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Mexico weighs law to compensate victims of drug violence

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• A version of this post ran on the author's site, Insightcrime.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

Mexico's Senate has approved a bill to compensate victims of organized crime, one of the major demands of the peace movement led by poet Javier Sicilia.

The law would oblige the state to help and protect victims of violence and human rights abuses connected to organized crime, reports El Universal. Under the law, the state will provide compensation of up to 934,000 pesos ($70,000) to victims.

The legislation would create a National System for Attention to Victims, which will provide support to those hurt by crime and oversee compensation payments. The body would include representatives of victims' groups and of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Poet and activist Javier Sicila was a major force campaigning to get the law passed. He became deeply involved with the peace movement after his son was killed, along with six friends, by a drug gang in 2011.

The bill must now be approved by the House of Representatives before it becomes law. Leading lawmakers have committed to passing the bill by Monday at the latest.

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It is not clear how the Mexican state will judge who qualifies as a victim, as many crimes are never brought to trial. It could also prove extremely costly to provide compensation to all those who have been victimized, with at least 50,000 people estimated to have died in organized crime-related killings since 2006.

There are high hopes for the law, with Senators Fernando Baeza and Tomas Torres saying that it "lays the foundations to reconstruct the social fabric which has been so gravely affected by violence." The drug violence in Mexico has not ended, though there are signs that killings have peaked – it may be impossible to begin the healing process while violence continues.

The law invites comparison to Colombia's Victims Law, passed last year, which sets out reparations for people hurt by the five-decade-old civil conflict. A key difference between the two is that Colombia's law is aimed at victims of the state, paramilitary groups, and guerrillas, all of whom are combatants in the conflict. In Mexico, on the other hand, there is no civil conflict between insurgent groups.

– Hannah Stone is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of her research here. 

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