Capital punishment in Mexico was officially outlawed on 15 March 2005, having not been used in civil cases since 1957, and in military cases since 1961. Mexico is the world's most populous country to have completely abolished the death penalty.


A Mexican execution by firing squad in 1916
A Mexican execution by firing squad in 1916

There is significant history of abolitionism in Mexico, dating back to the 19th century. Following the Plan of Ayutla, the 1857 constitution was drafted, which specifically outlawed the death penalty for political crimes, and allowed abolition for ordinary crimes in the future.[1][2] Mexico's government at that time was quite unstable, and the express abolition of political crimes could have been linked to concern that the lawmakers themselves could become subject to the punishment if there was an uprising. Personal experiences too may have been a factor, as many Mexicans had experienced political repression.[1] There was widespread condemnation of the death penalty in the media, and many Mexican literates were familiar with the work of Cesare, Marquis of Beccaria. Following the rule of Porfirio Díaz, the death penalty article was amended in the reform which led to the current Constitution of Mexico.[1]

The last non-military execution in Mexico was in 1957 in Sonora, and the last military execution (of a soldier charged with insubordination and murder) was in 1961,[3] so the official abolition of the military death penalty in 2005 and of the civil death penalty in 1976 lagged the de facto cessations by 44 and 19 years, respectively.[4]

Mexico is a majority Roman Catholic country, with 88% of the population identifying themselves as adherents.[5] The Vatican has made numerous statements criticizing capital punishment, and this may be a factor in the debate in Mexico.

During a debate in 2018 during the 2018 Mexican general election candidate Jaime Rodríguez Calderón proposed to reinstate the death penalty for drug traffickers, hijackers, infanticides and serial killers.[6]

Mexican Drug War

A Green Party billboard promoting the restoration of the death penalty[7]
A Green Party billboard promoting the restoration of the death penalty[7]

The Mexican Drug War has fueled rising rates of violent crimes such as kidnapping and murder, prompting a reemergence of capital punishment into the political discourse. The Ecologist Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), the fourth biggest political force in the country, waged a campaign to promote restoration of the death penalty, including the use of billboards,[7] as part of promotion of the party for the 2009 election for seats in Congress. There have been proposals to amend the 1917 Constitution to allow capital punishment from both the PVEM and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), but both were rejected.[7][8] Surveys in 2009 suggested that up to 70% of the population supported the restoration of the death penalty, however it is unlikely that the constitution will be changed, as both religious and human rights groups have strongly opposed restoration.[9]

A 2017 poll study found younger Mexicans are more likely to support capital punishment.[10]

Constitution: Article 22

Cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited. Specifically, penalties of death, mutilation, infamy, marks, physical punishments, torments, excessive fines, confiscation of assets, and others are abolished.

Confiscation of assets does not include the application of said assets to pay for civil responsibilities caused by a crime, or when used to pay taxes or other fines. Nor will it be confiscation when said assets are part of illegal activities, or when they are related to organized crime, or when proof of ownership cannot be established.

International relations

In 1981, Mexico ratified the American Convention on Human Rights, a treaty of the Organization of American States, which prohibits the death penalty from being restored if eliminated.[11][8][12] Mexico does not extradite to countries that are seeking the death penalty, and has successfully defended 400 of its citizens charged with a capital offence in the United States.[13][14] This has in the past led to American fugitives crossing the border into Mexico in order to avoid the death penalty.[15][16]

In 2002, President Vicente Fox cancelled a trip to the United States to meet US President George W. Bush, in protest of the then imminent execution of a Mexican national, Javier Suárez Medina, in the U.S. state of Texas. Medina had been convicted in 1989 for killing an undercover police officer in Dallas. According to Mexican officials, Suárez was not informed about his right to consular access, and fourteen countries lobbied the United States Supreme Court on behalf of him.[17]

In 2003 Mexico filed a complaint against the United States at the International Court of Justice, alleging that the US had contravened the Vienna Convention by not allowing 54 Mexicans sentenced to death to receive consular assistance.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Sarat & Boulanger 2005, pp. 69–85
  2. ^ Constitución Política de la República Mexicana de 1857 (PDF), 1857, archived from the original (PDF) on 23 May 2012, retrieved 2 August 2009
  3. ^ Gibbs, Stephen (4 February 2009), "Death penalty debate grows in Mexico", BBC News, archived from the original on 11 February 2009, retrieved 2 August 2009
  4. ^ Clarke & Whitt 2007, pp. 44–45
  5. ^ "Religión" (PDF), Censo Nacional de Población y Vivienda 2000, INEGI, 2000, archived from the original (PDF) on 25 September 2007, retrieved 2 August 2009
  6. ^ "Ciudadanos quieren pena de muerte para narcos y asesinos, asegura 'El Bronco'". Reporte Indigo. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Blears, James (26 February 2009), Mexico's Green Party Urges Death Penalty for Kidnappers, VOA News, retrieved 2 August 2009[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ a b Wilkinson, Tracy (5 December 2008), "MEXICO UNDER SIEGE: Some in Mexico want the death penalty reinstated", Los Angeles Times, archived from the original on 24 September 2009, retrieved 2 August 2009
  9. ^ Gibbs, Stephen (23 February 2009), "Mexico to rethink death penalty", BBC News, archived from the original on 19 February 2009, retrieved 2 August 2009
  10. ^ "Study examines death penalty support in Mexico". Archived from the original on 28 December 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  11. ^ American Convention on Human Rights Archived 18 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine, art 4.2 ratified 2 Mar. 1981.
  12. ^ Bonello, Deborah (10 December 2008), "Death penalty advertisements in Mexico", Los Angeles Times, archived from the original on 14 June 2009, retrieved 2 August 2009
  13. ^ Lloyd, Marion (28 February 2009), To live or die in Mexico, GlobalPost, archived from the original on 23 April 2009, retrieved 2 August 2009
  14. ^ Lloyd, Marion (14 January 2009), "Mexico: Death Penalty Gaining Support", Huffington Post, archived from the original on 9 February 2009, retrieved 2 August 2009
  15. ^ Curtis, Kimberly (13 July 2009), Death Penalty Gaining Support in Mexico, Foreign Policy Association, archived from the original on 23 July 2009, retrieved 2 August 2009
  16. ^ "U.S. fugitives in Mexico spared death penalty: FBI, N.C. and Mexican officials on hunt for Marine slaying suspect", NBC News, Associated Press, 18 January 2008, retrieved 2 August 2009
  17. ^ Knowlton, Brian (16 August 2002), "Fox echoes world on the death penalty : Execution pits Mexico against U.S.", The New York Times, archived from the original on 20 May 2013, retrieved 2 August 2009
  18. ^ Pieter H.F. Bekker (16 January 2003). "World Court Consular Notification and Death Penalty Challenge Revisited: Mexico v. United States". American Society of International Law. Archived from the original on 21 January 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.