Retrogression of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Mexico in the Context of Austerity and Crisis

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Pastora Melgar Manzanilla


Mexico is facing a time of change in the allocation and distribution of public funds due to what the Mexican government has called “republican austerity”. Such change has caused public discordance since it is said to be regressive to human rights. The first article of the Mexican Constitution explicitly states the obligation of all authorities, within the scope of their powers, to promote, respect, protect and guarantee human rights in accordance with the principles of universality, interdependence, indivisibility, and progressivity. Also, Mexico is a member state of international covenants on human rights, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, from which some obligations derive. One of these obligations is the progressive realization of economic, social, cultural rights, and the prohibition of retrogression. Even though, limited economic resources require the careful allocation and redistribution of public spending, a practice that has led to the reduced allocation of public resources for some programs considered essential in the acquisition of human rights. The shift in the allocation of public spending in Mexico may ultimately deepen in the coming months and couple years, because of the imminent economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This article analyses the extent to which the Mexican government can, based on austerity, redistribution, or economic crises, make decisions that imply retrogression of rights without violating the obligation to progressive fulfillment stated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

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