Candidates get killed: How the election campaign is going in Mexico

2 weeks ago

Nearly 100 politicians have been killed in Mexico in the run-up to elections.

A wave of violence against politicians swept Mexico ahead of one of the largest elections in the country’s history. At least 89 politicians at various levels have been killed and more than 700 others have been threatened. Candidates have been attacked in the middle of the day, with death threats, including the planting of severed pig heads. According to experts, the situation is primarily related to drug trafficking, but so far the government has been unable to deal with organized crime.

On June 6, Mexico will hold a major midterm election, and the closer election day comes, the more political murders are recorded in the country.

From September 2020 until now, at least 89 politicians or candidates for office have been murdered, data from the Mexican consulting firm Etellekt Consultores show.

According to the study, a total of more than 700 attacks or harassment of politicians at various levels have been recorded. According to Ruben Salazar, director of Etellekt Consultores, this campaign will be the record number of victims and victims in Mexico since 2000.

One high-profile incident was the murder of former prosecutor Abel Murieta in the city of Cajem – the man was shot from a car in the city center, right during a meeting with voters. The incident was discussed quite actively on social media, especially in connection with the program of the candidate, who called the fight against crime his main task and promised to oppose the spread of drugs.

“No more drugs that steal our children and destroy our families. I am a man of the law. My hands don’t shake. I am not afraid,” Murieta said in one of his program addresses, it was published just 24 hours before he was killed.

Another victim was Alma Rosa Barragan, who was running for mayor of Moroleón, a city in the state of Guanajuato. Reportedly, the situation in the region, in terms of crime rates, is one of the most difficult in the country. She was also shot and killed during a campaign speech in late May.

Mexican authorities are already investigating not only these incidents, but also other attacks on candidates. So far, however, police have been unable to apprehend the perpetrators. According to local media estimates, the overall crime clearance rate in the country is not much more than 10%.

Political elimination.

Mexican elections are often accompanied by assassinations of politicians. For example, in the run-up to the 2015 election, more than 60 candidates at various levels were murdered across the country. Often members of criminal groups with ties to drug cartels are behind such crimes.

This year’s election campaign stands out for its magnitude and promises to be the largest electoral process in modern state history. Residents of the country will elect 15 governors, 500 federal and more than 1 thousand regional deputies, as well as almost 2 thousand heads of municipalities.

According to Ruben Salazar, director of Etellekt Consultores, this year most of the victims were mayoral candidates of parties opposing the current authorities in these states. In his view, their deaths point to the deep ties between organized crime and the regional governments that protect it.

“If you confront them, you will be intimidated or killed. This is Mexican democracy at the local level. No one can run for office without the permission of the mayor and the local criminal mastermind,” Salazar pointed out, adding that President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador does not want to fight drug cartels.

Intimidation of candidates is one of the notable factors in the current campaign environment.

According to preliminary reports, at least 16 politicians have refused to run because of harassment or threats.

For example, opposition politician Cristina Delgado did not run for mayor of Oaxaca after an unknown person sent her a severed pig’s head and a threatening letter.

Meanwhile, President Obrador came to power three years ago with a promise to change Mexico for the better, believing the right way to fight crime was to eliminate the country’s underlying problems, particularly poverty, so that people could avoid going into cartels. So far, however, this strategy has not yielded the necessary results, with the government claiming that more time is needed to implement it.

Defenselessness and impunity.

At a press conference in late May, the Mexican president acknowledged that it is a “difficult time” for election campaigns in the country at the moment, but promised that the government will do everything to protect candidates and seek justice for victims.

The president blamed the current situation on the devastating effects of corruption in past state governments, which is a reason to fuel violence in the country. He also pointed out that authorities have provided protection to nearly 150 candidates in various states and are addressing some 400 complaints of harassment.

However, due to outbreaks of violence, the election campaign had to be suspended in dozens of municipalities across the country. In particular, the ruling National Renaissance Movement party in the southern part of Mexico City state, the most populous region of the country, has done so.

According to Zbigniew Ivanovsky, head of the Center for Political Studies of the Institute of Latin America of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the level of violence in Mexico is very high in principle – it is associated with drug trafficking. Thus, in 2020, Mexico was second only to Brazil in the number of premeditated murders of 40,500, and to Venezuela and Honduras in the number of murders per 100,000 population. From 2015 to 2020, that figure rose from 13 to 27, more than doubling.

“The current president inherited this from the previous government, and the situation continues to be quite difficult. Unfortunately, no one has been able to cope with it yet. They tried to fight the drug mafia in different ways, including by force or with the help of tacit agreements. The current president, who is also trying to take some measures, has failed to reverse the situation,” said the expert.

As a result, one can predict a certain deterioration of the ruling National Revival Movement’s position, summarized Ivanovsky. According to opinion polls, the president’s supporters will receive a relative, but not an absolute majority of seats – around 40%.