MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto enacted a law Wednesday mandating that the state help victims of crime and their relatives with payments and social services.
The law requires local and federal authorities to compensate victims by covering their health and psychiatric care costs. It also mandates the creation of a relief fund and a national registry of crime victims.
"With this law, the Mexican state hopes to give hope and to comfort the victims and their families," Pena Nieto said. "There are thousands of people who, unfortunately, have lost a loved one."
The law says the funds will come from the lower house budget but doesn't set out how much money will be assigned to helping crime victims and their relatives.
The ratification of the law was one of the main demands of civil groups urging the government to do more to help the thousands of victims of drug-related violence. It goes into effect in 30 days.
According to some statements by the current Mexican administration, at least 70,000 people were slain between 2006 and 2012 as the government of then President Felipe Calderon battled drug traffickers.
The law was approved by Congress last April but Calderon filed an appeal with the Supreme Court to stop the bill. On his first day in office Dec. 1, Pena Nieto said he would stop the appeal and enact the law.
He said the law recognizes victims' rights and it forces authorities to respect them.
"It is the beginning of a whole network of protection by the Mexican state to the victims," Pena Nieto added.
Javier Hernandez Valencia, the representative in Mexico of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, applauded the new law.
"It is a necessary step, meaningful and of full legitimacy, and it's on the path to give Mexicans a state policy and effective mechanisms to ensure their rights when faced with excruciating pain and a precarious situation," Hernandez said.
Critics say there are weaknesses in the law that can jeopardize its compliance.
Alejandro Marti, a businessman who founded the civil organization Mexico SOS after his son was kidnapped and murdered, pointed out the law is aimed only at victims of federal crimes, leaves out civil society participation, and does not define who is a victim.
"We know that any law can be improved, but we are concerned that this regulation does not try to meet human rights objectives," Marti said.