Mexico City – The lower house of Mexico's Congress has passed a daycare regulation bill two years after 49 children were killed in a fire at a preschool facility in the northern city of Hermosillo.
By a vote of 372-0 with two abstentions, the lawmakers approved a measure that will punish those who fail to comply with safety measures or do not acquire an insurance policy or fulfill other requirements based on basic children's rights standards.
It also would create a national registry of daycare centers and their workers.
"Mexico has a profound debt with its children, but we're working to give them legal certainty and ensure that their rights always prevail in the country and are guaranteed," lawmaker Yolanda de la Torre said.
The legislation would create an office responsible for overseeing preschools and ensuring they are equipped with safety features such as emergency exit doors, evacuation routes, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and fire alarms.
Daycare centers that put children's lives at risk by not meeting these requirements will be closed.
The bill was passed just over two years after a tragedy at the ABC daycare facility in Hermosillo, capital of Sonora state, where a fire in June 2009 killed 49 children and injured dozens more.
The investigation into the tragedy revealed several code violations, including inadequately designed emergency doors, lack of fire extinguishers, defective smoke detectors and a ceiling made of flammable materials.
Authorities have detained several suspects but no one has yet been sentenced in the case, while others have been released from custody.
Private individuals under contract with the IMSS insurance and social services agency owned and operated the daycare and repeatedly ignored recommendations by that entity to address safety concerns.
Critics say IMSS contracts to run preschools are routinely awarded to people with political connections.
Mexican daycare facilities will have one year to comply with the new safety regulations.
The preschool bill has been sent to President Felipe Calderon for his signature and enactment.