The Political Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1917 is the present constitution of Mexico. It was drafted in Santiago de Querétaro by a Constitutional Convention during the Mexican Revolution. It was approved by the Constitutional Congress on February 5, 1917, with Venustiano Carranza serving as the first president under its terms.
The most important articles, 3, 27, and 123, displayed profound changes in Mexican political philosophy that would help frame the political and social backdrop for the rest of the century.
The Constitution is divided into "Titles" (Títulos) which are series of articles related to the same overall theme. The Titles, of variable length, are:
Constitution Day (Día de la Constitución) is one of Mexico's annual Fiestas Patrias (public holidays), commemorating the promulgation of the Constitution. Although the official anniversary is on February 5, the holiday takes place on the first Monday of February regardless the date.
Freedom of religious beliefs being guaranteed by Article 24, the standard which shall guide such education shall be maintained entirely apart from any religious doctrine and, based on the results of scientific progress, shall strive against ignorance and its effects, servitudes, fanaticism, and prejudices. Moreover: It shall be democratic, considering democracy not only as a legal structure and a political regimen, but as a system of life founded on a constant economic, social, and cultural betterment of the people; It shall be national insofar as -- without hostility or exclusiveness -it shall achieve the understanding of our problems, the utilization of our resources, the defense of our political independence, the assurance of our economic independence, and the continuity and growth of our culture; and It shall contribute to better human relationships, not only with the elements which it contributes toward strengthening and at the same time inculcating, together with respect for the dignity of the person and the integrity of the family, the conviction of the general interest of society, but also by the care which it devotes to the ideals of brotherhood and equality of rights of all men, avoiding privileges of race, creed, class, sex, or persons. Private persons may engage in education of all kinds and grades. But as regards elementary, secondary, and normal education (and that of any kind or grade designed for laborers and farm workers) they must previously obtain, in every case, the express authorization of the public power. Such authorization may be refused or revoked by decisions against which there can be no judicial proceedings or recourse. Private institutions devoted to education of the kinds and grades specified in the preceding section must be without exception in conformity with the provisions of sections I and II of the first paragraph of this article and must also be in harmony with official plans and programs. Religious corporations, ministers of religion, stock companies which exclusively or predominantly engage in educational activities, and associations or companies devoted to propagation of any religious creed shall not in any way participate in institutions giving elementary, secondary and normal education and education for laborers or field workers. The State may in its discretion withdraw at any time the recognition of official validity of studies conducted in private institutions. Elementary education shall be compulsory. All education given by the State shall be free. The Congress of the Union, with a view to unifying and coordinating education throughout the Republic, shall issue the necessary laws for dividing the social function of education among the Federation, the States and the Municipalities, for fixing the appropriate financial allocations for this public service and for establishing the penalties applicable to officials who do not comply with or enforce the pertinent provisions, as well as the penalties applicable to all those who infringe such provisions.
All people, men and women, are equal under the law. However, the "development of the family" is placed under the responsibility of the woman. This article also grants all people protection to their health, a right to housing, and rights for children.
All people are free to work in the profession of their choosing, as long as it does not attack the rights of others.
This article states that the manifestation and expression of ideas cannot be prosecuted, except when these ideas attack morality, the rights of third parties, provokes a crime, or provokes an altercation in "public order". The article also gives the State the responsibility to grant the right of information to its governed.
This article states that no law or authority can "previously" censor the press, or ask for a bail to the authors or printers. The freedom of the press has its limits in respect to private life, morality, and public peace. Incarceration or censorship cannot occur before charges of "press crimes" can be proven, but it can happen when responsibility has been judicially established.
Public functionaries and employees will respect the public exercise to their right to petition, as long as it is formulated in writing, in a peaceful and respectful manner. In political petitioning, only citizens of the republic have this right.
Freedom of assembly and association. Only citizens of the Republic may take part in the political affairs of the country.
Citizens of the republic may, for their protection, own guns and arms in their homes. Only arms sanctioned by the Army may be owned, and federal law will state the manner in which they can be used (That being said, firearms are prohibited from importation into the Republic without proper licensing and documentation. Foreigners may not pass the border with unlicensed firearms; the commission of such act is a felony, punishable by prison term. See Gun politics in Mexico).
"Every man has a right to enter the Republic, exit it, travel through its territory, and change his residence without the need of a security card, passport, or any similar device. The exercise of this right will be subordinated to the faculties of judicial authority, in the cases of criminal or civil responsibility, and to the limits of the administrative authorities, on the limits imposed by laws on emigration, immigration, and health safety laws in the Republic, or over foreigners residing in our country".
Prohibits the enactment of ex post facto (retroactive) laws. All persons punished under the law are entitled to due process, punishments must follow what is dictated by written law. Note that due process under Mexican law is not the same as US law as Mexico is not a common law country.
Disallows international treaties for extradition when the person to be extradited is politically persecuted, or accused while having the condition of slave, or when the foreign country contravenes the civil rights granted in the Mexican constitution (like the right to life and the abolishment of the death penalty in Article 22).
Prohibits vigilante justice, all civil and criminal disputes must be resolved before courts. Mandates speedy trials in both civil and criminal matters. Prohibits levying of "court costs" and fees, judicial service is free to all parties. Courts are to be free and independent. Imprisonment for debts is prohibited. This article makes provisions relating to arrest and imprisonment. The articles emphasis on "social readjustment of the offender" was interpreted for a time after 2001 as forbidding sentences of life imprisonment, which led to the refusal of some extradition requests from the United States.
Prohibits detention in excess of 72 hours (3 days) without formal charges. Mandates due process for imprisonable charges. Separate crimes discovered during an investigation must be charged separately. Mistreatment during detention by authorities, all discomforts that are inflicted without legal motive, and all fees or contributions (forced bribes) in jails are abuses that will be prohibited by law and curbed by the authorities.
Allows people charged to keep silence.
Cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited. Specifically, penalties of death, mutilation, infamy, marks, physical punishments, torments, excessive fines, confiscation of assets, and others are abolished.
Confiscation of assets does not include the application of said assets to pay for civil responsibilities caused by a crime, or when used to pay taxes or other fines. Nor will it be confiscation when said assets are part of illegal activities, or when they are related to organized crime, or when proof of ownership cannot be established.
"Every man is free to pursue the religious belief that best suits him, and to practice its ceremonies, devotions or cults, as long as they do not constitute a crime. Congress cannot dictate laws that establish or abolish any given religion. Ordinarily, all religious acts will be practiced in temples, and those that extraordinarily are practiced outside temples must adhere to law."
The State will plan, determine, and carry out the development of the Nation, so that it guarantees its integrity, strengthens national sovereignty, and allows for a broader exercise of freedom and dignity of the individuals through an economic growth that distributes wealth with justice.
Expropriations may only be made when there is a public utility cause.
The State will always have the right to impose on private property constraints dictated by "public interest". The State will also regulate the exploitation of natural resources based on social benefits and the equal distribution of wealth. The state is also responsible for conservation and ecological considerations.
All natural resources in national territory are property of the nation, and private exploitation may only be carried out through concessions.
Nuclear fuel may only be exploited and used by the State. The use of Nuclear elements in the Nation may only have peaceful purposes (i.e., Mexico cannot build nuclear weapons).
This article also deals with other subtleties on what constitutes Mexico's territory.
Foreign citizens cannot own land within 100 km of the borders or 50 km of the sea, that an area of land next to the coast is federal property which cannot be sold to particulars.
All monopolies are prohibited.
The areas of the economy in direct control of the government, such as post, telegraph, oil and its derivatives, basic petrochemical industries, radioactive minerals, and the generation of electricity are not considered to be monopolies.
The State will protect areas of priority in the economy, such as satellite communications and railroads.
The Nation will have a Central Bank with the primary objective of procuring the stability of the national currency. The Central Bank and its activities will not be considered monopolies either.
Unions and workers associations will not be considered monopolies. Guilds will not be considered to be monopolies when their purpose is the economic equality of the industry, as long as the guild is overseen by the Federal Government.
Copyrights and patents will not be considered monopolies.
The State may outsource some of its functions, such as procurement of public services, and exploitation of assets under the domain of the Federation.
Article 123 was perhaps the most radical of the provisions contained in the Constitution of 1917. This article granted the working class an 8-hour work day, a 6-day workweek, and a minimum wage that was equal across sex and nationality lines. Article 123, also gave workers the right to organize and go on strike. These labor initiatives were intended to give the working class a relief to the many abuses and hardships they faced from previously uncontrolled labor managers.