Poet turned peace activist Javier Sicilia accused Mexican President Felipe Calderon Thursday of breaking his word by effectively vetoing a measure to aid the thousands of innocent victims of the drug war.
“A man who doesn’t keep his word is worthless,” the leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, or MPJD, said at a press conference.
Sicilia made his remarks after Calderon decided to return the so-called Victims’ Law to Congress with objections. That bill requires the state to protect, assist and repair the harm caused to victims of crime and human rights abuses.
Emilio Alvarez, an MPJD member, said the administration should not have waited until nearly 8:30 p.m. last Sunday - after the polls closed in Mexico’s general elections - to return the bill to lawmakers.
“Calderon didn’t want to veto the bill within the scope of the election process” to avoid harming his National Action Party’s interests so he opted for an illegal procedure that left the legislation in limbo for 20 days, Alvarez said, describing the move as a joint action between the government and the leadership of the lower house.
The former Mexico City public ombud pointed out that under the law, any bill the president has not returned to the corresponding legislative chamber with observations within 30 days of receipt should be deemed approved.
In the case of the Victims’ Law, that window closed on June 9, but in spite of that the executive branch did not publish it in the Official Gazette.
Sicilia, for his part, said the government’s veto not only shows “disdain for the victims” but also reflects the “absolute remoteness of the political class from (Mexico’s) reality,” as well as the lack of willingness to “see that what’s happening in the country is much more than insecurity and criminality.”
Championed by groups representing victims of violence, the Victims’ Law would require the government to guarantee legal, medical and economic assistance to those who suffer attacks by organized crime gangs or abuse at the hands of the authorities, as well as to recognize their right to truth, justice and reparations.
The initiative had already been approved by both houses of Congress and only needed the president’s signature to become law.
The return of the bill means lawmakers now must analyze the suggested observations, first in committee, a process that won’t begin until the new Congress takes office in September.
Since the conservative Calderon took office on Dec. 1, 2006, as many as 60,000 people have lost their lives in turf battles among drug cartels and clashes between the gangs and the security forces.
But despite the high murder toll Calderon has consistently defended his government’s decision to militarize the struggle against the mobs.
Sicilia, who formed his movement after his son was murdered last year by suspected drug-gang members, is demanding an end to Calderon’s strategy of deploying tens of thousands of army soldiers and federal police to drug-war flashpoints, saying it has only made the country less safe.
The candidate of Calderon’s National Action Party, or PAN, Josefina Vazquez Mota, finished well behind winner Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in Sunday’s presidential balloting.
Peña Nieto’s victory has been attributed in part to voter frustration over persistently high levels of drug-related violence during the tenure of Calderon, who was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.
In addition to Sicilia’s movement and other civic organizations in Mexico, international human rights groups also have blasted the military deployment.
New York-based Human Rights Watch, for example, said in a report last year that Calderon’s war on drugs has led to a “dramatic increase in killings, torture, and other appalling abuses by security forces, which only make the climate of lawlessness and fear worse in many parts of the country.”
It also raised serious doubts about Calderon’s claims that “90 percent of the victims of drug-related deaths were criminals.”
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