01/13/13 – A new law intended to protect and compensate the victims of drug violence and crime in Mexico was recently ratified under the new Peña Nieto administration and will enter into force in February. Former President Felipe Calderón initially vetoed the General Law for Victims (Ley General de Víctimas) in 2012, citing flaws in its design. President Peña Nieto, however, signed the law at Los Pinos on January 9, just over a month after taking office. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the law will “require authorities to assist victims…establish a fund for possible reparations…pay for victims’ medical care, and set up a national registry of victims.”
The spokesperson for the High Commissioner of the United Nations lauded the effort to ratify the law, as did Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the former presidential candidate from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD), noting that the law is a “positive” step forward. Other supporters of the law, including Mexican poet and activist Javier Sicilia whose son was murdered in 2011 by alleged drug traffickers, have long been calling for the government to set up a database to document the victims of Mexico’s drug violence, as well as the growing number of disappeared persons (desaparecidos), which the law intends to do.
Despite its ratification, others are concerned the law’s signing is not enough. Human rights group Amnesty International argued “the approval of laws does not guarantee rights for the victims,” and Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong added, “Good laws are not enough to ensure justice. They have to be implemented.” Sicilia, too, said that the law is nothing unless a National System of Attention to Victims is actually created, which the law requires within 90 days of entering into force. Even Peña Nieto recognizes that work still needs to be done on clarifying parts of the law and putting it into action.
Nevertheless, Peña Nieto reiterated the law’s intention, stating that it seeks “to give hope and comfort to victims and their families.”