Analysis: bloody election campaign in Mexico reveals chronic security concerns
Abel Murrieta was handing out campaign flyers on the streets this month when a gunman shot him in broad daylight at close range, making him the last candidate to be murdered in one of the bloodiest election campaigns in the world. recent history of Mexico.
Candidate for mayor in the midterm elections on June 6, Murrieta died in Ciudad Obregon, a town in the northern state of Sonora named after former Mexican President Alvaro Obregon, himself shot dead in 1928 before be able to start a second term.
A former attorney general of Sonora, Murrieta was the 83rd politician killed in Mexico since September, according to Etellekt, a security consultancy. Two more have since followed.
The bloodshed underscored President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s difficulty in containing gang-fueled violence, and is helping to erode the once dominant leadership of his left-wing National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) in the contest.
“We are seeing candidates, leaders threatened every day, and in some cases killed, unfortunately, as happened in the case of the Cajeme candidate,” Lopez Obrador said of Murrieta this week.
The election will determine who controls the lower house of Congress, 15 governorates and hundreds of town halls.
MORENA and her allies are still in a hurry to keep control of the lower house, but her hopes are dashed to capture a two-thirds majority that could allow Lopez Obrador to pursue constitutional changes to strengthen state control over the ‘energy.
According to Etellekt, political assassinations have risen by more than a third from the last midterm vote in 2015, when 61 were recorded in nine months. The death toll includes party members and those who applied for or held public office.
Lopez Obrador, who has pledged justice for the victims, argues that the corrosive effects of corruption in previous governments are fueling violence in Mexico.
His government said on Friday it was reviewing nearly 400 complaints or inquiries relating to election violence and that 148 candidates had received protection. Yet most murders go unsolved in Mexico, studies show.
Much of the upheaval has been concentrated in a group of interdependent states: Veracruz, Oaxaca, Puebla, Guerrero, the state of Mexico and Michoacan, according to Etellekt.
When Lopez Obrador won the July 2018 presidential election – before the coronavirus pandemic limited campaign options – there were 152 political assassinations in the previous ten months, including 26 in the last two weeks of the campaign, Etellekt said.
The overall murder toll in Mexico reached a record high that year, and Lopez Obrador took office in December 2018, pledging to reduce violence. But homicides increased further over the next two years.
Sonora was particularly affected. Murrieta was the lawyer for Adrian LeBaron, a Mexican Mormon of American descent who, in 2019, lost a daughter and four grandchildren in a notorious massacre by suspected hitmen of a cartel in Sonora.
Over the past two months, public safety has been seen as the number one issue facing Mexico, with two in three Mexicans saying the government is mismanaging it, according to an El Financiero survey released this month.
While Lopez Obrador remains popular, his support is waning. The El Financiero poll showed its approval rating dropped four percentage points between March and April to 57%.
A daily follow-up poll by polling firm Consulta Mitofsky suggests that its approval rating has fallen further since a fatal train crash on May 3.
Lopez Obrador’s office did not respond to a request for comment on political violence and how it affected his administration.
Murrieta had promised to clean up the municipality of Cajeme which includes Ciudad Obregon. Saying he wouldn’t be intimidated by gangs, he told voters in a video spot: “I’m not scared.”
No one has been arrested for his murder. The threats have proven too great for some candidates, with at least 18 dropouts from 2021 races across the country, according to Etellekt.
Erick Ramirez, along with Murrieta, a candidate for the center-left opposition party Citizens’ Movement, recounted how a group of armed men threatened to kill him if he organized an evening rally in the southern state. west of Guerrero this month.
He ignored the warning, but soon after the rally began, gunshots rang out, dispersing the crowd. He ran for his life.
Ramirez, who shared a video of the gunfire with Reuters, scaled back his campaign to become mayor of the town of Cocula. He says he was targeted for accusing local authorities of colluding with organized crime. But he refused to stop.
“It has radically changed my life. My family is very worried, ”he said. “But they support me.”
One of the hopes who withdrew was Cristina Delgado, an opposition politician who was considering running for mayor of a municipality near the city of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.
In January, an unidentified person left a death threat for Delgado alongside a severed pig’s head in the town’s main square, according to photos published in local media.
“This is my territory and he has a boss. I’ll kill you when you show up, ”read part of the post.
Delgado confirmed that she had received the threats, declining to comment further. She ultimately did not register to compete.
Security analysts say most election violence tends to occur at the municipal level, where gangs lobby to influence the outcome in hopes of better controlling drug trafficking and other criminal rackets.
The big loser, said Vicente Sanchez, a security expert at the Colef think tank in Tijuana, is democracy.
“Nothing is guaranteed because a lot of people are at the mercy of organized crime in some parts of the country,” he said.
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