Mexican Politics and Economy: New Law Compensates Victims of drug violence

Drug cartels Mexico

New law in Mexico compensates victims of drug violence and other crimes; an extra 1.3 million people are living in extreme poverty; Wal-Mart seriously implicated in Mexican bribery scandal.

Drug cartels Mexico

New law provides compensation to victims of drug violence

This week Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) has enacted a new law that establishes a registry to track victims of crime and a compensation fund for said victims. It is estimated that 70,000 people have died in Mexico since the launch of the war on drugs in 2006 and a further 9,000 are missing, so for many these measures are long overdue.

Under the law, people who have been kidnapped or injured as a result of organised crime can claim compensation. Equally, family members of victims who have been killed or disappeared also now have recourse to compensation.

The bill, initially passed last April but put on hold by the former government, has received tentative support from government opposition and activists in support of victims of crime. However critics of the bill say that more still needs to be done to target the roots causes of crime, such as the lack of opportunities and employment for young people.

Peña Nieto said of the new law, ‘Mexico has been hurt by crime. The victims are those who have suffered the most.’

An extra 1.3 million people are living in extreme poverty in Mexico

Under the former government of Felipe Calderón, the number of people living in extreme poverty increased by 11%. In absolute terms, the numbers rose from 11.7 million people living in extreme poverty in 2010 to 13 million people in 2012.

The assistant secretary for the Desarrollo Urbano y Ordenación Territorial de la Secretaría de Desarrollo Social (Ministry of Social Development, Urban Development and Planning – SEDESOL) said that of the people living in extreme poverty, as many as 93% do not have access to any form of assistance.

The government has announced plans to create a National Council of Welfare and Social Inclusion, whose primary objective will be to combat marginalisation. The federal government will channel all poverty fighting programs through this new National Council.

In terms of welfare, the current government has prioritised addressing hunger and poverty and they have also announced plans to introduce a national pension for people aged 65 and over. In addition, the current anti-poverty programme oportunidades (opportunities) will be expanded and a new insurance coverage for heads of households will come into effect.

Wal-Mart executives implicated in Mexico bribery scandal

This week, new emails were released in the United States showing that Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke knew as far back as 2005 that staff in the Mexico division were handing out bribes to officials in Mexico in order to open new stores. It has been revealed that millions of dollars have exchanged hands in order to bypass regulatory safeguards and obtain zoning permits, including the controversial permit to open a Wal-Mart store next to the important archaeological site of Teotihuacán near Mexico City in 2004.

Wal-Mart, one of America’s largest companies, would be in direct violation of US law if found guilty of bribing foreign officials. Wal-Mart de Mexico is a Mexican public corporation and is Wal-Mart’s largest foreign subsidiary, having earned US$1.5 billion in 2011.

The New York Times ran an exposé on Wal-Mart in December, which revealed the company as ‘an aggressive and creative corrupter’. Wal-Mart is currently under investigation by federal authorities in the US and Mexico, while the company for its part is running an internal investigation that will also consider additional claims of bribery in Brazil, China and India.