President Enrique Peña Nieto yesterday promulgated a new law designed to better fund and improve search efforts for the thousands of people across Mexico who have been reported as missing or forcibly disappeared.
The General Law on Forced Disappearances will be backed by an initial 500-million-peso (US$26.3 million) budget to create a National Search Commission and to implement other measures devised to help find missing people.
“The disappearance or non-localization of a person is one of the most painful experiences that anyone can suffer,” Peña Nieto said shortly after he signed the bill into law.
“The state has the obligation to intervene,” he added.
An Interior Secretariat (Segob) official told the newspaper Milenio that apart from funding the creation of the National Search Commission, the money will also be used to consolidate existing databases and finance state-based missing persons agencies.
The new commission, which will be incorporated into Segob, is expected to begin operations in January.
“The instruction that the president gave is for all of the instruments defined by the law to be operating in 60 days,” said Roberto Campa, a human rights undersecretary.
The creation of a national forensic data bank and a bank of information provided by victims’ families are also mandated by the law as is the establishment of a national exhumation and cadaver identification program.
The latter will be the responsibility of the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR).
The law stipulates prison sentences of 40 to 60 years for government officials responsible for forced disappearances and 25 to 50 years for private citizens involved in the crime.
All of the measures designated by the law are directed towards the single goal of locating missing persons, Campa said.
He added that one of the objectives of the commission that will help it to achieve that goal is the creation of a more reliable, comprehensive and interconnected national register of missing people.
Data from prisons, information about the location of mass graves and details about missing migrants will be collated and combined with digital fingerprint data and information obtained from the National Electoral Institute, and from passports and drivers’ licenses, he said.
There are approximately 32,000 disappeared or missing people in Mexico, according to government data, and more than half of the reported disappearances occurred during Peña Nieto’s administration which began in December 2012.
The president met with family members of some of the missing yesterday who were in attendance at the signing ceremony.
“I declare my solidarity with all those who have endured this pain and I do it not only as president of Mexico [but] . . . as a citizen [and] as a person because I share these feelings that I’m sure you carry within,” he said.
The disappearance of 43 teaching students from Iguala, Guerrero, in 2014 has been one of the most controversial issues during Peña Nieto’s presidency and the government’s handling of the case received widespread international attention and condemnation.
Source: Milenio (sp)