Mexican FlagCivic Freedom Monitor: Mexico

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated 16 March 2017

Update: On November 30, 2016, the Income Tax Law Reform was published in the Official Journal.  Some of the provisions modified in the Income Tax Law affect authorized donees in various ways. Although some of the provisions are seen as positive, three issues worry the civil society sector in general:

  1. If a CSO that is an authorized donee loses the authorization to receive tax deductible donations, the CSO has a one year period in which it can regain the authorization. If the CSO does not regain the authorization in the one year period and the authorization remains revoked, then the CSO is obliged to prove that donations received in the previous year were used for the CSO's philanthropic purposes and to transfer the CSO's remaining assets to other CSOs that are authorized donees.
  2. A corporate governance body will be established to regulate CSOs that have more than a certain level of income.
  3. CSOs will have to be certified by private organizations that will classify CSOs as one of three types of organization (A, AA, or AAA). This certification process is said to be voluntary; however there would be different tax incentives for certified CSOs, creating disparate treatment and dissuading donors from supporting the neediest organizations located, for instance, in rural areas, if they do not meet the AAA standards.

On the other hand, one of the more enabling aspects of the Income Tax Law Reform is that there will be fewer authorizations required to receive tax deductible receipts for CSOs dedicated to scientific or technological research.

Introduction

Mexico has a long tradition of charity. In the last 20 years, charitable organizations have expanded to include fields like the environment and human rights. However, tax incentives were limited to only a few charitable purposes, despite the emergence of organizations in new public interest fields that influenced public policy and had significant impact. For more than a decade, organizations therefore pushed for a law that recognized the social importance of civil society activities.

In 2004, the Federal Law for the Promotion of Activities Undertaken by Civil Society Organizations (“The Law on Promotion”) was enacted in order to provide a legal framework at the Federal Government level for non-profit organizations and a mechanism for the participation of non-profit organizations in the social development of Mexico. This legislation opened up possibilities for greater Government/CSO collaboration with mutual responsibility and transparency.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Civil Associations (ACs) Private Assistance Institutions (IAPs) Authorized Donees (ADs)
Registration Body Public Registry of Property and the Federal Taxpayers Registry. To be eligible to receive government funds, an organization must be listed in the Registry of Civil Society Organizations (CLUNI) Private Assistance Board, Public Registry of Property, and the Federal Taxpayers Registry. To be eligible to receive government funds, an organization must be listed in the Registry of Civil Society Organizations Authorized Donees may be organizations formed as ACs or IAPs. They must receive special authorization from the Servicio de Administracion Tributaria (SAT).
Approximate Number

35,762 (Federal CSO Registry): Active 20,587; Inactive 14,964

3,135 8,459 (March 2017)
Barriers to Entry None None Formerly lengthy compliance procedures (an online system has improved this issue)
Barriers to Activities None None  None
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy None None  None
Barriers to International Contact Money Laundering Legislation that classifies donations as a "vulnerable activity" Money Laundering Legislation that classifies donations as a "vulnerable activity"  Money Laundering Legislation that classifies donations as a "vulnerable activity"
Barriers to Resources Tax laws inhibiting donations, with ceiling on eligible donations (corporations and individuals may deduct up to 7% of their taxable income paid during the fiscal year) Tax laws limit deductibility of donations Tax laws limit deductibility of donations
Barriers to Assembly Restrictions on non-citizens and prisoners; state-level advance notification often required; legal prohibition on assemblies three days prior to elections; trend of states enacting laws allowing police to use excessive force on protestors.    

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Key Indicators

Population 120,800,000 (2014 est.)
Capital Mexico City
Type of Government Federal Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 73.45 years
Female: 79.22 years (2010 est.)
Literacy Rate Male: 86.9%
Female: 85.3% (2005 Census)
Religious Groups Roman Catholic: 76.5%; Protestant: 6.3% (Pentecostal: 1.4%; Jehova's Witnesses: 1.1%; other: 3.8%); other: 0.3%; unspecified: 13.8%; none: 3.1% (2000 census)
Ethnic Groups Mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish): 60%; Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian: 30%; white: 9%; other: 1%
GDP per capita $13,800 (2010 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2010.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale 
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 61 (2015) 1 – 169
World Bank Rule of Law Index 38 (2014) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 47.8 (2014) 100 – 0
Transparency International 103 (2014) 1 – 177
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Partly Free
Political Rights: 3
Civil Liberties: 3 (2016)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
107 (2016) 178 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1981
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 2002
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 1981
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) No  --
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1975
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1981
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Yes 2002
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) Yes 1999
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2007
Regional Treaties    
American Convention on Human Rights Yes 1981
Additional Protocol to the Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights "Protocol of San Salvador" Yes 1996

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

Relevant provisions of the Constitution of Mexico include the following:

Article 1. In the United Mexican States, all individuals shall be entitled to the human rights granted by this Constitution and the international treaties signed by the Mexican State, as well as to the guarantees for the protection of these rights. Such human rights shall not be restricted or suspended, except for the cases and under the conditions established by this Constitution itself. (Added by decree published on June 10, 2011)

The provisions relating to human rights shall be interpreted according to this Constitution and the international treaties on the subject, working in favor of the protection of people at all times. (Added by decree published on June 10, 2011)

All authorities, in their areas of competence, are obliged to promote, respect, protect and guarantee the human rights, in accordance with the principles of universality, interdependence, indivisibility and progressiveness. As a consequence, the State must prevent, investigate, penalize and redress violations to the human rights, according to the law.

Article 5. No person may be prevented from performing the profession, industry, business or work of his choice, provided that it is lawful. This right may only be banned by judicial resolution, when third parties’ rights are infringed, or by government order, issued according to the law when society’s rights are infringed. No one can be deprived of legal wages, except by a judicial ruling.

In each state, the law shall determine which professions require a degree to be practiced, the requirements for such degree and the appropriate authorities to issue it.

No one can be compelled to work or render personal services without obtaining a fair compensation and without his full consent, unless the work has been imposed as a penalty by a judicial authority, which shall be subjected to the provisions established in the Article 123, sections I and II.

Article 6. Expression of ideas shall not be submitted to judicial or administrative inquiry, except for the cases when such expression of ideas goes against the moral or third party’s rights, or causes perpetration of a felony, or disturb law and order. The right of reply shall be exercised according to law. The State shall guarantee the right to information.

In order to guarantee the right to information, the Federation, the states and the Federal District, according to their powers, shall be ruled by the following principles:

I. All information in custody of any federal, state or local authority, entity or organ, is public. It may be reserved only temporarily due to public interest and according to the law. The principle of maximum disclosure shall prevail when interpreting this right.
II. Information regarding private life and personal data shall be protected according to law and with the exceptions established therein.
III. Every person shall have free access to public information and his personal data, as well as to their rectification, without the necessity to argue interest or justification.
IV. Free mechanisms to access information and review procedures shall be established. These procedures shall be formalized before specialized and impartial agencies, which shall have operational, managerial and decision making independence.
V. Government agencies shall keep their documents in updated administrative files, and shall disclose, through electronic media, the complete and updated information about the indicators of their management and the use of public resources.
VI. The law shall establish procedures for governmental agencies to disclose information concerning the use of public resources paid to natural or artificial persons.
VII.- Failure to comply with these dispositions shall be penalized according to the law.

Article 7. Freedom of writing and publishing writings on any subject is inviolable. No law or authority may establish censorship, require bonds from authors or printers, or restrict the freedom of printing, which shall be limited only by the respect due to private life, morals, and public peace. Under no circumstances may a printing press be sequestrated as the instrument of the offense.

The organic laws shall contain whatever provisions may be necessary to prevent the imprisonment of the vendors, newsboys, workmen, and other employees of the establishment publishing the work denounced, under pretext of a denunciation of offenses of the press, unless their guilt is previously established.

Article 8. Public officials and employees shall respect the exercise of the right of petition, provided it is made in writing and in a peaceful and respectful manner; but this right may only be exercised in political matters by citizens of the Republic.
Every petition shall be replied to in writing by the official to whom it is addressed, and said official is bound to inform the petitioner of the decision taken within a brief period.

Article 9. The right to assemble or associate peaceably for any lawful purpose cannot be restricted; but only citizens of the Republic may do so to take part in the political affairs of the country. No armed deliberative meeting is authorized.

No meeting or assembly shall be deemed unlawful which has for its object the petitioning of any authority or thepresentation of a protest against any act; nor may it be dissolved, unless insults be proffered against said authority or violence is resorted to, or threats are used to intimidate or compel such authority to render a favorable decision.

Article 11. Everyone has the right to enter and leave the Republic, to travel through its territory and to change his residence without necessity of a letter of security, passport, safe-conduct or any other similar requirement. The exercise of this right shall be subordinated to the powers of the judiciary, in cases of civil or criminal liability, and to those of the administrative authorities insofar as concerns the limitations imposed by the laws regarding emigration, immigration and public health of the country, or in regard to undesirable aliens resident in the country. In case of political persecution, any person has the right to seek political asylum, which will be provided for humanitarian reasons. The law shall regulate the cases in which political asylum should be provided, as well as the exceptions.

Article 16. No person shall be in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without a written order from a competent authority, duly explaining the legal cause of the proceeding. (Added through a decree published on June 1, 2009)

All people have the right to enjoy protection on his personal data, and to access, correct and cancel such data. All people have the right to oppose disclosure of his data, according to the law. The law shall establish exceptions to the criteria that rule the handling of data, due to national security reasons, law and order, public security, public health, or protection of third party’s rights. (Errata published on June 25, 2009)

Only judicial authority can issue an arrest warrant. Such arrest warrant shall always be preceded by a formal accusation or charge of misconduct considered as criminal offence, punishable with imprisonment, provided that there is evidence to prove that a crime has been committed and that the defendant is criminally liable. The authority executing an arrest warrant shall bring the accused before the judge without any delay and under its sole responsibility. Failing to comply with this provision will be punished under criminal law.

In cases of flagante delicto, any person may arrest the offender, turning him over without delay to the nearest authorities, which in turn, shall bring him before the Public Prosecution Service. A record of such arrest must be done immediately. The Public Prosecution Service may order arrest of the accused, explaining the causes of such decision, only under the following circumstances all together: a) in urgent cases, b) when dealing with serious offence, c) under reasonable risk that the accused could evade the justice and, d) because of the time, place or circumstance, accused cannot be brought before judicial authority….

Administrative officials may enter private homes for the sole purpose of ascertaining whether the sanitary and police regulations have been complied with; and may demand to be shown the books and documents required to prove compliance with fiscal rulings, in which latter cases they must abide by the provisions of the respective laws and be subject to the formalities prescribed for cases of search

Article 24. Every man is free to pursue the religious belief that best suits him, and to practice its ceremonies, devotions or cults, as long as they do not constitute a crime. Congress cannot dictate laws that establish or abolish any given religion. Ordinarily, all religious acts will be practiced in temples, and those that extraordinarily are practiced outside temples must adhere to law.

Article 27. II. Religious associations, created in accordance with the terms provided in Article 130 and its regulatory law, can acquire, possess or manage properties essential for their religious activities.

III. Public and private charitable institutions, devoted to public assistance, scientific research, education, mutual assistance to their members, or any other lawful purpose cannot acquire other real estate than that which is essential to fulfill their objective, according to the regulatory law.

In addition, in the Official Journal of January 29 2016, the Mexican Constitution Reform declared the change of "Distrito Federal (Federal District)" to "Ciudad de México (Mexico City)", which continues to be the seat of the federal government. Now Mexico City, which is the capital of Mexico, has its own Constitution (“Constitución Política de la Ciudad de México”), which was published on February 5, 2017.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Within a federal structure, there are relevant federal and state laws and regulations affecting CSOs (please scroll to "Mexico" at ICNL's Online Library to view many of the laws below):

Federal Laws

Constitution of Mexico 
Ley de Asistencia Social
Ley Federal del Trabajo
Ley Federal de Consulta Popular
Ley General de Desarrollo Social
Ley General de Educación
Ley General de Instituciones y Procedimientos Electorales
Ley General de Partidos Políticos
Ley General de Títulos y Operaciones de Crédito (LGTOC)
Ley para la Protección de Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas
Ley de Inversión Extranjera
Ley Federal para la Prevención e Identificación de Operaciones con Recursos de Procedencia Ilícita
Reglamento de la Ley Federal para la Prevención e Identificación de Operaciones con Recursos de Procedencia Ilícita
Acuerdo 02/2013 por el que se emiten las Reglas de Carácter General a que se refiere la Ley Federal para la Prevención e Identificación de Operaciones con Recursos de Procedencia Ilícita
Registry for Scientific and Technological Research Decree

Regulation regarding the Promotion Law

Ley Federal de Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil (Federal
Law for the Promotion of Activities Undertaken by Civil Society Organizations) 
Reglamento de la Ley Federal de Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil

Tax Regulation

Ley del Impuesto Sobre la Renta (LISR)
Ley del Impuesto al Valor Agregado (LIVA, or, in English, VAT) 
Reglamento de la Ley del Impuesto Sobre la Renta (RLISR)
Income Tax Law Reform

State Laws

Código Civil (CC) del Estado de: Aguascalientes, Baja California,  Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Distrito Federal, Durango, estado de México, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Querétaro, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Yucatán, Zacatecas.  
Código Administrativo del Estado de Chihuahua
Código de Asistencia Social del Estado de Jalisco
Ley de Acceso de las Mujeres a una vida libre de violencia del Distrito Federal
Ley de Cuidados Alternativos para Niñas, Niños y Adolescentes en el Distrito Federal
Ley de Desarrollo Social para el Distrito Federal
Ley de Instituciones de Asistencia Privada para el Distrito Federal (LIAPDF) 
Ley de Instituciones de Asistencia Privada del Estado de México (LIAP México) 
Ley de Asistencia Social y Privada para el Estado de Quintana Roo 
Ley de Instituciones de Beneficencia para el Estado de Baja California (LIBP BC) 
Ley de Instituciones Beneficencia Privada del Estado de Nuevo León 
Ley de Instituciones de Asistencia Privada del Estado de Campeche 
Ley de Instituciones de Asistencia Privada para el Estado de Guerrero
Ley de Instituciones de Asistencia Privada del Estado de Michoacán
Ley de Instituciones de Asistencia Privada para el Estado Libre y Soberano de Puebla (LIBP Puebla)
Ley de Instituciones de Asistencia, Promoción Humana y Desarrollo Social Privadas del Estado de Oaxaca (Decreto 312 Oaxaca) 
Ley de la Junta de Asistencia Privada del Estado de Chihuahua
Ley para el Fomento y Participación de las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de Jalisco
Ley para el Fomento y Regulación de las Instituciones de Asistencia Privada del Estado de Querétaro 
Ley sobre Fundaciones y Asociaciones de Beneficencia Privada para el Estado de Durango
Reglamento para las Instituciones de Asistencia Privada del Estado de Sonora
Ley de Fomento a las Actividades de Desarrollo Social de las Organizaciones Civiles para el Distrito Federal (LFADF)
Ley de Fomento a las Actividades de Bienestar y Desarrollo social para el Estado de Baja California
Ley de Fomento a las Actividades de las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de Baja California Sur
Ley de Fomento a las Actividades de las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil del Estado de Morelos
Ley de Fomento a las Actividades de las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de Tamaulipas
Ley Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por las Organizaciones Civiles para el Estado de Quintana Roo Ley de Fomento a las Actividades de Desarrollo Social de las Organizaciones Civiles para el Estado de Veracruz-Llave y su Reglamento
Ley de Fomento a las Actividades realizadas por las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de Zacatecas
Ley para Prevenir y Eliminar la Discriminación del Distrito Federal
Ley que Regula el Otorgamiento de Recursos Públicos a las Organizaciones Sociales del Estado de Tlaxcala Reglamento de la Ley de Acceso de las Mujeres a una vida libre de violencia del Distrito Federal Reglamento de la Ley de Instituciones de Asistencia Privada para el Distrito Federal (RLIAPDF) Reglamento de la Ley de Fomento las Actividades de Bienestar y Desarrollo Social para el Estado de Baja California Reglamento de la Ley de Fomento a las Actividades de Desarrollo Social de las Organizaciones Civiles para el Distrito Federal Reglamento de la Ley de Fomento a las Actividades de Desarrollo Social de las Organizaciones Civiles para el Estado de Veracruz-Llave
Reglamento para las Instituciones de Asistencia Privada del Estado de Sonora Reglamento de la Ley que Regula el Otorgamiento de Recursos Públicos a las Organizaciones Sociales del Estado de Tlaxcala Ley de Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de Michoacán y sus Municipios
Ley de Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de Michoacán y sus Municipios
Ley de Fomento a las Actividades de las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de Guanajuato

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

There is an effort to reform the Federal Law for the Promotion of Activities Undertaken by Civil Society Organizations (“The Law on Promotion”) by expanding the categories of eligible organizations to include those dedicated to the promotion and protection of consumer rights; and to reinforce the role of the Advisory Council that represents CSO organizations at the Government Promotion Commission, which is to be created by the Law on Promotion.

In addition, there are several bills pending in Mexican states to promote civil society, such as the following:

  • Iniciativa con Proyecto de Decreto que Crea la Ley de Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil del Estado de Campeche.
  • Iniciativa de Reforma que Crea la Ley de Fomento a las Actividades de las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil del Estado de Coahuila de Zaragoza
  • Iniciativa de Ley de Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de Michoacán y sus Municipios
  • Iniciativa de Ley de Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por Organizaciones Civiles para el Estado de Puebla
  • Iniciativa de Ley de Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de San Luis Potosí
  • Iniciativa de Ley de Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil del Estado de Sonora
  • Iniciativa de Ley de Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de Tabasco
  • Propuesta de Iniciativa de Ley de Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de Chihuahua y sus Municipios
  • Propuesta de Iniciativa de Ley de Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de Hidalgo y sus Municipios
  • Ley de Fomento a las Actividades Realizadas por las Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil en el Estado de Nuevo León

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

There are two main legal organizational forms for a non-profit organization in Mexico: Civil Associations (ACs) and Private Assistance Institutions (IAPs). According to the Civil Code, an AC is formed by two or more persons who associate to perform a common purpose which is not primarily economic in character. An IAP is created to perform charitable services with private assets according to State Laws on Private Assistance. There are other social self-benefit organizations such as cooperatives, neighborhood groups, labor unions, and chambers of commerce that are regulated by corresponding laws.

IAPs are registered with and supervised by the Private Assistance Board, an official body. 

IAPs and ACs must register their bylaws with the Public Registry of Property and the Federal Taxpayers Registry.

To be eligible to receive government funds, an organization must be listed in the “Registry of Civil Society Organizations” (CLUNI) created by the 2004 Federal Law for the Promotion of Activities Undertaken by Civil Society Organizations.

Public Benefit Status

ACs may be established for the public benefit; this includes activities such as human rights, environment, alleviation of poverty, scientific or technological research, and grant making organizations, as well as organizations dedicated to the benefit of its members, such as sports organizations. However, not all organizations engaged in public benefit activities are eligible for tax benefits or to receive government funds.

In Mexico, not-for-profit organizations must apply and obtain approval from tax authorities on a case-by-case basis to be eligible for income tax exemption and to receive tax-deductible donations according to the Income Tax Law and other provisions derived from these laws. An organization with “authorized donee" status may also be exempt from import taxes. In addition, certain organizations are eligible to receive government funds if they are registered with the Registry of Civil Society Organizations.

The three categories of fiscally privileged organizations include:

a) Tax Exempt Organizations
Organizations that are income tax exempt may include trade unions, industrial and business chambers, farmers or forestry associations, professional associations, scientific or technological research associations, arts and educational institutions, and associations organized for political, sports, or religious ends.  Each individual organization must register as tax-exempt when it files its application form to obtain its fiscal ID and must comply with the documentation requirements.

After President Enrique Peña Nieto took office on December 1, 2012, organizations promoted a reform of Mexican tax law to include provisions that govern CSOs receiving preferential tax treatment and their donors. In October 2014, the Mexican Congress passed a tax reform package, which included changes for the not-for-profit sector. With the tax reform, educational institutions are also tax exempt, provided they are also authorized to receive tax deductible donations.

Tax-deductible receipts may now be obtained online, which many CSOs consider as a step forward.

b) Authorized Donee Status 
In order to apply for authorization to receive tax-deductible donations, organizations must be dedicated to charitable purposes; cultural, environmental, education, scientific or technological activities; human rights, health, grant scholarships, promotion of citizen participation in matters of public interest; promotion of gender equality; civil protection; and/or support for the creation and strengthening of organizations that carry out activities subject to the Federal Law of Promotion, the promotion and defense of consumer rights or grant-making to other authorized donees.

On November 30, 2016, the Income Tax Law Reform was published in the Official Journal.  Some of the provisions modified in the Income Tax Law affect authorized donees in various ways. Although some of the provisions are seen as positive, three issues worry the civil society sector in general:

  1. If a CSO that is an authorized donee loses the authorization to receive tax deductible donations, the CSO has a one year period in which it can regain the authorization. If the CSO does not regain the authorization in the one year period and the authorization remains revoked, then the CSO is obliged to prove that donations received in the previous year were used for the CSO's philanthropic purposes and to transfer the CSO's remaining assets to other CSOs that are authorized donees.
  2. A corporate governance body will be established to regulate CSOs that have more than a certain level of income.
  3. CSOs will have to be certified by private organizations that will classify CSOs as one of three types of organization (A, AA, or AAA). This certification process is said to be voluntary; however there would be different tax incentives for certified CSOs, creating disparate treatment and dissuading donors from supporting the neediest organizations located, for instance, in rural areas, if they do not meet the AAA standards.

c) Recipients of Government Funding 
In order to be eligible to receive government funding, organizations must register with the Registry of Civil Society Organizations. Among other requirements, organizations must engage in activities such as charitable purposes, environmental protection, support for the creation and strengthening of civil society, human rights, education, health, consumer rights, or sports.

Barriers to Entry

Currently, to register as a legal entity, CSOs follow the same procedures as any other legal entity.

The founding member(s) of a civil association (ACs) and private assistance institution (IAPs) may be Mexican individuals or legally incorporated entities. If a foreigner is among the founding members, the bylaws must include a provision stating that any founding foreigner shall be considered Mexican with respect to such participation, and that such foreigner agrees not to seek the protection of his/her government under penalty, in case of breaching said agreement, of forfeiting such interest or participation in the organization.

At least two founders are required to establish an AC, although there is no amount of assets required. In the case of an IAP, the amount of assets required depends on the discretion of the Board of Assistance.

Barriers to Operations

Civil associations (ACs) are autonomous in their internal self-governance while Private Assistance Institutions (IAPs) are subject to significant supervision by the Private Assistance Board.  The Board must approve all operating activities of IAPs including budgets, programming, the appointment of board members, meetings, and the acquisition of assets.

Burdensome reporting requirements inhibit the activity of ACs and IAPs at the federal as well as the state level. Many reports have to be filed, such as government funding reports and fiscal reports to the federal government and the local government, including monthly and annual transparency and social security reports, audits, information for the Transparency web page, reports to the Private Assistance Board (for IAPs), reports to the government where an organization receives public funds, reports to the ministry of the field of activities of the organization, reports to the Labor Ministry, reports to the Ministry of Social Development where an organization is registered with the Registry of Social Development, and reports to federal and state tax authorities.

Sanctions vary according to the law violated, but include the suspension of activities. CSOs are generally not subject to government harassment but are often not provided adequate protection by the government in the face of threats and violence from others. 

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

There is no legal restriction on criticizing the government or on pursuing advocacy unless activities are contrary to law or public order. The right of petition is constitutionally protected. Even organizations with authorized donee status or that receive government funding may engage in activities seeking to influence legislation under certain circumstances. In addtion, the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which was published in the Official Journal on June 25, 2012, provides for the establishment of a mechanism of prevention and protection to guarantee the life, integrity, liberty and security of human rights defenders and journalists against the increased risk faced when exercising their duties.

Barriers to International Contact

There are no legal restrictions on contact or cooperation with sectors within the country or abroad unless contrary to law or public order. 

Barriers to Resources

There are no legal restrictions on foreign funding. In fact, there is a 1994 Mexico-US Tax Treaty that encourages cross-border donations to Mexican organizations by allowing these donations to be deducted by persons and corporations from U.S. taxable income.

In December 2009, the House of Representatives approved a provision that permits CSOs to engage in commercial/ business/economic activities. Income from economic activities is exempt from taxation only up to a 10% threshold; in other words, income from economic activities that exceeds 10% of an organization’s income will be subject to taxation.

This measure has proved controversial because a significant number of CSOs rely on economic activities to financially sustain themselves, and the 2009 provision compels them to pay 30% tax on revenue earned above the 10% exemption. The provision has also caused great confusion among CSOs and the professionals that advise them on fiscal matters because there has been no guidance issued by the Servicio de Administración Tributaria (SAT) about how to determine related or unrelated activities.

On May 26, 2010, a Presidential Decree was issued that provides authorized donees with a “tax credit” equal to the amount of income tax that they would normally owe on income generated from “unrelated” economic activities that exceeds 10% of their total income for one year. In December 2015, the tax credit was extended through 2017. Authorized donees, however, must calculate the amount that would be owed in order to take advantage of the tax credit. As previously mentioned, this determination is not easily undertaken due to the lack of guidance by the SAT.

There is also concern that new anti-money laundering legislation may cause a major regulatory impact within the not-for-profit sector because the legislation considers donations to be a "vulnerable activity" and presents challenges for organizations to comply its obligations. For instance, foundations are required to provide their by-laws as well as their legal representatives personal identification information, which may be a burdensome and intrusive procedure for some foundations.

Barriers to Assembly

The Constitution of Mexico protects the freedom of assembly as follows:

Article 9. The right to assemble or associate peaceably for any lawful purpose cannot be restricted; but only citizens of the Republic may do so to take part in the political affairs of the country. No armed deliberative meeting is authorized.

No meeting or assembly shall be deemed unlawful which has for its object the petitioning of any authority or the presentation of a protest against any act; nor may it be dissolved, unless insults be proffered against said authority or violence is resorted to, or threats are used to intimidate or compel such authority to render a favorable decision.

There are no national level laws on assembly. However, states may pass their own laws to regulate assemblies. (See “Excessive Force and State Laws” below in this section.)

Restrictions on Participants

Article 9 of the Constitution limits the freedom of assembly to only citizens of Mexico when the assembly relates to the “political affairs of the country.” This limitation is reinforced by Article 33 of the Constitution, which states that foreigners may not participate in “political affairs of the country.” In addition, those who have had their citizenship rights suspended, such as prisoners, face the same restriction.

Advance Notification

State laws often require organizers who seek to hold events in public areas to notify the local authorities in advance of the event. For example, in Mexico City, the organizers are required to contact the civic protection services at least seven days in advance of a mass event.

Time, Place, Manner Restrictions

The Ley General de Instituciones y Procedimientos Electorales (General Law for Institutions and Electoral Procedures), which was enacted on May 23, 2014, prohibits political campaigning and public meetings three days prior to elections (Article 251). The National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral-INE), which has a main responsibility to manage and oversee elections, ensures that such forms of assemblies are prohibited.

The use of symbols are allowed in assemblies as long as participants do not defame national symbols, such as the Mexican flag.

Excessive Force and State Laws

Although the security forces and state regulations generally respect the right to assembly, there are an increasing number of exceptions. For instance, in May 2014, the State of Puebla passed the Law to Protect Human Rights and Regulate the Legitimate Use of Force, which allows police to use firearms or deadly force to break up protests. On July 9, 2014, when indigenous residents blocked a highway 150 km from Mexico City, the Puebla police used powers given to them by the Law and fired rubber bullets at protesters, killing a 13-year old boy who was hit in the head by one of the bullets.

In 2013, the legislatures of five states discussed bills similar to the one passed in Puebla. Two states, San Luis Potosí and Chiapas, also passed initiatives that regulated and allowed vaguely defined "legitimate use of force." In addition, in December 2013, in Mexico City (Federal District), a Bill on Public Demonstrations was introduced by lawmakers from the rightwing opposition National Action Party, but it did not pass.

In April 2014, the State of Quintana Roo, which was led by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), became the first state in Mexico to move beyond regulating not only “legitimate use of force” but protests altogether. The new state law, Ley de Ordenamiento Cívico (Law on Civic Order), known as the "anti-protest law," was a toned-down version of a separate initiative that would have required protesters to apply for a permit to protest at least 48 hours ahead of time. The law that did pass, nonetheless, still maintains the ban on roadblocks and allows the police "to take pertinent measures" against protesters.

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Reports

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports UPR Mexico
National Report
Compilation of UN information
Summary of stakeholders' information
Report of the Working Group
Decision on the Outcome
Draft Report on the eighth session of the Human Rights Council
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Mexico
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes USIG: Mexico
U.S. State Department 2014 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Mexico
Human Rights Watch World Report 2015
Fragile States Index Reports Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
Index of Philanthropic Freedom Mexico Report 2015
Indesol Entre Sociedad Civil y Políticas Públicas [Between Civil Society and Public Policy]
IMF Country Reports Mexico and the IMF
International Commission of Jurists Not available
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library Mexico

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News and Additional Resources

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org

Key Events

The 24th International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) World Volunteer Conference at the 20th Cemefi Annual Meeting with the theme “Volunteering for Social Change” will be held in Mexico City on November 7-10, 2016.

General News

Networks, social movements and the internet in Mexico (December 2016)
Today we cannot imagine the world without the internet. 23 years ago we could not imagine a world with it, nor the social movements and rural indigenous movements that utilise it, but it happened. This article reflects on the link between the internet and social movements in Mexico. First, I describe some cases of uprisings and mobilisations, transnational organisations, and local activist collectives. Then I point out some key elements about the internet and public expression, and conclude reflecting on the power of networks.

Mexico Struggles to Protect Human Rights Advocates (January 2016)
Defending human rights is a risky business in Mexico. Advocates for human rights are operating in the most dangerous environments in the world where they are likely to be kidnapped, threatened and even murdered, experts say. Mexico is among the most dangerous places in the world for journalists and human rights advocates, according to a 2015 report by Peace Brigades International and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a U.S-based research and advocacy group. The Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders published a report that registered 616 attacks against female advocates in Mexico between 2012 and 2014.

Second Citizen Summit – Puebla 2014 (Spanish) (June 2014)
A Citizen Summit is an effort by civil society organizations to generate the exchange of ideas and enable the dialogue between different actors on the construction of public policies in favor of Mexican society. For the past two days, the Second Citizens' Summit was held on the premises of the University Cultural Complex of the Autonomous University of Puebla.

News Archive

Mexico Update – Tax Reform – General Changes (December 2013)

Mexico must strengthen protection of human rights, reduce use of military – UN expert (May 2013)

Six Mexican journalists killed in 2012 (February 2013)

Consultative body for Protection of Journalists and Human Rights Defenders created (October 2012)

NGOs request police reform in municipalities (October 2012)

NGOs ask Peña Nieto to review anti-crime policies (September 2012)

Law to protect human rights defenders and journalists in effect (July 2012)

Mexicans willing to exchange human rights for safety (July 2012)

Law for Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists presented to Senate (March 2012)

Civil Society jumps to the streets to protest against drug violence (April 2011)

Civil Society called on Congress to speed the passage of legislation (February 2011)

Human rights and civil society Bishop Samuel Ruiz dies at 86 (January 2011)

Mexico: Juarez residents fight for safe public spaces (October 2010)

Mexican NGOs, hard up and under threat (August 2010) 

In Mexico, rights groups march to protest activist's slaying (January 2010)

Mexico weighs options as lawlessness continues to grip Ciudad Juarez (December 2009) 

Mexico: Require civilian investigation of abuses against civilians by Military (October 2010)

US State Department should insist on rights compliance (September 2009)

Human rights in Mexico's drug war (August 2009)

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