The Ley Seca (literally “Dry Law” in Spanish) refers to the banning of the sale of alcohol for 24 hours before elections and throughout the day on election day in Mexico and some other Latin American countries. The purpose of the law is to ensure that elections are held with the maximum degree of decorum and level-headedness. The law used to be enforced at a national level, but since 2007 it is left to the authorities of each state to determine whether or not they will apply it.
Some states restrict the sale of alcoholic beverages for a full 48 hours, some for just 24 hours, and some, mostly in areas where tourism is an important economic factor, do not apply the law at all.
Paragraph II, Article 286 of the Federal Code of Institutions and Electoral Procedures (Código Federal de Instituciones y Procedimientos Electorales reads:
2. EL DIA DE LA ELECCION Y EL PRECEDENTE LAS AUTORIDADES COMPETENTES, DE ACUERDO A LA NORMATIVIDAD QUE EXISTA EN CADA ENTIDAD FEDERATIVA, PODRAN ESTABLECER MEDIDAS PARA LIMITAR EL HORARIO DE SERVICIO DE LOS ESTABLECIMIENTOS EN LOS QUE SE SIRVAN BEBIDAS EMBRIAGANTES. Source
Translation: The day of the election as well as the preceding day, in accordance with the regulations that exist in each federal agency, authorities may establish measures to limit the hours of service of establishments which serve alcoholic beverages.
Establishments caught breaking the law face hefty fines.
When are the elections?
In Mexico, general elections are held every six years (the next one will be in 2018), and local elections are held in different locations in different years. Elections are usually held on the first Sunday of June.
Mexican States and Ley Seca
States which enforce the dry law for the full 48 hours (from the first minute of the Saturday prior to the elections until the first moment of the Monday following the elections) include Campeche, Coahuila, Colima, Sonora, Guerrero, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Jalisco, Tamaulipas and Mexico City.
In some states, such as Puebla, Quintana Roo and Baja California Sur, the dry law is in effect for 24 hours only. In Quintana Roo (which includes the tourist destinations of Cancun and the Riviera Maya) the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited on election day (from midnight until midnight), except in hotels and tourist areas where alcohol may be served provided it is accompanied by food. In Baja California Sur the dry law is enforced on election day, with the exception of the hotels and beaches of the tourist areas of Los Cabos. In the state of Baja California, the law is not applied at all.
Those concerned about being unable to purchase alcohol during the elections may wish to plan in advance and stock up on liquor on the Friday before election day.