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Election Weekend: Dry Law Once Again

By: David Real | Real Acapulco News - 25 January, 2011

(Chilpancingo, AN 25 January) Yesterday, at the request of Guerrero’s Elections Institute (IEEG), the municipalities began spreading the word about the “Ley Seca” (Dry Law) that will be imposed from 8:00 pm on Saturday, January 29 until 8:00 pm on Sunday, January 30. During that time, no alcoholic beverages can be sold or consumed in public places. Fines for violation range from 60 minimum salaries (about US$300) to the revocation of the license. The local governments intend to inform each bar, restaurant and retail outlet individually.

The purpose of the dry law is to discourage violent outbreaks on Election Day, in the belief that party zealots are less likely to violate the election laws if they have not been drinking. The law is less concerned with making sure everyone casting a ballot is sober. That is why it goes into effect 10 hours before the polls open.

The dry law is controversial in Acapulco because it affects tourism on a Sunday during high season. Tourists are often unaware that it is Election Day, as they mostly come from other states or countries. Nevertheless, they cannot have alcohol on the beach, and the many beach bars and restaurants just close for what would otherwise be a good day for sales in the winter vacation season. Another criticism is that the law is stupid: anyone who cares to drink during the 24 hours of the dry law just needs to stock up in advance. The legislative purpose of the rule is thus achieved only in the case of the ignorant, lazy or apathetic. Finally, many stores and bars actually close earlier than the legal deadline or stay closed until much later than the law requires. This is to avoid visits from the local police, who, when checking for compliance, often threaten to impose a fine – whether or not there is an infraction – just to receive a bribe to go away. During the last election, for example, most convenience stores stopped selling beer at 6:00 pm on Saturday, or even earlier. Many said it was just to keep from having to deal with the police. This year, a few locals have been predicting that the dry law will go into effect much earlier on Saturday. Whether this is reliable information or mere rumor, drinkers are well-advised to stock up on their favorite beverages by next Friday, just to avoid disappointment if their customary outlets close early on Saturday.