Guatemalan Congress approved a law Tuesday that allows the state to seize the assets and property linked to criminal activity.

The constitutionality of the law was debated in Congress for four months, reports El Periodico, but the motion eventually passed with 112 votes in favor. The law is similar to legislation in Mexico and Colombia, and will allow the government to use a portion of the seized assets to support law enforcement agencies. It will go into effect in June 2011, after Guatemala’s next general elections in May.

The law creates a government body, supervised by the Vice President, that will manage the seized assets. Under the terms of the law, 25 percent of the seized assets will go to the judiciary, 20 percent to investigative units in the police and military, 20 percent to the Ministry of Public Affairs, 18 percent to the Ministry of the Interior and 2 percent to the Attorney General’s Office. The legislation also dictates what the funds should be used for. This includes training and equipment for the police, witness protection programs and coverage of administrative costs. 

The challenge now lies in enforcing the legislation. Many congress members reported receiving anonymous death threats via text message before the vote. Other bills intended to fight crime, like the Weapons and Ammunition Control Act, approved in April 2009, have not yet been successfully implemented.

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