Mexican party proposes death penalty

TOLUCA, Mexico -- Just weeks after Mexico asked the World Court to stay the executions of Mexicans on death row in the United States, politicians here are suggesting the death penalty may be the best way to stop skyrocketing crime rates at home.

The proposal has provoked an outcry among human rights groups, rival political parties and business groups -- and struck a raw nerve in a country where opposition to the death penalty has more than once strained relations with its neighbor to the north.

The former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and the allied Green Party are sponsoring a nonbinding referendum on the death penalty Sunday in Mexico state a few weeks before local municipal elections.

People can vote by telephone, on the Internet or at 600 party-run polling places around the state, which loops around the west, north and east of Mexico City.

The referendum invites the state's 8 million adults to say whether they would like to see kidnappers, armed robbers, first-degree murderers and child abductors put to death.

It also asks whether life sentences should be imposed on rapists and on corrupt public officials, including police and judges.

Mexico state is the country's most populous and most diverse and it is often seen as a microcosm of Mexico as a whole -- a possible indicator for voter tendencies across the nation.

Mexico state PRI leaders say the poll is part of a broader plan to overhaul the state's justice system, and a response to calls from residents to stop soaring crime rates.

Opponents say the survey makes a legally impossible proposal that exploits people's frustrations.

While legally permitted for some crimes, the death penalty hasn't been implemented for decades. The nation's Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.