09/12/2011 — President Calderón recently announced the creation of the Social Care Office for Victims of Crime (Procuraduría Social para la Atención a las Víctimas del Delito), which will be a decentralized agency of the Federal Public Administration. The announcement came during Calderón’s fifth state-of-the-nation address last Friday, September 9, at the Museum of Anthropology and History in Mexico City. Calderón proclaimed that the office would work in “uniting and structuring all the actions currently being taken on behalf of the victims.” In an effort to end what Calderón called “double victimization”, the Social Care Office for Victims of Crime will provide the “clear answer to a very legitimate demand of society,” which is that the judiciary and authority figures provide relief to suffering relatives of victims.
Next month, the president is expected to name the head of the prosecutor’s office, which will have a board consisting of Cabinet members and four high-profile civil society representatives in the security and justice areas. This body will also have the function of collecting information and developing diagnostics to improve support schemes and to decide victim assistance protocol. The new office will offer specialized medical and psychological care and legal support, supervise criminal trials to facilitate access to justice, and help with the search for missing persons. It will additionally provide free legal advice, assistance to families searching for missing persons, and access to financial support or grants for scholarships, compensation, or insurance, and will help facilitate victims’ reintegration back into everyday life.
President Calderón expressed his faith that the office will meet the needs and priorities concerns of those who have personally suffered a crime. He also added that the government would continue strengthening security and justice institutions by rebuilding the social fabric of society that has been destroyed by criminal action in Mexico.
Despite the potential for the new position, prominent poet and peace activist Javier Sicilia criticized Calderón’s annoncement, arguing that the creation of the office was a temporary political ploy for Calderón to end his six-year term quietly without creating long-term institutional reform that would impact violence in Mexico. “It seems like he’s glossing over the problem,” the Mexican poet said, adding that the new prosecutor’s office “would (only) attend to victims of crime in general and not those left by the war this government has waged against drug trafficking and organized crime.” Sicilia, who continues to be a strong critic of Calderón’s militarized fight against drug trafficking that some sources estimate has resulted in nearly 50,000 deaths since 2006, also pointed out the lack of budget set aside for the new office. The Social Care Office for Victims of Crime will have its budget pulled from related federal agencies and from resources seized and confiscated during drug busts and arrests, instead of from its own line. Human rights activist and priest Miguel Concha, who also supports Sicilia’s effort to end the militarization of the fighting drug trafficking, also remarked that the creation of the office is “contradictory” because it is not a “responsive bid” to the victims hurt by the military strategy of the fight against organized crime.