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Mexico amnesty law eyes reprieve for minor drug offenses, abortions

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has sent a draft law to Congress that aims to grant amnesty to people serving jail time for lesser offenses, including abortion and possession of small amounts of drugs, the government said on Sunday.

"The amnesty would benefit those in prison for minor crimes, not murderers or kidnappers or those who have caused serious injury to another person," Lopez Obrador wrote in a preamble to the draft initiative.

Lopez Obrador put an amnesty at the center of his strategy to bring down record levels of violence in Mexico, which has been ravaged by turf wars between drug gangs for more than a decade, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths.

During his campaign, he said he would explore an amnesty with criminals to pursue a less confrontational approach to tackling the violence, generating expectations it could involve members of gangs. However, the premise remained vague.

The draft law made no specific reference about an amnesty for members of organized crime groups.

However, Lopez Obrador did argue clemency should be shown to vulnerable people who had been convicted for transporting or selling drugs under duress, and that prison stays were more likely to push them into the arms of organized crime.

Provided they are not repeat offenders, the amnesty bill plans to cover people convicted of non-violent robbery to prison terms of four years or less, women who aborted their pregnancies, and doctors who carried out abortions.

Outside of Mexico City, abortion is illegal in most of the country except for in certain situations, such as rape.

The bill said it aims to help poor or indigenous Mexicans who have had limited recourse to legal services, and noted that they, women and young people have been particularly vulnerable to the application of Mexico's penal code.

The law also foresees granting amnesty to those convicted of sedition or political activities, provided these were not related to terrorism, did not involve kidnapping or cause serious injury to others, or the use of firearms.


(Reporting by Dave Graham and Diego Ore; Editing by Sandra Maler)