The Chihuahua state legislature is set to pass certain laws on Thursday as part of its fight against drug trafficking organizations. These include the “Ley Estatal de Extincion de Dominio” (State Law on Asset Seizures) that would allow state officials to seize or condemn the assets owned by those believed to be involved in criminal organizations. Such organizations often use their properties for producing, transporting, or hiding drugs and money. By denying criminal organizations the use of these properties, the state will be able to damage their financial structure, according to Representative Fernando Rodríguez. Currently, a similar law exists at the federal level.
A February 18 article by Justice in Mexico’s blog discussed how some federal representatives argued that the federal government had not applied this law more aggressively. The proposal being considered by Chihuahua would empower the state government to do the same and make it the second state to adopt such a law. The Calderón Administration has encouraged states to adopt such judicial reforms as part of the national program for combating crime that it unveiled in 2007.
Another law under consideration that forms part of this national program is the “Ley Estatal en contra del Narcomenudeo” (State Law against Drug Trafficking), that would make small-scale drug trafficking (narcomenudeo) a state crime (delito común). Currently, drug trafficking and similar crimes fall under federal jurisdiction and are generally handled by federal police. Representative Roberto Lara, the chairman of the state legislature’s Justice Committee, said that this law will give local police officers, who tend to be more knowledgeable about the situation in their locality, more authority to prevent the small-time drug sales that occur on street corners and other public areas.
However, some legislatures have voiced concerns about the law. According to the national plan outlined by the Calderón Administration, the federal government will help states make this transition by providing them with added financial resources. However, the money for the state has not been appropriated yet and Chihuahua legislators are hesitant to approve what could be an unfunded mandate.