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<nettime> Mexico City is crowdsourcing its new constitution
nettime's consitutional hobbyist on Mon, 6 Jun 2016 00:32:23 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Mexico City is crowdsourcing its new constitution

Mexico is launching a big experiment in democracy that promises to turn
people’s ideas into the new law of the land.

By Rafa Fernandez De Castro

In January President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a reform that made
Mexico’s capital, which has always been known as Distrito Federal or
Federal District (similar to Washington, D.C.), its own sovereign city.
Now the local government is getting more autonomy, which means local
lawmakers will be able to approve the city’s budget and draft their own
constitution, among other measures.

That new spirit of autonomy has mobilized chilangos, as Mexico City
residents are known, to try to get their respective agendas included in
the new set of laws that will govern the urban hub. LGBTQ and women’s
rights groups were among the first in line to lobby for representation
in the new constitution, but other groups are pushing to make their
voices heard, too.

That prompted Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera to implement a plan
designed to give everyone a voice in the city’s democratic experiment by
using an online platform and a Change.org petition. Those who don’t have
internet access will be able to submit their proposals at one of 300
mobile kiosks around the city.

There’s plenty at stake. For the first time in history, residents will
be able to use the internet to reimagine the future of their city, and
whether or not it will continue on its famously progressive path.
Police officers stand next to crosses displayed at the Zocalo main
square in Mexico City during a protest against the legalization of abortion.

The task of cobbling together all those proposals into a new
constitution will fall to a select group of civil society leaders,
academics, intellectuals, politicians, and even a former paralympic
medalist. These government-appointed “founding fathers” will have the
daunting challenge of writing a magna carta for a city that has existed
for nearly 700 years, and whose metropolitan area is home to more than
20 million people.

The Change.org initative will allow people to submit their proposals for
an online vote; people whose ideas garner more than 10,000 digital
signatures will then be able to present their proposals before members
of the team of experts for consideration in the constitution.

“We are entering the writing phase and we’ll have to submit a final
document by August 15,” said Carlos Cruz, president of Cauce Ciudadano,
a Mexican NGO that seeks to improve the living conditions of the
country’s youth.

Cruz was among the 27 Mexicans chosen to form the expert panel that will
be drafting the new constitution. His role has been to ensure that the
constitution includes a youth agenda.

Cruz told Fusion he will be pushing to lower Mexico City’s voting age
from 18 to 16 so that teenagers can have a say in local referendums.
He’ll also try to promote measures that keep young people from falling
into a life of crime. “We are trying to generate a document that’s
inclusive and invites participation,” he said.

Cruz said the group of experts is also considering a proposal to put the
final draft of the constitution up for popular vote in a referendum.
A mariachi band perfoms as newlyweds kiss after they were married at a
courthouse in Mexico City.

The Change.org initiative has already sparked all types of
petitions—from lowering wages for government officials, and banning
zoos, to increasing paid vacation days, to name just a few of the ideas.
One petition is asking for Mexico City cops to wear GoPro-style cameras
as a measure to prevent corruption and abuse of power. Another petition
is asking for all schools to ban the sale of junk food.

Mexicans are also creating petitions for and against abortion, in what
is increasingly becoming a major online battleground for conservatives
and liberals.

It remains to be seen if the government’s digital democracy efforts are
serious, or only meant to project an image of inclusiveness. But many
seem to taking the invitation seriously and believe their online
petitions can and will be heard.

“At the beginning, all the process of creating a new constitution seemed
unnecessary and only an excuse to create more political positions and
generate benefits for the political class,” Francisco Fontano, a young
Mexican travel blogger who’s submitted three Change.org pertitions, told
Fusion. But Fontano says he has since decided to give the process a try,
considering it might be the only viable mechanism for citizens to voice
their concerns.

Fontano recently submitted a petition to have the new constitution
guarantee the creation of some 99 square feet of green space for every
resident of Mexico City. The idea has already been backed by more than
30,000 online supporters, and was the first to surpass the signature
requirement for consideration.

Still, it’s not clear what the proposal would actually look like if ever
implemented. Some calculate the green area would cover a swath of the
city that’s approximately 50 times larger than New York’s Central Park,
while others say it would make 5% of Mexico City green. Everyone seems
to have a different measurement at this point, but in any event it would
certainly green things up.

Fontano hopes the government sticks to its word and seriously considers
including his proposal in the new constitution.

“If this process turns out to be fake and it all fails, it won’t matter
because I did what I could,” he told me. “I’ve always believed you have
to remain idealistic to change things; be a little crazy and always stay

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