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Mexico's liberal capital

Mexico City: Center of progressives or capital of sin?

“People are losing the idea of what is sacred. The voice of the church does not count for what it used to in people’s lives,” said Father Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City. “In some cases even when they say they are Catholic, they say they are free to make their own decisions. This does worry us.”

The law changes in Mexico City were made possible by the left-dominated assembly, which has powers similar to state legislatures in the United States.

Under Cirigo’s leadership, lawmakers who took power in 2006 rapidly moved on the socially liberal agenda, breaking from the Mexican left’s tradition of focusing on “knife and fork” economic questions.

The stance appears to have won sympathy among much of the public.

Since election campaigns kicked off this month for a new set of lawmakers for the assembly, candidates have been competing over who is strongest on gay issues and women’s rights.

Meanwhile, members of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), of President Felipe Calderon, have refrained from commenting on such issues, fearing it could lose them votes.

Calderon narrowly took the presidency in 2006 thanks to the support of middle-class urban professionals, many of whom cheer on his pro-business policies but have little time for his party’s social conservatism.

Hopeful candidates promise more such reforms in Mexico City, including the possible legalization of prostitution and marijuana.

Furthermore, eying events in the capital, candidates for state legislatures and Congress seats have also been playing up their liberal credentials.

In Veracruz, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has put out one particularly blunt poster aimed at gay voters.

“For the (conservative) PAN you are a queer, but for us you are more than a vote,” it says.

Such a spread of the socially liberal agenda plays into the worst fears of Mexico’s conservative campaigners.

In an attempt to fight back, conservative activists are lobbying state legislatures to reinforce their current abortion laws.

Twelve legislatures have already heeded this call, approving declarations that fetuses have human rights.

While such wording does not change their penal codes — which allow abortion in cases of rape — the activists hope it will be a defense against any attempt to bring in Mexico City-style laws.

“We are concerned the changes in the capital will spread to other states,” said veteran conservative campaigner Jorge Serrano Limon, of Pro Life. “But mostly we are concerned that Mexico is setting a bad example for other countries in Latin America.”

More GlobalPost dispatches on Mexico:

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No tourists in Tijuana

Overview: Trouble on the US-Mexico border


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