The law, approved by Mexico’s Congress last April, creates a fund that provides the relatives of victims killed as a result of drug war-related violence with up to $70,000 in compensation. The fund will also compensate survivors of such violence.
"There are thousands of people who sadly have lost a loved one, their children, their spouses, their siblings. There are thousands of people who have suffered the havoc wrought by violence," Pena Nieto said, the BBC reported. "With this law, the Mexican state hopes to give hope and comfort to victims and their families."
According to Mexican Attorney General Jesus Marillo, an estimated 70,000 people have been killed -- with roughly 9,000 bodies unidentified -- in the drug war since 2006, when then-President Felipe Calderon launched a massive crackdown on drug cartels.
The Mexican government has not indicated how much will be set aside for the fund, or how the money will be raised.
The law has received some praise for beginning to address the rights of the victims of Mexico’s bloody drug war.
“It is a necessary step, meaningful and of full legitimacy, and it is on the path to give Mexico a state policy and effective mechanisms to ensure their rights when faced with excruciating pain and precarious situations,” said Javier Hernandez Valencia, the representative in Mexico of the United Nations High Commission for Human rights, according to Al Jazeera.
Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong gave a measured response to the law’s enactment, addressing concerns among victims and their families that the law might only be lip service.
"Good laws are not enough to ensure justice. They have to be implemented," he said, according to the BBC.
The law has been criticized for its lack of specificity regarding who is classified as a victim and for only referring to victims of federal crimes.
Alejandro Marti, a businessman who founded the drug war victims advocacy group Mexico SOS after his son was kidnapped and murdered, said the law fell short of ensuring human rights.
“We know that any law can be improved, but we are concerned that this regulation does not try to meet human rights objectives,” Marti said, Al Jazeera reported.