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City Council Approves Seven New Ordinances

Ayuntamiento

Fuerza policial

By Jesus Aguado

The San Miguel de Allende City Council has approved seven new wide-ranging city regulations affecting alcohol sales, transparency of private security companies, the use of force against citizens by public safety officials, and the use of plastics by businesses in their dealings with customers. According to Secretary of the City Council Gonzalo González, the city plans to enact 54 regulations this year. These are the first seven to be reviewed and approved.

Goodbye plastics

Red plastic cups are typical in bars and cantinas. When a customer leaves, he is often given a drink in this sort of cup, even though drinking alcohol in public is a misdemeanor. This and other practices are partly why the Relleno Sanitario, San Miguel de Allende’s landfill, receives up to 100 tons of garbage daily, the majority of which is plastics, say officials.

In the last year, some businesses in Centro have already been trying to avoid giving out plastic bags to their customers in the last year or so: examples include a wine store on Pepe Llanos, a butcher shop on Mesones, and a shop on Insurgentes.

This ordinance is part of a wider effort by the city to reduce plastics use in San Miguel. In August 2018, the municipal government signed an agreement with EcoRed, a Mexican business group devoted to the planning and execution of projects related to sustainable development and minimal environmental impact, to develop a local initiative that would discourage the use of plastic bags. In August, the city also announced a competition to create a shopping bag prototype made with recyclable materials.

In addition, Mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal signed an agreement this year with the Procuraderia Ambiental Estatal (State Environmental Council), committing the city to achieving a healthy environment and to decreasing the “use and abuse” of plastics in San Miguel. The Dirección de Mejora Regulatoria (the Office for Regulatory Improvements) already has put regulations in place prohibiting the use of plastics by local government offices, as well as sanctions for noncompliance.

Business owners likely to be greatly affected by the plastics ordinance are vendors who sell snacks, ice cream, or other foods within the Historic Center, who will have to find alternative containers in which to place their products. Also, sellers at the Tuesday and Sunday markets will no longer be able to give away plastic shopping bags to customers.

The ordinance will be enacted gradually, said Mayor Villarreal. Full compliance will be required by January 2020.

Regulating private security companies

Another ordinance approved by the council affects companies providing private security for homes and businesses. These companies will be required to give San Miguel’s Secretaria de Seguridad Publica (Secretariat of Public Safety) personal data on the people they hire.

One incident in town that partly inspired the creation of this ordinance involved a security officer at La Comercial Mexicana who was detained. When officials conducted a search of the individual’s record on a federal criminal information database, they found that he had arrest warrants in three states for kidnapping and other major crimes. The company that hired him had no knowledge of his history.

The incident shone a light on an open secret: home robberies, kidnappings, and other such crimes are often committed by employees working for the very security company protecting the customer. The employees are familiar not only with the customers they serve but also their routines and even their social and economic standing.

Practice of “buying time” to sell alcohol will end

It has been a common practice for Oxxo convenience stores (which sell closed-container alcohol) and for bars in town to “buy” additional hours, especially on the weekends, in order to sell alcohol later than regulations permit. Some Oxxos close as late as 2 and 3am, even though their scheduled closing time is midnight.

According to Gonzalez, the practice will come to an end as soon as the regulation is published in the Periodico Oficial del Estado (the state official journal), an act that signifies that the state government has found the ordinance to be legal and allows the ordinance to go into effect. All members of the city council, the auditor, and the mayor voted unanimously in favor of the new alcohol regulations.

According to information about the new ordinance provided by the government to Atención, cantinas, bars, and stores selling low-alcohol drinks in open containers will be allowed to do so from 10am to 11pm. Nightclubs will be allowed to operate 10pm–3am. Convenience stores will be required to stop selling closed-container alcohol at 9pm.

Regulating public safety officers’ use of force

Another of the approved seven ordinances more clearly outlines the permissible use of force by public safety officials responding to disturbance-of-the-peace incidents. The ordinance regulates actions by officials of Seguridad Publica and Transito y Movilidad (the Public Safety and Transit and Mobility Departments).

Officials must always follow principles of necessity, legality, opportunity, proportionality, and rationality, says the ordinance. Now that public demonstrations are “in fashion,” González said, the ordinance provides guidelines for public safety officials responding to such incidents.

According to the ordinance, officials can now use force against citizens when the rights of a person or an institution are at risk, when public safety or public order is at risk.

The new ordinance also clearly outlines the steps a public safety officer must take when dispersing a demonstration.

Gonzales told Atención that it is simply a matter of mediation. For example, if there someone has an ongoing complaint about the volume of a neighbor’s music, they can approach the local government. In this way, they can find a solution through civil mediation and not take the law into their own hands or to go all the way to the regional Ministerio Publico office, where one registers a criminal or civil complaint.

The ordinance says: “It is strictly forbidden to use lethal arms in the dispersion of demonstrations. In the case of a demonstration being violent, to control and disperse [demonstrators], the [public safety officer] shall:

•Demand that the demonstrators desist in their violent acts.

•Warn clearly that if the violent acts do not cease, force will be used. If the demonstrators do not comply with the public safety official’s order, he may use force in accordance with the established current regulations.

•Be allowed the use of different levels of force, up to the use of arms to incapacitate, but not lethal [force].

•A demonstration is considered violent when a given group of people is armed, or if during the petition or protest taking place before the authorities there is use of threats for intimidation or to force the resolution of the matter in their favor, and [when the] commission of a crime is provoked or there is a disturbance of public peace or civil security.”

 

BOX

The seven ordinances approved by the city council this month are only the beginning: 47 planned regulatory ordinances remain to be approved, a process which involves the city council, expert lawyers, and an advisor.

Once a regulation is approved, it is sent to the Secretaria de Gobernación (Government Secretary) of the state of Guanajuato. That office will make any necessary comments regarding the legality of the law’s text and return it to the city council for changes.

Once the document is published, the date of its enactment is established.

 

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