Mexico warns states against prison terms to enforce lockdown

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s Interior Department issued a stern warning Monday for state governments not to use prison terms to enforce lock-downs to combat the new coronavirus pandemic.

The move came after one state legislature voted through a bill establishing prison terms of four to six years for “people who do not respect the period of mandated isolation while suffering a serious transmittable disease.”

The department said the law passed in the state of Queretaro was disproportionate, possibly unconstitutional and discriminated against the poor. It sets sentences of three to five years for disobeying the orders of health or civil defense authorities during a health emergency.

The department expressed particular concern about one clause that sets out prison terms of two to five years for people who “obstruct public works,” saying the measure could be used against legitimate demonstrations.

On a friendlier note, federal officials announced that part of the sprawling former presidential compound in Mexico City will be used to house medical workers fighting the pandemic who either want to avoid long commutes or avoid exposing their families during the pandemic.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has refused to live in the palatial compound on the edge of a public park, and already turned most of it into a public arts center.

At the beginning, 58 doctors and nurses will be housed amid the marble-floored rooms and chandeliers of the compound, known as Los Pinos. Medical personal have been attacked or verbally abused in recent weeks while commuting to their jobs by people apparently afraid that they would spread the virus.

The Mexico City government has already set aside over 2,500 hotel rooms for medical personnel for similar reasons,

Mexico has about 23,400 coronavirus cases and 2,154 deaths.

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