Dismantling of the Constitution of 1917

On the numbers and contents of the retrograde anti-constitutional counter-reforms promoted by neoliberalism

Articles 3, 27 and 123 of the original Constitution of 1917 opened the historical horizon of social constitutionalism. They established the right to free primary education, the rights of the Nation over the territory, agrarian rights and labor rights, union rights and social security, as well as many others of a collective nature linked to the former. By constitutional and legal mandate, the authorities had to interpret and apply the classic liberal rights in harmony and without detriment to the new social rights. Also, private property was subordinated to the public interest, the use of natural elements susceptible to appropriation was oriented to the equitable distribution of public wealth and the State was responsible for mediating the differences or conflicts between capital and labor.

For decades, the fundamental duties of the Mexican State, the constitutional modifications and legislative innovations, had as practical support the political, cultural and legal recognition of the people as the holder of national sovereignty, source of public power and sense of its exercise. The social contents and the nationalist principles of the Constitution of 1917 were the pillars around which government policies were defined and, in particular, the normative policy of the postrevolutionary State. Finally, the institutional development of public life as a whole was guided by the achievement of social justice and the construction of participatory democracy.

However, neoliberal constitutionalism has meant the erosion, emptying or outright destruction and massive and systematic violation not only of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, but also of multiple individual rights, as well as the loss of national sovereignty and the surrender from the territory and national wealth to large transnational corporations and their local partners.

Despite the official demand for the rule of law and the already caricatured doctrinal principles of supremacy, rigidity and constitutional inviolability, at the end of Felipe Calderón’s term of office, 205 decrees of constitutional reforms had been published in the Official Gazette of the Federation . During the dizzying government of Enrique Peña Nieto the figure has reached 220 decrees.

The Mexican Constitution is the fundamental Latin American norm, in force, with greater longevity; however, it is also the Constitution that has been reformed the most times. The first reform took place in 1921 and fell on article 73, which is the article that has been modified on more occasions, adding up to now 71 reforms. From major to minor, the most reformed articles in the history of the Constitution of 1917 are: 72, 123, 27, 74, 89, 107, 115, 4, 79, 94, 76 and 97. Paradigmatic articles of Mexican constitutionalism Twentieth century, like 3, 27 and 123, have been modified, respectively, in 9, 19 and 24 occasions. Article 130 has been amended only once, precisely during the tenure of Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

To date, the modifications to constitutional articles reach 605. The decree of reforms or additions to the most recent Constitution dates from July 7 of this year. In total and not counting the transitories, 109 constitutional articles have been modified, so only 27 have remained in their pristine state, they are: 8, 9, 12, 13, 23, 38, 39, 47, 50, 57 , 62, 64, 68, 80, 81, 86, 91, 118, 120, 121, 124, 125, 126, 128, 129, 132 and 136. That is to say, 80.15% of the constitutional articles have been modified, so that only 19.85% of the original articles remain intact. Each article, of the 136 that make up the constitutional text, has been modified on average 4,448 times. It should be noted that 4 of the 19 transitory articles that also make up the constitutional text have been modified. Also, on 4 occasions transitory articles of reform or addition decrees have been modified, all of them between 1999 and 2009. As a curious fact, in less than two days, article 4 was reformed three times: twice on October 12, 2011 and once again on the 13th.

Not counting the erratum or the reforms on transitory articles or the articles reformed more than once in the same period, the sexenios in which more constitutional articles have been modified were: Felipe Calderón’s with 61 articles through 36 decrees, the of Ernesto Zedillo with 47 through 18 decrees, Miguel de la Madrid with 44 through 18 decrees and Carlos Salinas with 35 through 15 decrees. If you include errata, reforms on transitory articles and reforms on the same article in the same sexennium, the numbers are as follows: Felipe Calderón 110, Ernesto Zedillo 77, Miguel de la Madrid 66 and Carlos Salinas 55. With In 19 decrees, Fox modified 31 articles (21 without counting the erratum or reforms on transitory articles or articles reformed more than once in the sexennium).

In 1994 Salinas modified 2 articles and Zedillo 27, making it until now the year in which most articles of the Constitution have been altered. Only that Salinas had already modified another 27 articles in 1993. In 1987 Miguel de la Madrid modified 18. In 1996 Zedillo changed another 22 and 17 more in 1999. In 2007 Felipe Calderón reformed 21 articles, 18 in 2008, 24 in 2011 and 20 in 2012. Peña Nieto modified 15 articles in 2013 and 20 in 2014. Between 1982 and 2014, only in the years of 1984, 1989, 1991 and 1998, no changes were made to the constitutional text. In 1999, 10 decrees of reforms or additions to the Constitution were issued. In 2007, as in 2013, 9 were issued. Of the 220 decrees of reforms that have been issued, 55%, 121, have taken place during neoliberalism, that is, in the last six six-year terms. In this period, on average, 20.16 decrees of constitutional reforms have been issued per sexennium. Needless to say, precisely these have been the decrees that formally imposed the mortal counter-reforms for the economic, political and cultural life of the Mexicans.

In the last 33 years the Constitution has been modified at an average speed of 3.66 decrees per year. In this same period, apart from the erratum, the reforms on transitory articles and the reforms on the same article in the same sexennium, constitutional articles have been modified 238 times. This means that, in the last six sexenios, the Constitution has been modified at an average rate of 7.21 articles per year. Enrique Peña Nieto has modified 30 articles through 15 decrees. If you include the erratum, the reforms on transitory articles and the reforms on the same article in the same sexennium, Peña Nieto has modified a total of 44 articles.

As part of the balance of this war against the Mexican Constitution, within the framework of the Mexico Chapter of the Permanent Tribunal of the Peoples, hundreds of cases have been documented and made visible that account for the accumulation of grievances that weigh on the population as a result of the retrograde anti-constitutional counter-reforms promoted by neoliberal governments. The adjustments of the fundamental law and the consequent legal adjustments have been consolidated from the disfigurement and dismantling of the social contents and the nationalist principles of the Mexican Constitution of 1917.

The violence that our country has suffered has not been sustained solely by the lack of observance of the laws or the lack of a legal culture that respects the rule of law. Neoliberalism not only violates the law and magnifies the distance between community and norm, but also legalizes violations of people’s rights, that is, promulgates juridical norms that establish staggered privileges and authorize generalized dispossessions for the purpose of to subordinate the public good to the particular interest of a few.

Neoliberal constitutionalism has canceled and reversed the historical achievements of the class struggle by restricting the role of the Mexican State as guarantor of the sovereign process of production, reproduction and development of social life. The fulfillment of the basic state obligations related to the agrarian distribution, the arbitration of social conflicts and the conciliation of class interests through the exercise of presidential attributions and social reformism, seems not only to have been put on hold, but denied in the absolute thanks to the preservation of the presidential power oriented to the subordinate transformation of the national economy, politics and culture. The recount of the constitutional alterations occurred in the last six sexenios reveals the details of the process.

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