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CONGRESS APPROVES LEGISLATION TO RESTRICT PRESIDENTIAL USE OF POCKET VETO.

In mid-April, the Chamber of Deputies overwhelmingly approved an initiative that would prevent the Mexican president from resorting to the pocket veto to kill legislation approved by Congress. A pocket veto occurs when the president simply fails to sign legislation, allowing it to die.

The initiative was expected to gain easy approval in the Senate, after gaining the endorsement of leaders from the former governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional, the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD), and Fox's conservative Partido Accion Nacional (PAN).

The measure must also be ratified by a majority of state legislatures because it involves changes to the Mexican Constitution.

The measure, passed by the lower house by a 389-1 vote, proposes to modify Article 72 of the Mexican Constitution, requiring the president to act on legislation within 30 days after it reaches his desk. If no action is taken by that time, the Congress reserves the right to publish the law as passed in the federal register (Diario Oficial de la Federacion), at which time the measure becomes law.

The initiative gained broad support in the Chamber of Deputies, with some legislators considering the measure a key element of political reforms that will be passed by Congress in the next several years. "This is a significant development," said Deputy Jose Manuel del Rio Virgen, a member of the Partido Convergencia por la Democracia (PCD). "The president must now renounce any powers above the Constitution that had been left over from the years of PRI regimes."

PRD Deputy Ricardo Moreno Bastida viewed the vote as a move to restore power to the legislative branch. "The president can no longer override the sovereign will of the Congress by simply keeping silence," said Moreno.

Members of the PAN delegation in the lower house said they voted for the legislation to create more certainties in the relationship between the executive and legislative branches. "Vagueness and ambiguity are undesirable characteristics in responsible, transparent, and democratic government," said PAN Deputy Jose Alfredo Botello.

President Vicente Fox has made very little use of the pocket veto. During his nearly three years in office, he has failed to act on bills to regulate registration of foreign vehicles and to make primary education compulsory, effectively killing those pieces of legislation.

The president has directly vetoed three pieces of legislation approved by Congress. Two of these initiatives raised tensions between the executive and Congress. One involved a rural-development law (Ley de Desarrollo Rural) and the other reforms to the federal tax system (Sistema de Administracion Tributaria, SAT). In both instances, the president raised concerns about violations to the Mexican Constitution, forcing Congress to come back with modifications to the original legislation. (see SourceMex, 2001-11-07 and 2003-03-26). (Sources: La Jornada, El Sol de Mexico, El Universal, 04/16/03; Milenio Diario, 04/17/03; Reforma, 04/16/03, 04/21/03; El Financiero, 04/21/03)
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Publication:SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico
Date:Apr 23, 2003
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