05/02/12- On Monday, April 30, 2012, the Mexican Congress unanimously passed legislation that will provide compensation for victims of drug related violence and organized crime. Since 2006, an estimated 47,500 to 50,000 people have been killed, and many thousands more have disappeared. This legislation, called the General Law for Victims (Ley General de Víctimas) seeks to alleviate some of the residual effects the violence has had over the past five and a half years.
The law will create a national registry of victims that will be used in order to compensate them and/or their family members. This will apply to murdered, disappeared, kidnapped, missing, or wounded individuals, independent of their affiliation with a drug trafficking organization (DTO) or lack thereof. Victims of human rights violations by security forces or other crimes, like extortion, will also be included in the registry. According to sources, the maximum payout that victims can receive will be set at 1 million pesos (approximately $77,000 USD), which will be funded in large part by assets seized from DTO’s.
Activists like Poet Javier Sicilia and Teresa Carmona have been extremely supportive of the bill. As it stands now, both houses of Congress have passed the legislation. The public reaction to the bill appears to be positive, as demonstrated in the Chamber of Deputies when activists in the gallery, and some of the legislators on the floor, applauded and shouted “Not one more death!” after the measure had been unanimously approved. The next step will be for President Calderón to sign the bill into law, which seems likely as he has expressed his approval of the measure.
One of the critiques of the bill that has surfaced, however, is that victims will be required to produce evidence of the crimes committed against them or their family members. Although the law requires officials to make efforts to identify victims’ remains or find missing persons, family members argue that authorities are generally slow and reluctant to do so. Additionally individuals’ remains are often disposed of in ways that make them unidentifiable, making the burden of proof more difficult to overcome.