Mexico's Senate [official website, in Spanish] gave final approval to a federal anti-money laundering law Thursday in the nation's latest effort to subdue the country's powerful drug cartels. Passed by the lower congressional house earlier this year, the legislation [text, PDF, in Spanish] was proposed two years ago by outgoing President Felipe Calderon [official website, in Spanish], a conservative who, after taking office in 2006, launched a military-led assault against drug cartels [AP report] that has seen tens of thousands of people killed. While Calderon's administration is credited with the capturing or killings of more than two-thirds of the country's most-wanted drug lords [LAT report], until now there has been little effort to attack the cartels' multi-billion dollar flow of illegally-obtained cash. The new law establishes a special prosecution unit for money launderers and puts restrictions and reporting requirements on large casino bets, overly-generous charitable donations and cash purchases of real estate, automobiles, jewelry and other assets. The bill carries a minimum penalty of five years in prison. It will now go to Calderon to be signed into law. Estimates have put the annual amount of money laundered in Mexico in the range of USD $10–50 billion.
Calderon has long supported the passage of money laundering legislation, which has finally passed just a month or so before he will leave office. Other legislation considered recently was a Calderon-introduced labor bill [JURIST report] that provides for a broad range of reforms to Mexico's labor market, seeking to improve the transparency of Mexico's trade unions and make labor regulations more flexible. The bill was passed by the lower house [JURIST report] last month in a bipartisan effort between Calderon's outgoing National Action Party (PAN) and the more liberal Institutional Revolution Party (PRI) [party websites, in Spanish] of incoming president Enrique Pena Nieto [campaign website]. As his first legislation president-elect Nieto has announced a set of proposed constitutional reforms [JURIST report] aimed at increasing government transparency. In August Mexico's Electoral Tribunal [official website, in Spanish] upheld Nieto's victory [JURIST report] after second-place candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador [campaign website, in Spanish] of the left-wing Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) [party website, in Spanish] challenged the election results in court [JURIST report], claiming that Nieto's campaign had purchased votes.