Monday, April 21, 2014

Mexican Senate passes kidnapping penalty of 140 years

*Updated June 3*
Guadalajara -
On its first day back at work after a 10 day Holy Week recess, Mexico's Senate today approved a bill raising the maximum penalty for kidnapping to 140 years in prison.

The vote was 61 in favor and 22 against. The measure now moves to the lower legislative chamber, the Cámara de Diputados, for debate.

Mexico was the 2013 world leader in kidnappings, a burgeoning crime over which president Enrique Peña Nieto expressed concern on Dec. 20. One month later a new National Anti-Kidnapping Commission with a cabinet level secretary was created. On Mar. 7 federal kidnapping czar Renato Sales Heredia reported the offense had increased 24% between 2012 and 2013, while other officials said in December there were 33% more cases last year. Kidnappings in 2014 are up 11% compared to the first quarter of 2013, according to Mexico's National Public Security Commission.

Under current law kidnapping which results in the murder of the victim is punishable by 40 to 70 years in prison. The bill doubles those penalties, to a term of 80 to 140 years. Kidnapping accompanied by torture or sexual assault of the victim would be subject to a penalty of 50 to 100 years. There is no capital punishment for any crime in Mexico.

Former law enforcement officers or members of the armed forces convicted of ordering the kidnapping of any person would also be subject to a term of 50 to 100 years in prison.

Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Senator Omar Fayad, who supported the bill, told the chamber that citizens are "clamoring" for effective measures against kidnapping, which has plagued virtually every social and economic stratum in the country. "(With this legislation) we're sending a message to society that we are aware of and concerned about the insecurity which confronts us," Fayad said two weeks ago during floor debate.

Joining PRI senators who supported the legislation today were most members of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the Green Ecological Party (PVEM), the primary sponsor. During congressional elections in 2009, PVEM advocated the death penalty for kidnappers, a novel and controversial idea in Mexico. The proposal went nowhere.

Leftist senators led by members of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) for the most part voted against the penalty increases, arguing the proposed new terms were irrelevant, "because so much crime goes unpunished in this country." They contended the enhanced sentences were designed for public show, and that no comprehensive policy to deal with kidnapping and other serious offenses is in place. "Crime committed with impunity is the real problem," a PRD senator told colleagues.

Two senators of the far left Workers Party argued the measure would not withstand judicial scrutiny, because such lengthy terms violate human rights provisions in the Mexican Constitution. Mexico's Supreme Judicial Court has previously struck down prison terms in excess of 60 years, including a sentence imposed on a notorious French kidnapper whose conviction was ultimately overturned on technical grounds in January 2013.

Apr. 30 - On a vote of 293-96, the Cámara de Diputados today approved the penalty increases.

June 3 - The new law was published today in Mexico's Federal Registry, and takes effect at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow.

Jan. 28 - Mexico' s anti-kidnapping plan: long on speeches, short on specifics
Dec. 30, 2013 - El secuestro y la extorsión superan al plan de seguridad del gobierno

© MGR 2014. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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