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And justice for all?

27 January 2020

Although foreign media reports like to focus on minor things like an airplane raffle … or problems with US bound migrants overwhelming a border station… the real changes in Mexico are being under-reported (or not reported at all).  Consider the justice system.  The first round of changes… moving from an interrogatory system (in which the judge, after a long leisurely lunch, might of might not get around to reading statements taken from the accused, the witnesses and the prosecutor, and then… a few weeks later… drafting a verdict, and … eventually, handing it down) to a more adversarial one (with the defense and prosecution facing off in front of judges) was a major change in itself.  More importantly, and rather radically, last year, the Fiscal General (the Federal Attorney General) was separated from the cabinet, and made an “autonomous” department (controlling its own budget and functioning), with a Fiscal General appointed by the Senate for a nine-year term, overlapping the President’s and the Senate’s six years… in other words, while not completely free of political pressure, given a lot more room to prosecute political figures before or after their terms expire.

And now… to the nitty-gritty.  Congress and the administration is looking at a new federal code,   Federal judges will be approved by the Senate (as in the United States, meaning politics is still involved), but the independent Fiscal will have the say on where the judges sit, and … like the Fiscal, will have nine year terms.  Although most of us never expect to be before a judge, there are proposed changes in the law even foreigners should be aware of.

Pre-trial detention is likely to disappear except for major crimes. Or not.  The administration wants to maintain the present system, where one can be jailed until an investigation is complete, although the proposals call for an arrested person to be taken before a judge with 48 hours.  Pre-trial detention for major crimes, under the proposals, will be limited to 40 days, although it could be extended for a second time.

Under the present system, a person accused of a crime could be held while investigating possible co-conspirators or people who may have committed a crime related to the first crime.  This, too, is supposed to be abolished.

Injunctive relief from extradition will be severely limited as will injunctions preventing freezing assets related to criminal activities.

Unless one is a drug dealer, or bribing officials (or taking bribes from officials), that probably shouldn’t worry too many foreigners although a change in the laws regarding civil crimes will… civil crimes being things like not picking up your dog poop, shoplifting, dine-and-dash, leaving your trash out on the street corner, DUI, etc.  Where there was a choice of a civil fine or a few hours cooling one’s heels in el Toreo, the changes call for “community service” work… so pick up your own dog poop, or spend eight hours picking up dog poop.

AND… a change in tax law being offered:  income EARNED in Mexico would be subject to Mexican taxation.  I don’t think it’s a big deal (I once did a job where I was paid in Canada for work in the United States, and other than fill out the two tax forms and deducing the foreign tax from my US taxes, it only meant about two minutes unpaid work one April evening).  BUT… I can see those “digital nomads” and “Chinese English teachers” coming in for a nasty surprise come next year’s tax season.





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