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Calderon Blocks Mexico Victims Law

MEXICO / 19 JUL 2012 BY HANNAH STONE EN

President Felipe Calderon has held up the passage of a law to compensate victims of violence in Mexico, drawing outrage from campaign groups that backed the move.

In April, Mexico's Congress passed a law to oblige the government to protect and offer compensation to those who have been victims of violence or abuse from organized criminal groups. The measure still needed the approval of the president, however, and on Wednesday he sent it back to Congress, seeking modifications.

Alfonso Fernandez Aceves, a representative of the Interior Ministry, said in a press conference that the president had not vetoed the legislation, but had asked Congress to fix "gaps," reported Milenio. The government wants municipal and state governments to be constitutionally obliged to help victims, according to Fernandez. He said that this was to make sure that there was no way for the authorities to evade their responsibilities, and that it would be clear who victims should turn to. He said that the government would work with victims' organizations and legislators and officials to improve the bill.

The government is also proposing that compensation for victims be paid by the criminals, and not by the "taxpayer." If the criminal in a given case lacks the money needed to pay compensation to the victim, the government will pay, but will then charge the criminal.

InSight Crime Analysis

The president's foot-dragging over the law has angered the Movement for Peace, a campaign group which was the driving force behind the proposal. It argues that the 30-day period in which the president can make comments or suggestions on the law expired on June 9, and that he delayed sending it back to Congress in order not to hurt his PAN party's chances in the national elections, held Sunday.

The organization's leader Javier Sicilia, a poet who emerged as representative of victims after his son was killed by a drug gang, accused the president of breaking his word. (Image, above, shows him with Calderon in a meeting last year.)

While it is certainly plausible that electoral considerations came into play with the timing of the move, it is also possible that that president has a point. The law is likely to work out to be extremely expensive for Mexico, with the maximum amount of compensation set at 934,000 pesos ($70,000) per claim, and some 50,000 people thought to have died in organized crime-related violence in the last six years, with many thousands more victimized in other ways.

It could therefore be a good idea to use funds seized from criminals to help fund compensation pay-outs, although given the difficulties of confiscating assets under current Mexican law, this may not be realistic and could even serve as a further roadblock to victims receiving help.

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