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Cablegate: Mexico's Lower House Approves Anti-Terror Bill

VZCZCXRO8193
PP RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #0963/01 0572208
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 262208Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5540
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/CDR USNORTHCOM PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MEXICO 000963

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR A/S SHANNON
STATE FOR WHA/MEX, WHA/EPSC, EEB/IFD/OMA
STATE FOR EEB/ESC/TFS JEAN CLARK
TREASURY FOR IA (ALICE FAIBISHENKO)
DOJ/AFMLS FOR ROBERT STAPLETON
NSC FOR CYNTHIA PENDLETON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ECPS EFIN ELAB ENRG MX PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: MEXICO'S LOWER HOUSE APPROVES ANTI-TERROR BILL


-------
Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Mexico,s lower house of Congress approved a bill on
February 20, 2007 that provides up to 40 years imprisonment
for people convicted of financing terrorist groups. The
bill, approved 413-12 with six abstentions, establishes
terrorism financing and international terrorism as serious
criminal offenses, as called for in UN Resolution 1373. The
measure incorporates several non-finance related provisions,
including jail sentences for individuals who cover up the
identities of terrorists and for those who recruit people to
commit terrorist acts. While the bill would represent a
significant achievement for Mexico in suppressing those who
finance, plan, facilitate, or commit terrorist acts, it lacks
several provisions that would have made it more effective.
Of these omissions, the bill's failure to specifically
address asset identification, seizure, forfeiture, or the
freezing of assets is the most notable. The bill now passes
to the Senate, which approved a similar proposal during last
year's session. End Summary.

------------------------------------------
Chamber Approves Terrorism-related Reforms
------------------------------------------

2. (U) Mexico's Chamber of Deputies on February 20, 2007
approved amendments to several criminal and financial laws
which specify that persons who use Mexican territory to plan
or finance terrorist attacks undertaken outside Mexico would
be subject to Mexican law, including a punishment of up to 40
years imprisonment and a fine of up to the equivalent of
1,200 days of the minimum wage. The bill authorizes
prosecutors to track and obtain information from finance and
tax authorities on suspicious transactions.

3. (U) The measure incorporates several non-finance related
provisions which specify the crime of terrorism to include
those that use toxic substances or chemical/biological
agents, radioactive materials or instruments, explosives or
firearms, or fires or floods to cause terror or alarm or to
attack a population, whether foreign or domestic. It
establishes a punishment of 1 to 9 years imprisonment for
individuals who wittingly cover up the identities of
terrorists. Under the bill, threats to commit and the
recruitment of people to commit terrorist acts are also
punishable with jail sentences.

4. (U) The bill specifically criminalizes terrorism financing
and international terrorism (i.e., terrorist acts undertaken
outside Mexico). The advancement of this bill is important
because Mexico currently does not have a specific law
criminalizing the financing and support of terrorists and
terrorist organizations -- as called for in UN Resolution
1373. Under current Mexican law, terrorist financing is only
punishable as an ancillary offense. The bill now passes to
the Senate, which approved a similar proposal last year.

--------------------
Reaction to the Bill
--------------------

5. (SBU) Some deputies voiced concerns that the measure would
make Mexico more vulnerable to pressure from other countries
to prosecute or extradite suspects captured on Mexican soil.
But others said it would empower Mexican prosecutors by
allowing them to try such cases at home. Some PRD and Labor
Party (PT) deputies opposed defining "international
terrorism" as a crime, alleging that prosecuting in Mexico
terrorist acts undertaken in other countries would make
Mexico a target for terrorist attacks, and only serve U.S.
political and economic interests. PT deputy Jaime Cervantes
said the reform could serve as a legal instrument to repress
dissident voices. Despite these criticisms, the bill was
approved by an overwhelming majority, 413-12 with six
abstentions.

-------

MEXICO 00000963 002 OF 002


Comment
-------

6. (SBU) If passed, this bill would be a notable achievement
for Mexico in suppressing those who finance, plan,
facilitate, or commit terrorist acts. That said, the bill
does not include several provisions, including stronger
deterrent mechanisms, which would have made it more
effective. Notably, the bill does not specifically address
asset identification, seizure, forfeiture, or the freezing of
bank accounts, real property, etc. The bill also does not
expedite the process for legally obtaining bank account
information and navigating through the banking commission,
the Finance Secretariat, etc. Nor was document fraud
mentioned in the bill. False identities, travel documents,
immigration papers, etc. are realistic tools that can be used
by terrorists or co-conspirators. End Comment.


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity
GARZA

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