07/24/12 (written by cmolzahn) – Mexican President Felipe Calderón is blocking the passage of the new Victims’ Law (Ley de Víctimas), approved by the Mexican Congress in April. Calderón has not vetoed the bill, but rather voiced objections to specific components, most recently handing it over to the Mexican Supreme Court for review. However, the Permanent Committee (Comité Permanente), which takes over legislative duties when Congress is not in session, said that the president missed the deadline for voicing such objections, and now must sign the bill into law. According to federal law signed by Calderón last August, the president has a 30-day period to review new legislation and return it to lawmakers with proposed changes or to veto it. Barring these measures, the president has an additional 10-day period to sign it into law, which expired on June 19.
The legislation is designed to provide families of victims of organized crime with financial compensation of up to $70,000 (USD) per claim, as well as create a national registry to keep track of human rights violations such as kidnappings and forced disappearances. It comes within the context of human rights legislation passed in June of 2011, which gave lawmakers a year to pass supplemental legislation outlining measures for compensating victims of human rights violations. The bill passed with broad support in the legislature, and members of Calderón’s National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN) have joined members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD) in insisting that the president sign the bill into law.
Some have suggested that the president has delayed in signing the bill because it would be an implicit recognition that his strategy of hitting the country’s powerful drug cartels head-on with a military-led campaign has been less than completely successful. The Calderón administration, however, says that it objects to the legislation because it places too much burden on the federal government to enforce, saying that state and local governments must share in the law’s implementation. Interior Ministry Legislative Liaison Rubén Fernández added that it should be perpetrators of crimes who shoulder the financial burden, and not the federal government. The Calderón administration also cited constitutional inconsistencies in the bill that could be exploited as loopholes, though has not clarified what the inconsistencies are. There has also been speculation that Calderón waited until after the recent national elections to act on the bill, in order to avoid political fallout for his party–he sent the bill back to Congress on July 1, the day of the elections.
Opponents of President Calderón in the Mexican Congress, as well as civilian activists–namely poet Javier Sicilia–have characterized the president’s inaction as a pocket veto, a maneuver that Calderón himself eliminated when he signed into law reforms to articles 71, 72, and 78 of the Mexican constitution last August. Sicilia, who became leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad) after his son was kidnapped and murdered in March of last year, has rejected the Calderón administration’s stance on the legislation, which he has been quite visible in promoting during its movement through Congress, now demanding that the president sign it into law as the constitution requires. Likewise, members of Congress have threatened to charge the president with contempt if he does not do so.
Nevertheless, on July 19 the Calderón administration’s judicial counsel handed the issue over to Mexico’s Supreme Court for review of the law’s constitutionality. The Court’s recess commission for the first 2012 session, comprising of justices Sergio A. Valls Hernández and José Fernando Franco González Salas, announced on July 24 that it had accepted the case, effectively freezing the bill until the court issues a ruling on a date which has yet to be specified.