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SECTION II-GOVERNMENT AND FOREIGN

RELATIONS

THE GOVERNMENT OF MEXICO*

By HERBERT INGRAM PRIESTLEY, Ph.D.

University of California The Government of The United States of Mexico is organized under the provisions of the Constitution framed at Querétaro, and promulgated February 5, 1917. This document is, particularly in its provisions for organization and administrative machinery, an elaboration of the Constitution of 1857. By it the Mexican people are constituted "a democratic, federal, representative republic, consisting of states free and sovereign in all that concerns their internal affairs, but united in a federation according to the principles of this fundamental law."-Art. 40, Chap. I, Title II.

“The people exercise their sovereignty through the federal powers in matters belonging to the Union, and through those of the states in matters relating to the internal administration of the latter. This power shall be exercised in the manner respectively established by the constitutions, both federal and state. The constitutions of the states shall in no case contravene the stipulations of the Federal Constitution.”—Art. 41, Chap. I, Title II.

The country is divided into twenty-eight states, two territories, and a Federal District which includes the capital. The powers of government are divided into legislative, executive and judi. cial. It is expressly provided that no two or more of these powers shall be exercised by one person or corporation; even the executive power shall not be vested in one person except in accordance with Article 29, which provides for extraordinary executive powers in times of grave public menace. This article permits suspension of personal rights of citizens by general decrees for limited periods. If the suspension occurs while Congress is in session, that body controls the character of the grant of powers to the executive; if Congress is in recess, it must be convoked at once to grant the powers needed.

The Legislative Power is vested in a Congress composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. The Chamber of Deputies is composed of representatives of the people, chosen every two years at the rate of one for each sixty thousand inhabitants, or fraction thereof exceeding twenty thousand. The computation

* Reprinted from the 1920-21 edition of the Mexican Year Book.

is still made upon the figures of the census of 1910, but a new census is now being taken (1921). Each state and territory has at least one Deputy. These Deputies are chosen by direct vote; they must be Mexican citizens by birth, over twenty-five years old, natives of the states or territories they represent, or be residents therein for six months prior to their election. They must have no connection with any military forces in the area they represent, nor may they have connection with the executive Secre. tariats, the Supreme Court, nor the State governments. No minister of any religious faith may be a Deputy.

The Senators, two from each state and the Federal District, serve four years, half retiring every two years. They must be thirty-five years old. Both Deputies and Senators are guaranteed immunity for opinions officially expressed. They are prohibited from accepting other paid Federal or State offices.

Congress must hold sessions yearly beginning September 1st and continuing not later than December 31st. The President may convene either or both houses in extraordinary session. Alternates (suplentes) are chosen at the same time that Deputies and Senators are elected, in order to prevent possible lack of representation through default of a principal.

Legislation is initiated, first, by the President of the republic, second, by members of Congress, third, by the state legislatures. Legislation initiated by the President or the legislatures is given preference on the calendars.

Congress has power to decide the boundaries of the states, enact tariff laws, control all mining, commerce, and institutions of credit, create and abolish federal offices, declare war, and provide for the national defense. It may pass laws governing citizenship, naturalization, colonization, immigration, and public health. Means of communication, mints, the currency, weights and measures, disposal of public lands, the diplomatic and consular services, are subject to its rules. It may grant amnesties, but the President alone may grant pardons. Congress also elects the justices of the Supreme Court and lower Federal courts. It may establish professional schools, museums, libraries, and other institutions of learning. It must elect the President when the popular elections result in no choice, and it may also accept his resignation. The Chamber of Deputies supervises the Federal auditor, approves the annual budget, and hears charges against Federal officers, and may bring impeachments before the Senate. The Senate has the exclusive power to approve treaties, ratify if necessary the President's appointments, permit movements of national troops outside the republic, and consent to the presence of foreign fleets for more than a month in Mexican waters. No officer, or body of the government, has authority to permit foreign troops to remain within the republic for any purpose.

Senate: Unusual powers are conceded to the Mexican Senate in the provisions of Article 76, Section 5; it may declare in its discretion that the constitutional authorities of any state in the union have disappeared, and in such case may appoint, by vote of two-thirds of its members present or by its Permanent Committee during the recess, a provisional Governor from a list of three nominated by the President. This Governor shall call a state election, but is not eligible to the governorship himself. This constitutional provision allows presidential control of the states to a remarkable degree; experience has shown that contested state elections have often brought about necessity for intervention of the central government to preserve quiet and protect life and property. Moreover, the stability of the central government itself has frequently been proportionate to its control over the administrative machinery of the several entities.

That the Mexican scheme of government contemplates exercise of great power by Congress is evidenced by the provisions of Articles 78 and 79, which create a Permanent Commission of Congress. This body, composed of fifteen Deputies and fourteen Senators appointed by their respective chambers just before adjournment, is the repository, during recess, of the war powers of Congress; it administers oaths of office to proper recipients of the executive and judicial powers when necessary; it may withhold approval of appointments to the diplomatic and consular service; it prepares programs of business for the approaching regular congressional sessions, and it may call extraordinary sessions whenever malfeasance by executive secretaries, judicial officers, or state governors shall have brought about actions of impeachment. In such cases, the extraordinary sessions are limited to the impeachment trials indicated. This admirable provision gives the legislative branch a highly desirable independence in the situations specified, or would do in actuality if it were not for the fact that in spirit, if not in form, the government is largely premised upon military control wielded by the executive. The executive strives to control the composition of the commission.

The Powers of the President: Mexico is still under the influence of the old colonial tradition of one-man power, of the irresponsible viceroyalty, in spite of the many constitutional provisions which check in theory the powers of the chief executive. The President must be a Mexican, son of Mexican-born parents, in full enjoyment of all his legal rights, over thirty-five years of age when elected, must have resided within the republic for the whole year just prior to his election, and must not belong to any ecclesiastical order or be a minister of any religious faith. Attempt to prevent military control is seen in the provision that the President, if an army man, must have left active service ninety days before the election. Attempt to prevent govern

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mental machinations to control elections is seen in the proviso that candidates who are chief officers of the executive departments must resign ninety days prior to their election as President; and an effort to vitiate attempts at renovation of the executive power by the time-honored cuartelazo or coup d'état resides in the provision that the President must not have taken part in any such activity.

The Office of Vice-President does not exist; it has proven unsatisfactory in Mexico. Its existence was the immediate cause of many of the egoistical cuartelazos of the first quarter century after Independence, and its trial under Diaz to provide mechanism for a legitimate succession made it lastingly unpopular. The eharacter of the office is alien to the spirit of Mexican government. The succession in case of disability was, under the Constitution of 1857, reposed in the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But under the existing basic law the new executive, in case of permanent disability of the President, is chosen temporarily, pending general popular elections, by secret majority ballot of the entire membership of Congress. This is in case the vacancy occurs during the first two years of the current term ; if it occurs during the last two years, the choice of the Congress is permanent for the current term. If Congress is not in session at the time of the exigency, the Permanent Commission chooses an ad interim executive to serve until Congress, at once assembled for the purpose, can act. The ad interim executive cannot be made the regular one.

The Veto Power of the President is similar to the American control of legislation, and his further power over government policy is openly avowed in his prerogative of initiating legislation. This is done by the presentation in Congress of proyectos de leyes or bills prepared by the secretaries of the executive departments concerned. This is an admirable provision which makes of each secretariat a bill-framing bureau within its own program, and tends to insure unity of purpose. The presidential powers are further enhanced by the grant of powers to enforce the sanitary laws, to control public expenditures, to revoke franchises, forfeit land grants and expel alleged pernicious foreigners by executive order merely, under the noteworthy Article 33. The supremacy of the President really resides, however, in his “Constitutional" prerogative of suspending at any time of public danger or emergency, any provisions of the Bill of Rights or other guarantees which hinder meeting the situation promptly and readily. This is the essence of the one-man power in Mexico. Even in the case of necessity for enacting enabling laws putting into effect the constitutional provisions, the power of the President to issue decrees pending congressional action gives him, especially in case of the inability or unwillingness of Congress to pass constructive legislation, an autocratic power which militates against stability of government while seeming to increase it temporarily. Most of the phases of international perplexity to which the Mexican government is at present the prey are traceable to this peculiarity of legislative power enjoyed by the supreme executive. This is the logical consequence of the inexperience of the legislative branch and the consequent liabil. ity to unsupported executive activity.

The Executive Departments: The President is assisted by executive secretaries who are chiefs of their ministries or secretariats and constitute his official advisers, though there has grown up no actual cabinet system like that in vogue extra-constitutionally in the United States. The ministers of the departments are appointed by the President and are responsible to him and removable by him at discretion.

The Secretariat of State is known as the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. It has charge of all diplomatic and consular affairs; it manages the negotiations of all treaties and other international agreements, and handles boundary and other disputes. The secretary is custodian of the grand seal of the republic and of the archives of the government.

The Secretariat of the Interior is known as the Secretaría de Gobernación. It is the most important of the domestic ministries. This office controls the administration of the Federal District and the two territories. It has charge of federal elections, controls immigration, public charities, sanitation, the national printing office, and the daily official bulletin (Diario Oficial).

The Secretariat of Justice has control of the Supreme Court, the three Circuit and thirty-two District courts, and the numerous courts of the states, territories and the Federal District. The eleven judges of the Supreme Court and four supernumerary justices are elected by indirect popular vote for a term of six years. An iniciativa de ley (bill) was presented in the Senate, July 28, 1921, amending Articles 94 and 96 of the Constitution, raising the number of Supreme Court judges to twenty-nine and providing that they shall sit en banc or in three chambers. They are to be elected by Congress from lists proposed by the state legislatures.

The Secretariat of Public Instruction and Belles Arts was created by the first amendment to the Constitution of 1917, enacted and proclaimed in July, 1921. This secretariat when organized will have supervision over the educational institutions of the Federal District, and of the territories, and it also will have charge of new establishments for higher instruction in the states. The new organization of this secretariat will make it an efficient

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