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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Mexico

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Mexico, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa781c.html [accessed 22 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
 

Mexico is a federal republic with a president, a bicameral legislature, and a constitutionally independent judiciary. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has won every presidential election since the party's founding in 1929, but in recent years and through democratic reform, the opposition has steadily expanded its stake in the political system. Since the 1988 elections, opposition parties have gained 180 of 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 3 state governorships and control the governments in 10 percent of the municipalities. These gains reflect increased ability by the opposition to attract support and to organize itself, as well as the impact of political reforms instituted by the administration of President Salinas. Nevertheless, the PRI continued to dominate the Government through a combination of voting strength, organizational power, access to resources not enjoyed by other political parties, and – in some elections – outright violations of electoral laws. September 1993 changes in federal electoral law and practices were designed to make future elections more transparent and tamperproof.

Mexican security forces, which include the military, federal and state judicial police, federal highway police, and local police, are under the control of elected civilian officials. Despite progress made by the Salinas administration to curb human rights abuses, the security forces, in particular the police, continued to commit serious human rights violations in 1993.

Mexico has a mixed economy that combines domestic market capitalism with some state ownership of major industries. Private property rights are protected by law. The Government's economic reform program was successful in reducing inflation and restoring both domestic and overseas investor confidence. However, there continued to exist serious disparities of income and areas of severe poverty. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and the United States was signed in 1992 and won approval from the U.S., Mexican, and Canadian legislatures. It entered into force on January 1, 1994.

Early in 1994, a primarily Indian group calling itself the Zapatista Army of National Liberation resorted to an armed uprising, initially taking control of four municipalities in the state of Chiapas, to protest what it regarded as government failure to deal effectively with social and economic problems.

In 1993 there continued to be widespread human rights abuses and a frequent failure to punish violators despite government efforts to do so. Important abuses included extrajudicial killings by the police, torture, illegal arrests, glaring prison deficiencies, and extensive illegal child labor in the informal economy. The Government has made strong efforts to end the "culture of impunity" surrounding the security forces through reforms in the Office of the Attorney General (PGR), continued support to the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH), and establishment in 1993 of state-level commissions for human rights. These actions together with increased public awareness of human rights concerns have brought about a noticeable decline in the incidence of violations in Mexico.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

A number of political and human rights activists were killed in 1993, but a political motive was not clearly established in any of these killings. For example, on June 20 unknown assailants killed Amado Solomon Rodriguez, Campeche state leader of the opposition Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD). The case was not solved, and there was conflicting evidence as to the possible motive.

The focus remained on developments in the killings of political and human rights activists from past years, particularly the 1990 murder of human rights lawyer and professor Norma Corona, the 1988 disappearance and suspected murder of political activist Jose Ramon Garcia, the 1988 murders of Xavier Obando and Roman Gil, and the 1984 murder of journalist Manuel Buendia. In the Norma Corona case, police commander Gonzalez Trevino remained on trial for the murder, despite the subsequent murders of six prosecution witnesses, several of whom were in police custody at the time they were killed. Former National Security Director Jose Antonio Zorrilla Perez and four others were convicted and sentenced to 35 years in the Buendia killing. Two state attorneys general accused of killing Obando and Gil, and a former state police chief charged with Garcia's disappearance and murder, are in jail.

The CNDH opened a special investigation into political violence, including killings, in 1993. There were 140 cases of violence against PRD members being investigated, of which 90 concerned killings. Of the 140 cases, 67 resulted in recommendations from the CNDH involving culpability by government authorities. In 18 cases the CNDH did not find government authorities at fault. The CNDH concluded 22 cases for lack of additional information from the complainants, and 18 cases fell outside the CNDH's juridical authority. Three cases were referred to other authorities, and six cases were incorporated into previously existing cases.

The police and police auxiliaries, known as "madrinas," and to a lesser extent the army continued to be responsible for extrajudicial killings. A number of detainees and prisoners were killed while in police custody. Although many of these cases were being investigated by the CNDH, many were not fully prosecuted or the guilty parties punished. In Sonora, an auxiliary killed five civilians in an incident arising out of a traffic confrontation. Following an attempted coverup and an investigation, the auxiliary, a former Mexico City policeman dismissed for involvement in another murder, was charged with multiple homicides, transportation of illegal arms, and usurpation of functions. Two police commanders who attempted to cover up the killings were fired and charged with obstruction of justice. At year's end, all three remained on trial. Four other police officers, who knew of the coverup but did not report it, were dismissed but have not been charged with wrongdoing. Attorney General Carpizo ended the practice of hiring police auxiliaries.

There were a number of deaths of detainees and prisoners in police custody. The most prominent was the death in Guadalajara of an alleged member of the drug family identified with the May killing of Cardinal Posada and five others. Investigations revealed that the drug family had been receiving police protection; a number of prominent police officials were charged with crimes as a result. The killing of the drug family member was ruled an accident by Jalisco state authorities, but local newspapers credibly claimed that it was an extrajudicial killing and openly mocked the findings. One 1992 death of an American citizen in police custody, originally reported to the authorities as a suicide, has now been ruled a murder. A police officer was arrested and charged with murder; the trial continued at year's end.

Killings of gays and male prostitutes continued in the state of Chiapas. Press reports indicated that in 1992-93 at least 12 known homosexuals and 9 male prostitutes were killed, most with high-calibre firearms. At year's end, the police had solved none of these murders, and gay rights advocates charged they were making little, if any, effort to do so.

The army was also responsible for some extrajudicial killings. On June 23, Mexican army units claimed they had killed five narcotics traffickers in a shoot-out in Chihuahua state. A subsequent investigation revealed that the soldiers had captured, tortured, and summarily executed the suspects. Sixteen soldiers were charged in the incident.

In Mexico's rural states, violent disputes over land sometimes led to extrajudicial killings. Paramilitary bands, police auxiliaries, and local police controlled by political bosses and landowners threatened and sometimes killed indigenous activists.

With the establishment in 1990 of the CNDH as an independent entity under the Constitution and the formation in 1993 of official human rights commissions in each state, increased attention was paid to human rights at both the state and federal levels. The CNDH has the power to compel officials to grant access and give evidence. However, it then issues nonbinding recommendations that depend on executive and judicial organs and the weight of public opinion to ensure enforcement by the government entities. To date, of the 624 recommendations the CNDH has issued, 268 have been followed fully. Eighty-two people were arrested as a result of CNDH recommendations to the Attorney General's office and of those, 20 were tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison terms averaging over 5 years, including 3 officials who were convicted of torture.

b. Disappearance

There were no confirmed reports of politically motivated disappearances in 1993.

The most significant development in Mexico's continuing effort to resolve past disappearances was resolution of the 1988 Jose Ramon Garcia case, mentioned above. Over the last 6 years, some human rights advocates claimed that there were more than a dozen disappearances, but in 1992 and 1993 no new cases arising in Mexico were added to the list kept by the U.N. Working Group on Involuntary or Forced Disappearances.

The CNDH closed its inquiries into 78 of the more than 200 disappearance cases listed by the U.N. Working Group over that period. Of the 80 cases concluded, 51 persons were found alive, and 22 were determined to be dead. Sixteen of the deaths were homicides, but in no case was there evidence that the homicides were politically motivated. The remaining seven cases were dropped by the complainants. Independent Mexican human rights groups assert that approximately 500 persons disappeared in Mexico over the last 23 years, mostly in the early to mid-1970's. Eureka, a group formed by mothers of several hundred persons who disappeared during the guerrilla conflicts of the 1970's, continued to press for news of family members' whereabouts.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although prohibited by the Constitution, torture is still used by members of the security forces despite increased public awareness and some convictions of violators. The most commonly used methods of torture were threats, beatings, asphyxiation, and electric shock.

From its establishment in June 1990 through September 1993, the CNDH received 1,114 complaints of torture, 847 of which were investigated and concluded. All were classified as possible torture based on the allegations in the complaints. Of these, 103 were found to have involved torture, and recommendations were issued in those cases. In 293 other cases, violations other than torture were found.

According to the CNDH, torture complaints declined again during 1993 both in number and as a percentage of all complaints. During the CNDH's first year in operation (May 1990-May 1991), allegations of torture totaled 426 (13.4 percent of all cases), though many of those cases were from previous years and only reported to the Commission in its first year of operation. During the May 1992-May 1993 period, the number of torture allegations had fallen to 246 (2.8 percent of all cases). From June to December 1993, 91 cases (1.6 percent of all cases) of alleged torture were lodged with the CNDH. Although state human rights commission presidents and some nongovernmental human rights groups agreed that complaints of torture have declined, other human rights organizations claimed that torture remained at historic levels or even increased, citing frequent allegations to their groups. The magnitude of the problem remains significant.

CNDH investigations into complaints of torture were an important effort to reduce violations. However, there continued a pattern of failure to try, convict, and sentence prison officials guilty of abusing detainees. Thirty-two U.S. citizens registered complaints with U.S. consulates and, with permission of the complainants, the U.S. Government formally protested 13 cases of torture or other mistreatment through diplomatic channels. There has been a decline in such cases, as reflected in the decreasing number of formal protests over the past several years: 39 in 1990, 21 in 1991, and 17 in 1992.

Most prisons in Mexico lack adequate facilities for prisoners and are overcrowded, despite an early release program endorsed by the CNDH and legal reforms reducing the number of crimes that carry mandatory prison sentences. In addition, an entrenched system of corruption undermined prison authority and led to abuses. Frequently, prisoners exercise authority within the prison, displacing prison officials. Conflicts between rival prison groups, often involved in drug trafficking, continued to spark lethal violence. While a few prison officials were prosecuted for abusing prisoners, it was more common to dismiss them or to charge them with only minor offenses. Urged by the CNDH, the Government accelerated a major prison-building program designed to reduce the overcrowding, lack of security, and the mixing of male and female prisoners and of accused and sentenced criminals that have added greatly to prison violence. The federal prison system alone added 400 spaces for maximum security prisoners, and 800 more were planned for 1993 and 1994. As of December 31, there were 94,768 inmates in Mexican prisons: 48,994 were serving sentences; 45,774 were being tried.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary arrest and imprisonment is the most common human rights abuse, reflected both in the complaints brought to the CNDH and those brought to the state commissions. Legally, arrests may be made only upon the authority of a judicially issued warrant, with two exceptions: suspects caught in the act of committing a crime, and serious crimes where there is an urgent need to make the arrest and no judge is available. In the latter, a public prosecutor can issue an arrest warrant, but the suspect must be presented to a judge immediately. In practice, police frequently arrested suspects without a warrant, even when the suspect was not caught in the act, and judges overlooked this irregularity.

The Constitution requires that those arrested be arraigned before a judge as soon as possible. In August the Constitution was amended to allow detention of up to 48 hours after arrest in ordinary cases or 96 hours in cases where organized crime is alleged. The amendment was designed to give prosecutors more time to prepare their cases. Once arraigned, a judge takes the defendant's statement and must inform the accused of charges and evidence against him within 48 hours. Within 72 hours of arraignment, a judge must remand the defendant to prison or proceed with release. In a large majority of cases, detainees are released or arraigned within the time frame specified by law. The impact of the amendments is not yet clear.

In 1993 arrests without warrants were somewhat fewer but remained common. Attorney General Carpizo, a human rights advocate and former CNDH head, backed the lengthened prearraignment period in part to discourage such abuses. As in the case of roadside narcotics searches, which Carpizo revived but subjected to strict new rules, the lengthened prearraignment period was intended both to assist law enforcement and to keep prosecutors out of trouble by setting rules they can follow. Before August, prison populations contained a significant number of pretrial detainees, many of whom had been detained for more than the time permitted under the Constitution. In recent years, the CNDH, other rights groups, and private counsel have won release of detainees held beyond the constitutional time limits, but prolonged detention remained an ingrained problem.

Frequent forced expulsions and unlawful arrests continued in rural areas. These human rights violations often involved indigenous people evicted by landowners with local police and government support. In February squatters who had settled on a plot of land in Morelos were violently driven off by special police, losing many of their possessions. The state human rights commission and the state Attorney General's office concluded that the squatters had no right to the land. At year's end, an investigation continued into charges of human rights violations during the eviction proceedings; no one had been charged with wrongdoing.

In Chiapas, state police were criticized for wrongfully arresting several groups of Indians while investigating two unrelated incidents in which military officers had been killed. In both cases, several Indians were allegedly beaten and wrongly detained. While many of the suspects were later released, charges remained pending against others, and the Government maintained it acted properly in bringing those charges. At the beginning of 1994, an armed uprising in Chiapas called attention to serious discontent with the human rights and economic situation.

Indians continued to be detained or arrested without cause as a result of police and military investigations into killings of soldiers. An investigation by the CNDH, nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), and the army itself into one such case in Baborigame, Chihuahua, resulted in an unprecedented admission of responsibility by the army, which paid restitution to those Indians affected by the action and punished those responsible. In the villages of Ocosingo and Ocotal, Chiapas, several Indian peasants identified as suspects in the murders of soldiers were arrested but then released by judges for lack of evidence after local human rights groups and the CNDH intervened. The CNDH and the federal Attorney General's office investigated the arrests and recommended disciplinary action against the officials involved. Other Indians involved in the Ocosingo case remained imprisoned on murder and other charges, and government officials asserted that there is evidence to support these allegations.

Exile of Mexican citizens is not normally practiced.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system is divided into federal and state courts, with federal courts having jurisdiction over most civil cases and those involving major felonies, including drug trafficking. Some opposition politicians and credible independent analysts asserted that judicial officials were overly partial to the executive branch, despite appointments for life (unless dismissed for cause) after a tenuring period. Three federal judges in Sonora were dismissed for obstructing justice, and an arrest warrant for obstructing justice and bribery was issued against a former Supreme Court justice (both unprecedented in modern Mexico). Low pay and high caseloads contributed to continued corruption within the judicial system.

The Constitution requires that a court must hand down a verdict within 4 months of arrest for crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 2 years or less, and within a year for those with longer maximum sentences. The trial itself, sentencing, and appeals can delay the final outcome for significant periods of time, sometimes adding a year or more to the entire process. Trial is by judge, not jury, in nearly all criminal cases. Defendants have a right to counsel, and public defenders are available. Other rights include protection against self-incrimination, the right to confront one's accusers, the right to a translator if one's native language is not Spanish, and the right to a public trial. Such protections are not always observed in practice. The long trial process is one of the major causes of overcrowding in the prison system, as those who do not qualify for or cannot post bond swell the prison population.

Imprisonment of rural indigenous people, often on charges of cultivating narcotic plants, puts a heavy demand on the prison system. Human rights advocates argue convincingly that many Indians were denied fair trials because of language and cultural barriers, as well as poverty. The CNDH began a program in 1992 to seek early release for prisoners, including indigenous people, and to improve compliance by federal and state officials with legal requirements that indigenous people be represented fairly. More than 1,000 Indians benefited from the early release program and the general parole program in 1993.

Some human rights groups claim that many indigenous prisoners are political prisoners because language and cultural barriers denied them fair trial. The Government disputes the claim, charging that there is evidence that those whom human rights groups consider to be political prisoners have been guilty of common crimes such as criminal association, homicide, and damage to property.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution provides for the rights of privacy and freedom from intrusion by the Government into homes, family, and correspondence. However, although search warrants are required by law, unlawful searches without warrants occurred frequently, and there continued to be credible reports of wiretapping.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, but there remained significant restrictions on these freedoms. Opposition leaders freely voice their criticism of the Government, and there is a large number of newspapers and magazines with a wide range of editorial views. The Government's control of a significant advertising budget and its ability to reward favored journalists by providing them access to officials were used to discourage unfavorable reports. A number of journalists depended upon receipt of under-the-table payments from the often public entities they covered to supplement low wages.

There were signs of change in the relationship between the Government and the press. The government practice of paying the press to run material it provided as news articles was banned, though some agencies may still do so, disregarding the prohibition. The Government put into effect clear rules restricting advertising by government entities in the press and requiring receipts for any press expenses. Several newspapers revised their wage and advertising revenue distribution policies to reduce or eliminate abuses. In 1992 the Government announced that it would no longer cover expenses incurred by reporters accompanying the President at home (it had earlier ended the practice on travels abroad). Two of three remaining government-owned television stations were sold to a private group that will provide significant new competition in national television media. Nevertheless, the Government's continuing control over broadcast license renewals and a reluctance by journalists and newspaper owners to undermine their access to and relationship with the Government contributed to the media's tendency toward self-censorship.

During campaign periods, the Federal Electoral Code provides opposition parties with 15 minutes per month of television time, plus additional time in proportion to their electoral strength. In addition, federal law reforms passed in 1993 stipulated that all parties seeking to buy more time from commercial stations shall have equal access and pay the same rates. If several parties compete for the same time slots, there is a procedure to divide the slot in two, distribute the right to buy slots in the first half pro rata among all parties, and allot the right to buy slots in the second half in proportion to a party's polling in the immediate past federal election. A procedure was also mandated to limit overall campaign spending that will include media time and space.

Opposition politicians and others have long claimed that the principal television networks accord the government party inordinate news coverage, particularly at election time. There continued to be credible allegations that the media did not give government critics as much air time as government supporters. The new law requires the Federal Electoral Commission to inform media of a general requirement for fair treatment, but there is no provision for a "right of reply" under the law.

Violence and threats against journalists continued to be a problem. There were at least five reported cases of journalists killed in gangland style during the course of the year. Others reported receiving threats. Investigations continued into these murders, but none appeared politically motivated. A senior national security official was convicted in the 1984 murder of journalist Manuel Buendia. Human rights advocates and others speculated that narcotics traffickers and corrupt officials protecting them have been behind many assaults on journalists.

The July 1991 death of physician and columnist Victor Manuel Oropeza Contreras remained unresolved. Two suspects initially charged with the murder were released in 1992 in compliance with a recommendation from CNDH; a new prosecutor is continuing the investigation. The police officials who made the two arrests were tried for fabricating that case.

In response to a complaint by the Union of Democratic Journalists, the CNDH began an inquiry in 1990 into 55 cases of alleged abuse of journalists' human rights. Of the original 55 cases, the arrests of 3 persons responsible for the murder of journalist Javier Juarez brought to 41 the cases concluded by the CNDH either through arrests, final judgments (including convictions), or dismissals for lack of evidence or interest by complainants. Police investigations pursuant to CNDH recommendations continued in the 14 cases where recommendations were issued. The CNDH did not establish a political motive in any of the 41 cases, although as noted above, a corrupt security official was convicted of the Buendia murder. In December 1992, the CNDH updated its report and announced that it had embarked on a second stage, investigating 22 new cases. Of these, three new cases were concluded; in two cases the CNDH found no violation, and in the third the complaint was withdrawn.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution grants the right of peaceful assembly for any lawful purpose. A government permit is generally required for major demonstrations. The Government permits demonstrations by a broad range of political groups.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution permits persons to practice the religion of their choice, and that right is honored in fact. Religious entities may acquire legal status after operating in Mexico for 5 years, own property, and operate private schools but are restricted from owning businesses and communications media. Individual clergy may be candidates for political office but only after a period of separation from their religious functions. Otherwise, clergy remain barred from holding public office and advocating partisan political positions.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Movement within and outside the country is unrestricted. The Government has customarily admitted persons recognized as refugees by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Approximately 45,000 Guatemalan refugees (up from 43,000 in 1992) reside in camps and resettlement areas in southern Mexican states. The refugee population grew due to high birth rates, despite repatriations of 2,500 refugees in January and 1,300 refugees in December. Since 1990 they have been permitted to accept work outside their camps and may travel freely in the five-state area of Chiapas, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and Yucatan. The Government estimates that an additional 400,000 Central Americans, mostly Guatemalans and Salvadorans, are living and working in Mexico. These pre-1990 undocumented Central Americans lead a precarious existence, are subject to deportation when caught, and are often exploited as a source of cheap labor.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Under the Constitution, citizens have the right to change their government through periodic elections. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) dominates Mexican politics and has controlled the Government since its founding in 1929. It won every presidential election since then and has maintained power, in part, by relying on public patronage, use of government and party organizational resources, and – according to respected independent observers – electoral fraud. Recent reforms enacted by the Government are intended to ensure that future elections will be, and will be seen to be, free and fair. Opposition parties have argued that the reforms do not go far enough to ensure that objective fully.

Nine states elected governors, state legislators, and municipal mayors in 1993. The PRI won all the gubernatorial contests. Most of those victories were won by wide margins and prompted only scattered protests by opposition parties who claimed electoral law violations. In several cases, however, opposition parties strongly contested the PRI victories, and credible observers in some instances attributed them to electoral fraud. For example, the PRD rejected official results that declared the PRI candidate governor in Guerrero in February and in Nayarit in July. In both cases, the PRD asserted that vote tallies were distorted by various means that violated electoral laws. In Guerrero, the PRD alleged that too few people voted to make the election legitimate. The PRI candidates took office in both states amid continuing opposition protests. The conservative National Action Party (PAN) was the protagonist in less extensive protests over the elections in Baja California Sur in February. Although local PAN members claimed that their candidate had won the governorship, the national PAN leadership conceded its loss.

In the Yucatan, the PRI proposed in April that the November gubernatorial election be postponed until 1995, seen as an attempt to prevent the popular PAN mayor of Merida from winning the position just months before general elections in August 1994. The measure was passed in the PRI-dominated state legislature, despite PAN protests. Later, however, the PRI proposed that the gubernatorial election be held in November as scheduled, but for only an 18-month term. New elections for governor then would be held in May 1995. The state legislature also approved this proposal, again without PAN support.

Yucatan elections were held on November 28, with civic action groups reporting heavy voter turnout and noting some irregularities in voting procedures. Opposition parties, led by the PAN, registered complaints with the state electoral commission against procedures in 57 polling places throughout the state. On December 1, the Yucatan interim governor, from the PRI, unexpectedly submitted her resignation, possibly over the manner in which the elections were conducted; the resignation was not accepted by the state legislature. On December 5, the Yucatan electoral commission formally declared the PRI candidates victors in the gubernatorial and Merida mayoral races. The PAN subsequently launched a series of protest rallies, led by PAN presidential candidate Diego Fernandez. After further protests and deliberations, the PRI mayor-elect of Merida resigned his office on December 20, and the electoral commission awarded the post to the PAN candidate who had finished second in the official results. The commission also dismissed most of the PAN's other challenges, and the PAN ended its public protests over the elections.

Continuing changes to the Constitution and reforms of electoral legislation have somewhat reduced the PRI's advantages. The Congress adopted constitutional amendments and revised the electoral law to double the size of the Senate, guarantee the opposition at least 25 percent of the seats, and revise (effective in 1999) the requirements for president by eliminating the bar to native-born Mexicans of foreign-born parents. In addition, the changes establish campaign and party financing limits along with an audit function in the semiautonomous Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), eliminate the clause that gave the party achieving a plurality of 35 percent or more of the vote an automatic majority in the lower house, and give parties access to commercial media time based on electoral strength. The PRI, PAN, and a smaller party voted for these measures. The PRD demurred, arguing that the IFE and other organizations running the elections should be controlled by the parties, not the Government. The PRD is correct in its contention that the Government still has substantial influence over the IFE. Mexico's Secretary of Government remains as president and a voting member of the IFE governing council. The current IFE Director General served as a subsecretary in the Secretariat of Government before taking the post; his predecessor went on to become the victorious PRI candidate for governor of Mexico state.

The 1993 changes did, however, give opposition party representatives and citizen members-at-large more votes than PRI and IFE officials combined on the IFE's district and state electoral boards, which perform the critical first review of campaign results and complaints. In addition, the legal changes buttressed the autonomy of the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TFE), which adjudicates federal election disputes, by adding a five-member appellate panel, presided over by the TFE president and including four members who must be federal judges, nominated by the Supreme Court and approved by two-thirds of the Congress. The appellate panel will pass final judgment on the elections of federal deputies and senators. As a result, newly elected federal legislators will no longer sit in judgment over their own elections.

In another move to legitimate electoral processes in Mexico, the IFE began a campaign late in 1992 to distribute new voter credentials with photographs and also updated the voter registry that was compiled in 1991. The law requires that the list of those receiving voter credentials be given to all parties in sufficient time to review the list and the distribution of voter credentials. Opposition parties remain concerned that the process of producing and distributing credentials may be abused by printing duplicate credentials or selective distribution. In a further effort to instill confidence in its decisions and reduce the opportunity for political influence, the IFE interviewed, tested, and recruited 2,300 individuals to become its new professional civil service staff.

Although improved, the revised Electoral Code was criticized for setting new, more stringent standards for parties seeking to form a coalition, such as that which supported PRD leader Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in 1988. Coalition parties meeting the new standards are to be treated as a single party for the purpose of the election. As such they are entitled to only one space on the ballot, to one share (equal to the largest coalition party's share) of federal financing, and to one party's share of federal funding.

Increased government efforts to redress electoral deficiencies at the federal level have not been matched at the state and local levels where contests continue to provoke controversy. State electoral laws have not kept pace with changes at the federal level. Local elections continue to be subject to the influence of political bosses who have traditionally controlled certain towns or regions and are loathe to lose their power base. Nonetheless, 12-15 million Mexicans are governed by opposition parties at the state and local levels. Opposition leaders assert that those gains have laid the foundation for further advances at the state and national levels.

Under Mexican law, indigenous peoples have the same political rights as all other citizens. While there is no separate indigenous political party in Mexico (although evangelical Christian Indians in Chiapas state have broached the idea of forming their own party), in many states – particularly Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Guerrero indigenous voters make up an important percentage of the population. Traditionally, indigenous voters strongly backed the ruling PRI, with the Government in turn allowing local groups some autonomy on economic and social issues. Opposition politicians and human rights advocates have criticized elections in indigenous areas, saying that the reported results often reflect distortion of the voting process and not a genuine consensus to support the PRI.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Although the Government permits both domestic and international human rights groups to operate without restrictions or official harassment, human rights monitors continued to be subject to threats. Well-known human rights monitor Teresa Jardi, who received five written death threats in 1992, rejoined the Attorney General's office in 1993 and is now the Attorney General's delegate in the state of Chihuahua and in charge of all federal police there. A high-level investigation into the threats against her did not determine who had issued the threats, which have since ceased. Victor Clark, a human rights advocate in Tijuana who issued a study charging that torture continued to be a frequent human rights violation in Baja California, was sued for libel by a police official whom Clark accused of involvement in such abuses. The suit against Clark is being monitored carefully by many who fear it may dissuade others from reporting abuse.

In June 1990, President Salinas established the semiautonomous National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) and appointed respected jurist Jorge Carpizo McGregor as its president. In January 1992, constitutional reforms took effect making the CNDH legally independent. The Commission's mandate does not extend to jurisdiction over the substantive aspects of labor or electoral matters. It may, however, investigate claims of related abuse of nonlabor or political rights, such as failure to proceed with required administrative actions by labor boards or physical or other abuse in connection with an election process. The Code of Official Conduct provides that CNDH officials investigating a complaint have the right to enter immediately any government office or prison and that federal government officials must respond to CNDH requests for information.

The CNDH, whose president calls himself an ombudsman, must rely solely upon the pressure of public opinion and the accuracy of its investigations to induce compliance with its recommendations to state and federal authorities to investigate and prosecute transgressors. The recommendations are not legally binding.

Since announcing in June 1992 that too many of its recommendations had been accepted but only partially implemented, the CNDH pursued an aggressive campaign to enforce full compliance. In the last 2 years, as a result of CNDH recommendations to the Attorney General's Office alone, 20 Mexican officials were tried and convicted of abuse and jailed for terms averaging more than 5 years. Many more cases were still under trial. In addition, the CNDH developed a nationwide register of public officials punished for human rights violations to prevent such officials from being rehired by another public office or agency.

The constitutional change making the CNDH independent also required state human rights commissions to be established by legislation, not executive order. The state commissions in the 30 states and federal district became operational in 1993.

There was no evidence of any attempt by the Government to retaliate against human rights critics in 1993. Ranking officials routinely meet with domestic and international human rights activists to discuss human rights problems. The Salinas Government made a conscious effort both to improve protection of human rights in Mexico and to respond to criticism at home and abroad on human rights issues. Mexican NGO's and international organizations such as Amnesty International and Americas Watch continue to report rights abuses in Mexico, especially torture and illegal detention.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Women

Historically, women have played a subordinate role economically, politically, and socially although they are treated equally under the law. The constitutional provision for equal pay for equal work has never been enforced. The traditional women's role is changing, albeit slowly, as they become increasingly active economically and politically; one woman is the leader of the PRI in the Congress, and another woman led the PRD congressional delegation, the third largest. Women hold important union leadership roles, and they have the right to file for separation and divorce and to own property in their own name.

Domestic assault is a crime, but the magnitude of the problem is unclear because it is reported infrequently. Women appear to be reluctant to file reports of abuse or to press charges; human rights groups say that they receive relatively few complaints of such abuse. When notified, police are reluctant to intervene in what is often considered a domestic affair. Informed sources indicate that as many as 90 percent of incidents of abuse may go unreported. The CNDH has included programs and publications on women's rights in its training and education campaign, and the Center Against Violence toward Women has worked to encourage rape victims to come forward and report sexual crimes. Mexico's first National Conference on Human Rights and Women, held October 20-22, adopted an action plan to increase awareness and enforcement of women's rights.

Children

There is no societal pattern of abuse against children, but child advocates report many cases of such abuse. In 1992 the government-sponsored National Action Program for Children reported receiving 94,000 cases of reported abuse and opened criminal investigations in almost 1,000 cases. The Government devotes a major portion of its discretionary budget to social spending, including programs to assist children. Some 500,000 children receive medical and nutritional assistance as well as educational grants through the national solidarity program. Advocates call for even greater levels of assistance. The protection of children in Mexico is the responsibility of the National System for the Total Development of the Family (DIF), an autonomous agency within the Government's social services sector. DIF employs social workers throughout the country to investigate child abuse allegations, cases of abandoned children, infant malnutrition, and adoptions.

Indigenous People

The Government encourages indigenous groups, many of which do not speak Spanish, to participate in political life, and it is respectful of their desire to retain elements of their traditional lifestyle. Indigenous people do not live on independently governed reservations, although many indigenous communities continue to exercise considerable local control over economic and social issues. These communities continue to apply their traditional law to resolve a variety of disputes, including allegations of crimes. However, these groups remain largely outside the country's political and economic mainstream, a result of longstanding patterns of economic and social development, and in many cases their ability to participate in decisions affecting their lands, cultural traditions, and the allocation of natural resources is negligible. At the beginning of 1994, these problems were particularly highlighted by an armed uprising in Chiapas state. Agrarian law reforms designed to promote sustainable economic development may negatively affect traditional indigenous land ownership.

Human rights groups continued to make credible claims that some indigenous defendants in criminal cases are not treated fairly, despite the 1991 amendment to federal law requiring an interpreter at every stage of a criminal proceeding for indigenous peoples not fluent in Spanish. Knowledge of the Spanish language is essential to work outside indigenous areas, and Indians who do not speak Spanish find entering the outside workplace very difficult.

In Chiapas, political ties between the PRI and tribal leaders have ensured both local autonomy and PRI victories in the indigenous communities. Often the tribe would select its leader, the PRI would endorse the choice, and indigenous voters would vote a straight PRI ticket for local, state, and federal offices. This practice allowed local leaders to maintain autonomy and ties to the national political structure but failed to provide a means to remove corrupt or ineffective leaders once they obtained PRI backing.

Indians have protections under Mexican law, ranging from the right to own land communally to the right to language interpretation in court cases. Indian communities also receive support from social and economic assistance programs. However, deep dissatisfaction among the Indians stems, in part, from the ineffectiveness of legal guarantees and social welfare programs to achieve the goals they expect.

The CNDH received 137 complaints from individuals or groups living or working in indigenous communities from May 1992 to May 1993. Most complaints pertained to the administration of justice and judicial procedures, arbitrary arrests, torture, abuse of authority, failure to carry out land dispute resolutions, and refusal to award and restore lands. During the same period, the CNDH made recommendations in favor of 17 complainants, faulting the authorities for procedural deficiencies, abuse of authority, delays in the administration of justice, and failure to carry out arrest warrants. Most recommendations were accepted, and legal proceedings have begun and, in some cases, already concluded. The CNDH's civic education work to end human rights abuses of Mexico's indigenous people continued and expanded.

Religious Minorities

Discrimination against persons on the basis of religious affiliation is illegal, and no complaints of such abuse were brought against the Government. In Chiapas, indigenous people who converted from their traditional Catholic religion to evangelical faiths continued to be forcibly expelled from their houses by other villagers, despite efforts by the state government and the Catholic hierarchy to stop such actions. There was at least one attempt by local residents in Nuevo Leon in 1993 to stop construction of an evangelical church. After a delay, construction continued. There were also credible reports of private businesses preferring Catholic to non-Catholic job applicants.

People With Disabilities

Disabled access to buildings and other facilities is seldom seen in Mexico and not required by law outside Mexico City, where it was recently mandated. Special education for the disabled is not widely available. Handicapped persons hold prominent positions in political parties and in the workplace but do not appear to receive any special assistance by law or in fact.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution and provisions of the Federal Labor Law (FLL) give all workers the freedom to form unions to defend their interests. Unions must register with federal or state government authorities to obtain legal status. Unions may freely join labor centrals without the Government's prior approval, but centrals too must register to acquire legal status. Registration requirements, involving submission of basic information about the union, are not onerous. There have been repeated allegations by labor activists, however, that federal or state labor authorities use this administrative procedure improperly to withhold registration from groups considered disruptive to government policies, trade union leaders, or enterprises. Privately, some employers and trade unionists supportive of the government agree this occurs occasionally. The considerable delays allow for a variety of outside pressures from employers, unions, and government or political party officials either in favor of or in opposition to the registration application, which, on occasion, have led to public protests, demonstrations, and controversy. However, no such delays were reported or aroused controversh in 1993.

The Federal Government's Secretariat of Labor and Social Protection (STPS), Arbitration and Conciliation Board (JFCA), and other agencies apply and enforce these laws with reasonable fairness and efficiency. There are occasional errors or oversights, however, and vociferous public complaints by losing parties to disputes are frequent. This issue is complicated by the federal system which reserves some jurisdiction to the states. Some state governments are reputed to be less fair and efficient in enforcing labor law than others. According to federal labor authorities, labor law is more effectively enforced in sectors under federal jurisdiction than in those under state jurisdiction. NAFTA and its supplemental agreements will enlarge the area of federal jurisdiction.

About 30 to 35 percent of the total Mexican work force is organized in trade unions. Most of these are members of several large union confederations, known as labor centrals, most of which belong to a national umbrella organization, the Labor Congress (CT see below). Unions and labor centers, including independent unions and those not allied with the governing PRI party, are free to affiliate with international labor organizations and participate in them actively.

Mexico maintains legal restrictions on public employees that contravene international labor standards. In examining compliance by member governments which have ratified the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on Freedom of Association, the ILO Committee of Experts (COE) reminded Mexico again in 1993 that several clauses of its Federal Government Employees Law do not conform to this Convention. The law allows only one union per public body and prohibits public servants from leaving their union, reelecting their leaders, or joining workers or peasants unions. However, some public sector union leaders have been reelected despite these restrictions and union statutes. The COE said the law may legitimately restrict collective bargaining and certain other activities to "the most representative organization" but without prohibiting existence of other organizations, and again asked the Government to amend the law. The COE also reiterated a similar reminder about another clause institutionalizing trade union monopoly in the public banking sector, but it noted with satisfaction that constitutional amendments and the privatization of many banks had freed their employees of such restrictions.

The largest trade union central is the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), organizationally a major component of the PRI. In the past, CTM members were automatically PRI members, but the PRI shifted to individual memberships in 1990. The CTM, other PRI-allied federations, and a number of autonomous,

mostly PRI-allied unions (a total of 37 organizations) belong to the CT, a coordinating body which represents approximately 85 percent of Mexico's organized workers.

Traditionally, a significant number of union officials held appointive and elected positions in federal and state governments and in the ruling PRI, and there was significant union influence in nominating PRI candidates at all levels of government. This symbiotic relationship gave labor unions a degree of influence in the Government but similarly limited their freedom of action. The CT, however, remains primarily a coordinating body among the CTM and most other PRI-allied unions which can be mobilized to support the PRI's positions on selected political issues and in election campaigns. Union officials continue to support PRI political candidates and generally support government economic policies, but the labor sector's voice in policy formulation has greatly diminished. When systemic reforms were instituted in the late 1980's, the mainstream labor organizations lost strength within the PRI. Half of the PRI national political council is now chosen on a territorial basis, and only half, rather than all, on a sectoral basis. (The national labor centrals are one sector). After 1991 federal legislative elections with fewer than usual PRI labor candidates, the percentage of CT senators and deputies in the Federal Congress fell to less than 10 percent. (Only 3 of 62 senators are from the labor sector, though 1 of these heads the Senate.) Only 3 of 31 state governors are former labor leaders. These factors, as well as the reality of privatization and economic restructuring of the economy, prompted a debate within the CT about how best to adjust to changing circumstances. In an example of the changes taking place in government-union relations, the powerful Teachers' Union already ended its PRI affiliation, and others may eventually follow suit.

The FLL grants workers, including public sector and public enterprise workers, the right to strike. It requires a 6- to 10-day advance strike notice, followed by a brief, government- sponsored mediation effort. If a strike is then ruled nonexistent, employees must return to work within 24 hours or face dismissal for cause. If it is legally recognized, the law requires the company or the subunit that is the strike target to shut down totally. Not even management officials may enter the premises until the strike is resolved. While some strikes are declared nonexistent, many are declared legal, and many occur. Strike threats are often used to secure collective agreements (as with the airline pilots in 1993) without strikes actually occurring. The FLL also permits strikes by all public sector and private enterprise employees, but they are rare.

From January to September 1993, 4,142 notices of intent to strike were filed with the JFCA, and 121 actual strikes occurred in industries under federal jurisdiction. In 1992 there were 6,815 notices of intent to strike and 156 actual strikes, of which 33 continued. The comparable figures for 1991 were 7,006 strike notices and 136 strikes. There were also 422 collective conflicts without strike notice from January through June 1993, compared to 1,017 in all of 1992 and 832 in 1991. The FLL provides protection against dismissal for striking or other reasons and against other retribution for striking. While the FLL prohibits direct retribution against strikers, indirect pressures may be used from time to time by employers or state or even federal government authorities to avoid costly strikes, and employers may try to find ways to rid themselves of strikers. Appeal is to the JFCA, which is quite punctilious and reasonably fair and objective in applying the FLL, though there are often delays, as in other aspects of the bureaucracy.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) alleged in 1993 that although the right to strike exists in law, workers are subject to arbitrary dismissal and violence when exercising this right. It cited the 1992 arrest of Matamoros CTM leader Agapito Gonzalez Cavazos on 3-year-old tax fraud charges on the eve of a union strike deadline as an example of government interference in collective bargaining in the in-bond export ("maquiladora") industry. While the ICFTU and human rights organizations saw his arrest as intended to intimidate workers, the union achieved most of its demands, and Gonzalez, released on bond and reinstated in his union, was reported once again to be seeking major wage increases in new, upcoming negotiations. The head of the Matamoros state CTM, Diego Navarro Rodriguez, was also arrested and jailed on tax fraud charges but in this case replaced by another CTM leader with Gonzalez' support.

The ICFTU also criticized the Government's handling of the 1992 Volkswagen strike in Puebla, in which 14,000 workers were dismissed when they refused to return to work after their strike was declared illegal and later rehired on terms more favorable to Volkswagen, with the approval of the JFCA. According to the ICFTU, police with trained dogs and clubs attacked a peaceful demonstration against the dismissals, injuring 12 workers.

A JFCA ruling in September denied an appeal by the ousted leadership of the Cuautitlan (Mexico City) local of the national Ford Autoworkers Union of the CTM for reinstatement. This led to charges by the ousted committee that this was a case of CTM-Ford-JFCA collusion to prevent genuine worker representation. In this incident, one of many in a succession of labor problems at these plants, the national leadership of the Ford CTM union intervened the local after an unsuccessful campaign by a rival central to take over. After negotiating a settlement for renewal of the collective bargaining agreement with Ford, the national union convened new local elections in which new leaders were elected. On the advice of outside advisers, the ousted leaders appealed their removal to the JFCA and did not return to work in the plant. Ford management held the ousted leaders' jobs open well beyond the period required by the FLL, made repeated offers, and finally demands, that they return to work. When dismissed by Ford, they appealed this, too, to the JFCA which found the election in accord with union statutes and ruled the former leaders had forfeited reemployment rights by not exercising them.

Political rivalries within and between Mexican union organizations and leaders in and out of the PRI (as well as political factions and parties outside the unions) are often noisy, turbulent, and occasionally violent. For example, the national leader of the National Railroad Workers' Union, also a PRI deputy in the Nuevo Leon state legislature, was shot to death on July 17 in the parking lot of a Mexico City hotel. Union sources said he had been threatened days before his murder by the leader of a dissident alternative railroad union against whom he had preferred charges. Press reports cited the Attorney General's office as saying witnesses identified one of the dissidents as the murderer.

Former Tabasco state Government Employee Union head and indigenous political leader Aquiles Magana, a PRI member who had supported the 1988 presidential campaign of the PRD's Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, was arrested in 1990 while leading a municipal workers demonstration demanding payment of an agreed-upon pay raise. Convicted of assault and battery in late 1992, Tabasco's governor pardoned him on May 7, following a well-publicized 48-day hunger strike and opposition rallies in Mexico City on his behalf.

In September a 39-member group mostly comprised of U.S. and Canadian members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) appeared unannounced outside an American-owned in-bond export plant in Tijuana, at which a dissident group of workers, in an organizing effort backed by a rival PRI-allied labor central, failed earlier (and again subsequently) to displace the existing local union affiliated to another PRI-allied labor central. The IAM group parked outside the plant where arrangements had been made to talk to workers during a shift change. Plant managers, suspicious of a bus of non-Mexicans parked outside the plant, summoned immigration authorities who questioned and later escorted the IAM group to the border in its bus. The immigration officials told the delegation members their activity was not permitted under terms of their tourist status.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

The FLL provides for the right to organize and to bargain collectively. On the basis of only a small showing of interest by employees, an employer must recognize the union concerned and make arrangements either for a union recognition election or proceed immediately to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. Such agreements are commonplace. Employers complain the FLL is too favorable to union organization. Some employers encourage company unionism as the only legal way to resist organization by national or local unions affiliated with the dominant labor centrals, or by more radical independent unions. Union representation elections are traditionally open, and votes are recorded by name. Management representatives as well as competing trade union officials are present with the presiding JFCA official when each and every worker votes.

The public sector is almost totally organized. Public sector unions negotiate collective bargaining agreements with their agencies. Their central organization (FSTSE), a powerful and influential organization, negotiates to a limited degree on proposed changes in pay scales and working conditions with the Government as a whole.

Political factional disputes (sometimes between prominent PRI politicians, sometimes involving opposition parties or dissident groups) on occasion lead to noisy public confrontations in which public sector unions or dissident elements within them occupy or blockade government offices, including those of Cabinet secretaries, or conduct hunger strikes. These sometimes involve violent clashes. One recent dispute involved competing factions in the agricultural and water resources secretariat. Similarly, the Social Security Union successfully used press articles and paid advertisements to forestall rumored presidential initiatives to privatize or reform social security and preserved the employment status quo in its collective bargaining agreement.

The state petroleum industry (Pemex) union STPRM was once renowned as powerful, corrupt, armed, dangerous, and practically immune from control under the law, though influential in some parts of the PRI. Early in the Salinas administration, as a necessary precondition to market-oriented economic reform and downsizing state enterprise, the Government brought the STPRM

under control, jailing top leaders for their illegal actions, while others fled abroad into exile. In the subsequent downsizing of Pemex and privatization of some of its petrochemical installations, a large number of workers lost jobs and demonstrated for greater, or more rapid, payment of severance pay and benefits. The reformed union is back in the good graces of the CTM (to which it belongs), the PRI, and the Government. The reform leader recently retired, and one of the former officials who was not arrested or exiled was elected to replace him.

The degree of private sector organization varies widely by states. While most traditional industrial areas are heavily organized, states with a small industrial base usually have few unions. Workers are protected by law from antiunion discrimination, but this law is unevenly enforced, especially in states with a low degree of unionization. Workers in industries under federal jurisdiction may appeal to the JFCA or labor inspectors, regardless of what state they are in. Workers in industries under state jurisdiction may appeal to local boards under state jurisdiction, or to state labor authorities, but these are also obliged to apply the FLL. Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination are required to reinstate workers fired for union activities, though they may prefer to buy them off by negotiating large severance pay packages.

The rate of unionization of in-bond export industries varies by area, but is comparatively low. This is particularly true in Baja California, where industrialization began only recently and the in-bond exporters have small plants. Baja California is governed by the opposition PAN, close to business interests but not to the PRI or to PRI-allied unions. Some assert the relatively good wage and benefit packages of the large in-bond export plants reduce the incentives to unionize, but critics decry deplorable working conditions and inadequate wages at smaller plants and allege state or federal government as well as employer efforts to suppress unionization. In one key state (Nuevo Leon), in-bond plants are heavily unionized, mostly by apolitical independent unions some term "company unions." There was no credible evidence the Federal Government has suppressed unionization of the in-bond facilities. There were, however, indications that some state and local government and business leaders discouraged unionization, but trade unions have not filed any complaints about this with the Federal Government.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced labor. There have been no credible reports of forced labor for many years.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The FLL sets 14 as the minimum age for employment by children. Children from 14 to 15 may work a maximum of 6 hours, may not work overtime or at night, and may not be employed in jobs deemed hazardous. Enforcement is reasonably good at large and medium formal sector companies, including export industries and especially in sectors under federal jurisdiction. Enforcement is much more difficult and spotty at the many small companies and in agriculture, and practically nonexistent in the informal sector, despite government efforts.

Illegal child labor is extensive in the informal economy. There are significant numbers of underage street vendors, employees in very small businesses, and workers in rural areas. The joint 1993 "Report on Child Labor in Mexico and the United States" by the U.S. Labor Department and Mexico's STPS stated that 43 percent of child labor is in agriculture. Estimates of the number of children working vary from 8 to 11 million (about 31 million Mexicans are under 15). The lower estimate is from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the CTM; the latter an estimate by the Mexican Statistics Institute (INEGI) that 34.3 percent of the under-15 population are economically active.

Small-scale employers prepared to disregard company registration, social security, health, safety, and tax laws are often equally prepared to violate child labor laws. Eighty-five percent of all registered Mexican companies have 15 or less employees, and 80 percent have 5 or less employees, indicating the vast scope of the enforcement challenge even within the formal economy.

In 1992 the Government increased from 6 to 9 the minimum number of years that children must attend school and made parents legally liable, for the first time, to ensure their children's attendance. The move was part of a major educational reform effort designed to upgrade the skills of the Mexican labor force and to discourage child labor. The Government recognizes the need to continue increasing educational opportunities for youth and to eradicate child labor, but implementation and enforcement, as with the elimination of poverty, will be an uphill battle.

The ILO worked with the Government's Social Development Secretariat to develop a national action program for the eradication of child labor, with the help of UNICEF funding. A preliminary project was drawn up but is awaiting high-level approval in the Secretariat. In addition, the STPS authorized an ILO national seminar on the work of minors for August 1993, and the ILO, NGO's, and government agencies are stepping up seminars, media campaigns, and other educational approaches. For example, Mexico City radio stations carry announcements admonishing parents on the importance of education to enhance their children's future and earning capacity.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Constitution and the FLL provide for a minimum wage. It is set by the tripartite (government, labor, employers) National Minimum Wage Commission (NMWC). A tripartite accord, renewed annually, limits price and wage increases. Since 1987, wages set by collective bargaining agreements and, especially, fringe benefits and white-collar salaries in the private sector more than kept pace with inflation, recuperating part (wages), most (fringe benefits), or virtually all (salaries) of the real purchasing power lost since 1982. The minimum wage continued to decline in real terms to a level woefully inadequate in 1991 to provide a living for a worker and family. In May President Salinas announced he would encourage the NMWC to begin to take productivity increases into account in adjusting the minimum wage, and he made this a formal commitment in August 1993 when the NAFTA supplemental agreements were announced. Labor Secretariat officials indicate this will begin a gradual increase in the real minimum wage over the next several years similar to that in real average wages over the last 5 years.

The 1993 minimum wage was $4.60 (14.27 new pesos) per day for the most advanced areas (Mexico City, Acapulco, Baja California, and certain municipalities of Chihuahua, state of Mexico, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz). It was slightly less, $4.28 (NP 13.26) per day, for intermediate areas (Guadalajara and some municipalities of Jalisco, Monterrey and some municipalities of Nuevo Leon, and additional municipalities of Sonora, Tamaulipas and Veracruz). It was $3.90 (NP 12.05) per day in the rest of the country. There were special, higher minimum wages for 88 specialized occupations, including various construction trades. The announced 1994 minimum daily wage, to be implemented January 1, 1994, is $5.00 (NP 15.27) for the most advanced areas, $4.58 (NP 14.19) for the intermediate areas, and $4.16 (NP 12.89) in the poorer parts of the country. The higher rates for 88 specialized occupations remain in effect. All these rates reflect a 7-percent increase from 1993 (5 percent for expected inflation and 2 percent representing the average increase in productivity over the past 3 years).

Social security data indicate that less than 16 percent of Mexico's workers earn the minimum wage. Legislation retroactive to October 1 established a negative income tax (or devolution) of 7.5 to 10.8 percent for workers earning the minimum wage. This devolution will be paid with each paycheck by employers, who may subtract the amount from any taxes owed the Federal Government. Combined with the minimum wage increase, minimum wage earners will receive an increase in their incomes of 14.5 to 17.8 percent from 1993 to 1994. The same legislation eliminated income taxes on those earning up to two times the minimum wage and reduced them for those earning less than four times the minimum. These changes implemented provisions of the October 3 tripartite stability, competitiveness, and employment pact (PECE), in which employers and workers also agreed to negotiate schemes to improve quality and productivity and to devise incentives or bonuses to give workers immediately a fair share of the earnings derived from these improvements.

The FLL sets 48 hours as the standard legal workweek. The FLL provides that workers who are asked to exceed 3 hours of overtime per day or work any overtime on 3 consecutive days must be paid triple the normal wage. For most industrial workers, especially unionized ones, the real workweek has declined to about 42 hours, although they are paid for a full 48 hours. (This is why unions zealously defend the legal ban on hourly wages in favor of daily wages).

Mexico's legislation and rules regarding employee health and safety are relatively advanced. All employers are bound by law to observe the General Regulations on Safety and Health in the Workplace issued jointly by the STPS and the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS). In addition, in late 1991 the in-bond export associations in northern border states agreed to cooperate in a special program with STPS and IMSS health and safety experts to help their member companies overcome any deficiencies in their compliance. This program has made progress and is effective.

The focal point for standard setting and enforcement in the workplace is in FLL-mandated bipartite (management and labor) safety and health committees in the plants and offices of every company. These meet at least monthly to consider workplace safety and health needs and file copies of their minutes with federal or state labor inspectors. Government labor inspectors schedule their own activities largely in response to the findings of these workplace committees. Individual employees may also complain directly to the office of labor inspection or the general directorate of medicine and safety in the workplace. Workers may remove themselves from hazardous situations without jeopardizing their employment. Complaints may be brought before the JFCA at no cost to the plaintiff. Mexican labor and social security officials report compliance is reasonably good at most large companies, both foreign-owned and domestic. Most compliance difficulties occur with small businesses, few of which export any goods or services. Compliance and enforcement is practically nonexistent in the informal sector.

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