Michoacán
    www.michoacan.gob.mx ÷Gobierno ÷LegislaciónEstatal (http://www.michoacan.gob.mx/gobierno/legislacion_estatal/legislacion.htm)
    No State Codes available.

    Morelos
    www.morelos.gob.mx ÷Gobierno÷NuestrasLeyes  Also:÷Leyesdel EstadodeMorelos 

    Nayarit
    www.nayarit.gob.mx 
    No legal materials available.

    Nuevo León
    www.portal.nl.gob.mx ÷LeyesyReglamentos 
    Also through Precisa. Click: Poder Judicial del Estado de Nuevo León.

    Oaxaca
    www.oaxaca.gob.mx  ÷Gobierno del Estado÷www.congresooaxaca.gob.mx÷Legisla

    Puebla
    www.puebla.gob.mx  ÷Gobierno÷Compilación Legislativa
    No State Codes available.
    Better through: www.congresopuebla.gob.mx  ÷Legislación en Línea÷Códigos

    Querétaro
    www.queretaro.gob.mx  ÷Marco Jurídico

    Quintana Roo
    www.quintanaroo.gob.mx  ÷Legislación
    This site is easy to navigate and includes helpful legal, cultural and historical information.

    San Luis Potosí
    www.sanluispotosi.gob.mx 
    Better to use: www.precisa.gob.mx  Click: ÷Congreso del Estado÷Documentos.

    Sinaloa
    www.sinaloa.gob.mx  ÷Leyes y Códigos

    Sonora
    www.sonora.gob.mx  ÷Gobierno÷Poder Judicial

    Tabasco
    www.tabasco.gob.mx  ÷Leyes y Códigos

    Tamaulipas
    www.tamaulipas.gob.mx  ÷Leyes
    Only State Constitution and Civil Code.

    Tlaxcala
    www.tlaxcala.gob.mx 
    Better to use: www.precisa.gob.mx  Click: ÷www.congretlax.gob.mx÷Legislación
     
    Veracruz
    www.veracruz.gob.mx 
    Better through: www.legisver.gob.mx  ÷Leyes

    Yucatán
    www.yucatan.gob.mx  ÷Gobierno÷Leyes y Normas÷Compendio de Leyes

    Zacatecas
    www.zacatecas.gob.mx 
    No legal materials available.
    Better to use: www.precisa.gob.mx  Click: ÷Only some State laws
    No State Codes available.
     

    Appendix IV

    1. WEB SITES ON MEXICAN LAW IN ENGLISH

    www.loc.gov/law/guide/mexico.html
    This web site, maintained by Law Library of Congress and Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), contains many links to information regarding all three branches of Mexico’s government as well as links to legal guides and other helpful general sources.

    www.law.cornell.edu/world/namerica.html
    This web site provides links to Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies, Superior Court of Justice, Attorney General, Legislation, and other important government links.

    www.usembassy-mexico.gov
    Maintained by the U.S. Department of State, this web site contains a great assortment of pertinent diplomatic U.S.-Mexico bilateral information.

    www.mexlaw.com
    This web site contains a Mexican law synopsis, an electronic guide to Mexican law web sites, information about the author’s Mexican Law Treatise, and more.

    www.llrx.com/features/mexican.htm
    This web site has many links to information about Mexico’s state governments, Mexico’s legal system and government, Mexico’s legislative sources, NAFTA, overall coverage of Mexico, and free translation sites.


    2. WEB SITES ON MEXICAN LAW IN SPANISH

    www.cddhcu.gob.mx/leyinfo
    This site is sponsored by Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies and gives access to the official texts of 218 federal states, some legislative enactments for the Federal District, and the Federal Constitution of 1917, as amended.

    www.senado.gob/mx
    This site is sponsored by the Mexican Senate. It contains a list of the “Statutes and Decrees” passed between September 2000 and April 2003, the texts of all the treaties and international conventions approved by the Senate and International Parliamentary Relations.

    www.scjn.gob.mx
    This site is sponsored by the Supreme Court of the Nations and makes available the Ejecutorias and Jurisprudencias rendered by both the Supreme Court and the Circuit Collegiate Courts from 1917 through 1996. It also contains federal statutes, federal legal norms, international treaties, etc.

    www.presidencia.gob/mx
    This site is sponsored by the Presidency of Mexico. It features the President’s activities, programs, press releases, and an historic archive of presidential speeches, both domestic and international.

    www.precisa.gob.mx
    “Precisa” is an electronic clearinghouse to access federal agencies. While it is not a legal website, it is the most comprehensive and useful site providing access to all the agencies of Mexico’s Federal Public Administration. It claims to have links to 2,400 governmental agencies.

    www.segob.gob.mx
    This web site is sponsored by the Secretariat of the Interior, which publishes in the Federal Official Gazette each and every legislative enactment passed by the Federal Congress. The site contains an archive of all the Diarios Oficiales since 1917. Access given to a given legislative enactment must be conducted based on either: (1) the name or title of the enactment; or (2) the date of its publication in the D.O.
     

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    Footnotes

    1 This Note does not include information on Mexican legal materials provided by commercial companies, paid subscribers or law firms in the U.S. or Mexico.) 
    2 In general, West Group may be the only company that publishes Mexican legal materials on a regular basis. Occasionally, International Legal Materials (ILM), of the American Society of International Law (ASIL), publishes English translations of salient Mexican legislative enactments and international agreements entered into by Mexico, which are of special interest to the United States. 
    3 In Mexico, Editorial Porrúa is the oldest, most traditional and best-known publisher of Mexican legal materials in all disciplines throughout Mexico; Colección Andrade is well known for its volumes on Mexican legislation. Recently, Harla began to publish law school textbooks; Oxford University publishes academic legal works; and Ediciones Fiscales ISEF legal, fiscal, financial and accounting materials in practical and inexpensive pocket-book editions (All of these publishers are in Mexico City). 
    4 are very competent and seasoned attorneys who serve in a semi-official capacity and render professional services as legal advisors to Mexican legal practitioners. For a detailed description of this term, see Jorge A. Vargas. MEXICAN LAW DICTIONARY AND DESK REFERENCE, Thomson West, 2003.
    5 For more detailed information on each of these Mexican governmental and academic sites, please see infra in the corresponding sections of this note. 
    6 Federal Act of Transparency and Access to Public Governmental Information (Ley Federal de Transparencia y Accesso a la Información Pública Gubernamental). Published in the D.O. of June 11, 2002; it entered into force on June 12, 2003. This Act is part of the process of State Reform (Reforma del Estado) and its objective is to contribute to democratize the country and to establish a closer relationship between the Federal government and the people based on official responsibility and transparent accountability. The text of this Act is available at www.presidencia.gob.mx/iztac-texto and SISI@informacionpublica.gob.mx wysiwyg://SISI.42/ http://www.informacionpublica.gob.mx/portal.html  
    7 The Federal Public Administration Act (Ley de la Administración Pública Federal) governs the administrative powers, duties and responsibilities of each entity forming a part of the administration (D.O. of December 29, 1996, as amended).
    8 For a more detailed description of the content, scope and rich variety of Mexican law materials available at this excellent web site, please refer to the corresponding section on UNAM’s Legal Research Institute infra this note.  
    9 See infra Part 6, and Appendix III. 
    10 According to BLACK’S DICTIONARY, the simplest notion of stare decisis is “to abide by, or adhere to, decided cases.” As a doctrine, “when a court has once laid down a principle of law as applicable to a certain state of facts, it will adhere to that principle, and apply it to all future cases, where facts are substantially the same; regardless of whether the parties and property are the same.” Norne v. Moody, Tex. Civ. App., 146 S.W.2d 505, 509, 510. As a policy of courts, it is when courts have to “stand by precedent, and not to disturb settled point.” Neff v. George, 364 Ill. 306, 4 N.E.2d 388, 390, 391.  
    11 John H. Merryman. THE CIVIL LAW TRADITION (1985) at 56. (Emphasis added). For a most interesting comparison on the value and authority of precedents in the United States, the United Kingdom and France, see André Tunc and Suzanne Tunc. LE DROIT DES ÉTATS-UNIS D’AMÉRIQUE: SOURCES ET TECHNIQUES (1954), §§ 116-118. 
    12 In Mexico, Jurisprudencia (Jurisprudence) is a legal term of art. It is used to refer to the fifth and last uninterrupted, consecutive and uniform decision rendered by the Supreme Court of the Nation (or by a Circuit Collegiate Court) that confirms the tenor of the four preceding decisions and because of this said Jurisprudencia, the decision becomes obligatory to lower federal and ordinary courts (including those in all the States and in the Federal District), military tribunals, administrative and labor courts, and Mexican authorities, as mandated by Articles 192-197-B, of Mexico’s Federal Amparo Act (Ley de Amparo, D.O. of January 10, 1936; last amendment by D.O. of May 17, 2001). See also Articles 177-183 of the Organic Act of the Judicial Power (Ley Orgánica del Poder Judicial, D.O. of May 26, 1995, as amended).
    13 The Republic of Mexico, pursuant to Article 43 of the Federal Constitution, is composed of one Federal District (i.e, Mexico City, which is the capital of the country and the venue of the Federal Powers) and thirty-one States. See Appendix III. 
    14 See infra the Section 5 of this Note titled: “State Governments.” 
    15 William D. Signet, West Group, St. Paul, Minn.,1997-98.
    16 Until 2000, when a separate Federal Civil Code was enacted, the original 1928 Civil Code served both as the “local” Civil Code for the Federal District on ordinary matters and, at the same time, as the Federal Civil Code on federal matters. Today, there are two codes: one Federal Civil Code, and another for the Federal District. However, save for minor changes, the text of the Civil Code for the Federal District is taken almost verbatim from the Federal Civil Code. 
    17 See Jorge A. Vargas. Contrasting Legal Differences, §§1.32 and 1.33. MEXICAN LAW: A TREATISE FOR LEGAL PRACTITIONERS AND INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS (Chap. 1) Vol.1, West Group (1998) at 18-22.
    18 For a recent article on this subject, see Jorge A. Vargas. Family Law in Mexico: A Detailed Look into Marriage and Divorce. 1 SOUTHWESTERN JOURNAL OF LAW AND TRADE IN THE AMERICAS, Vol. IX, 2002-2003 at 5-88.
    19 For a description of the principles that control personal injury cases, including the way of calculating the corresponding economic indemnification in this type of cases, see Jorge A. Vargas. Tort Law in Mexico. MEXICAN LAW: A TREATISE FOR LEGAL PRACTITIONERS AND INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS, (Chap. 21), Vol. 2, West Group (1998) at 209-239.
    20 See Jorge A. Vargas. Conflict of Laws. MEXICAN LAW: A TREATISE FOR LEGAL PRACTITIONERS AND INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS (1998), Vol. 2, Chap. 2 at 241-273.
    21 Article 27, paras. II and III, Federal Public Administration Act (D.O. of December 29, 1976, as amended).
    22 Article 3, Federal Civil Code. A similar provision is to be found in the corresponding Civil Codes of the thirty-one States, which form the Republic of Mexico, to govern the publication and legal effects of the legislative enactments of the local State Congress.
    23 The official names and administrative hierarchy of these eighteen Secretariats are listed in Appendix II. 
    24 See Jorge A. Vargas. Mexico’s Legal Revolution: An Appraisal of its Recent Constitutional Changes, 1988-1995. 25:3 GEORGIA JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL AND COMPARATIVE LAW (1996) at 497-559.
    25 The Federal Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Federal Electoral) was created by two amendments (in 1990 and 1993) to Article 41 of the Constitution. The Tribunal’s jurisdiction, composition and functions are regulated by the Federal Code of Electoral Institutions and Procedures (Código Federal de Instituciones y Procedimientos Electorales, known as COFIPE, and published in the D.O. August 15, 1990 with numerous amendments).
    26 The so-called “Meta-Constitutional Powers” are those powers granted to the President, although they are not explicitly enumerated in the Federal Constitution. In other words, these are powers, which have been gradually accruing in the Office of the President by custom, tradition, historical and political developments, etc. Over time, the combination of constitutional and “Meta-Constitutional” powers, has traditionally given the President of Mexico superlative power.
    27 In greater detail, Article 1 of the Federal Organic Act of the Judicial Power adds three more judicial entities as forming a part of the Judicial Power of the Federation, namely: (1) the Council of the Federal Judiciary; (2) the federal jury of citizens; and (3) the courts of the states and the Federal District; prescribed by Art. 107, para. XII, of the Federal Constitution.
    28 See Jorge A. Vargas. The Rebirth of the Supreme Court of Mexico. An Appraisal of President Zedillo’s Judicial Reform of 1995. 11:2 AMERICAN UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW AND POLICY (1996) at 295-341.
    29 See supra note 11 and the corresponding text.
    30 For a detailed description of this term, see Jorge A. Vargas. MEXICAN LEGAL DICTIONARY AND DESK REFERENCE. West Group, 2003.
    31 An Amparo suit involves not the traditional two, but four parties, and it utilizes highly technical legal terminology. The parties are: 1) the aggrieved party (Agraviado, not plaintiff); 2) the responsible authority (Autoridad responsable); 3) the third injured party (Tercero perjudicado); and 4) the Federal Prosecutor or District Attorney (Agente del Ministerio Público Federal).
    32 For the list of these principles, see supra paragraph b) The Executive Power in this Note.
    33 See Jorge A. Vargas. Conflict of Laws. MEXICAN LAW: A TREATISE FOR LEGAL PRACTITIONERS AND INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS (Chap. 22), West Group (1998) at 241-273.
    34 For additional information on this Code, please see supra note 18 and the corresponding text in this Note.
    35 See Jorge A. Vargas. Enforcement of Judgments. MEXICAN LAW: A TREATISE FOR LEGAL PRACTITIONERS AND INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS (Chap. 23), Vol. 2, West Group (1998) at 275-305.
    36 See the synopsis of this electronic portal at the beginning of this Note, under the title: Mexican Law Information in Spanish. For information on the Office of the President of Mexico, see supra the section titled: b) The Executive Power.
    37 See supra note 21 and the corresponding text.
    38 Pursuant to Article 43, para. II, of the Federal Public Administration Act, the Office of Legal Counsel to the Federal Executive (Consejería Jurídica del Ejecutivo Federal) is empowered, inter alia, “to submit to the consideration of the President and, when appropriate, obtain his signature for all the legislative bills (Iniciativas de leyes y decretos) to be submitted to the Congress of the Union, or to one of its Chambers... and to give an opinion [to the President] regarding said bills.”
    39 Article 43 of the Federal Constitution enumerates the thirty-one states, which constitute “an integral part of the Federation.” For the complete list of these states, please see Appendix IV.
    40 The D.F. serves as the venue—like the District of Columbia in the United States—to the federal powers and, at the same time, operates as a local metropolitan entity with its own Executive, Legislative Assembly and judicial and administrative systems. In essence, the D.F. functions as a “State.” Should the federal powers move away from the Federal District (Mexico City), the area currently occupied by Mexico City is to become the “State of the Valley of Mexico” (Estado del Valle de México), as mandated by Article 44 of Mexico’s Federal Constitution.