Mexico to track drug war victims, compensate families

MEXICO CITY Wed Jan 9, 2013 6:39pm EST

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MEXICO CITY Jan 9 (Reuters) - Mexico's new government on Wednesday introduced a long-delayed law to trace victims of a brutal drug war that has killed an estimated 70,000 people in six years, and compensate the families of those deemed innocent.

The bill, which was approved by Congress last April, had stalled after former President Felipe Calderon objected to parts of its content. New President Enrique Pena Nieto signed the bill into law on Wednesday, and it will take effect in a month.

The law comprises the creation of a fund to pay relatives up to $70,000 per innocent victim killed in attacks by drug gangs, as well as a database that aims to help record what happened to the dead.

The government did not specify how many innocent victims have been caught up in the violence nor how much money would be put aside for compensation.

Pena Nieto has vowed to reduce the criminal violence that soared after Calderon launched an assault on drug cartels on taking office in December of 2006.

Calderon's campaign triggered turf wars across the country, splintering gangs and spawning smaller, harder-to-control criminal groups.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo estimated last month that some 70,000 people had died in drug-related violence under Calderon, with roughly 9,000 bodies unidentified.

In just a few weeks since taking power, Pena Nieto has managed to move thorny initiatives through a divided congress, showing the negotiating muscle of his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which was ousted from power in 2000 after a 71-year rule.

Lawmakers have already passed an education reform bill that aims to rein in Mexico's powerful teachers union, which many have blamed for hurting school quality in Latin America's second biggest economy.

However, while Pena Nieto clinched a cross-party pact on priorities for a wider reform agenda, the government could have to compromise as it seeks to overhaul the energy sector and tax code.

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California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

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