Mexico Enacts Law to Help Drug War Victims
Mexico's new president promises reparations for thousands of victims and their families.
The victims of Mexico's drug-related violence will finally be acknowledged by their government under a controversial new law enacted today by President Enrique Peña Nieto. At a ceremony where survivors held photographs of missing or slain children, parents and spouses, Peña Nieto announced that the new law will require authorities to pay for victims' medical care. It will also establish a national registry of victims and set up a possible fund for reparations. “There is today a Mexico that has been hurt by crime,” said the President, who took office last month. “With this law, the Mexican state hopes to restore hope and consolation to the victims...This law is the beginning of an entire network of protection.” Former President Felipe Calderon drew criticism from human rights groups when he vetoed the law last summer, claiming it had technical flaws and was possibly unconstitutional. During his six years in office, the government launched ongoing military attacks against the country's powerful drug cartels; an estimated 70,000 people were killed in the ensuing violence, and approximately 9,000 are missing, according to recently released government statistics. Relatives of those dead and missing have complained of being shunned by authorities, who never established a national DNA data bank and kept spotty records. Although organizations representing victims' families have applauded the new law as a crucial first step, many still remain skeptical about its long-term success. The law is "necessary to settle the debt authorities have with victims of the violence that the country is living,” said the Mexican chapter of Amnesty International. “But the approval of laws does not guarantee rights for the victims.”