Mexico: Does violence in electoral times threaten the country’s democracy?

With the number of murders of politicians and candidates, the national government needs a change of strategy


There are more than 100 dead just weeks before the July 1 elections in Mexico. Violence against candidates increases with the passing of days and the authorities fail to contain it. Since the start of the campaign process, in September of last year -with the evaluation of expenses and the presentation of applicants-, there has been a documented trickle of assassinations of active politicians and aspiring local officials throughout the country. Until mid-April there was a balance of 64 deaths, but by June 5 there are already 105 violent deaths.

Leer en español: México: ¿La violencia en tiempos electorales amenaza la democracia del país?

Candidates at the crossroads to live

Almost all the states of Mexico have been splashed by the wave of violence against the aspirants, who have also reported attacks in which they have been injured, members of their families or their equipment. According to data from the Attorney General's Office (PGR, in Spanish), the murders of candidates are concentrated geographically, above all, in Guerrero (16), the State where bloodthirsty drug cartels are operating to control the territory. They are followed by Oaxaca and Puebla (8), Veracruz (7) and Jalisco (4). The crimes related to the campaign also reached the State of Mexico (3) as well as in Hidalgo and Michoacán. In this recent period, the battered states have been Guanajuato, Chihuahua, Colima, and Durango.

According to the newspaper Excelsior, as a result of the assassinations of politicians, at least a thousand candidates for various positions have resigned to continue in the competition, while threats are growing against numerous candidates, "who wonder if it is worth risking continuing ", to protect their lives. For Kofi Annan, former general secretary of the United Nations (UN), who was last week in Mexico as an electoral observer in the framework of the keynote speech Peace and Democracy that dictated in the auditorium of the National Electoral Institute (INE, in Spanish), says that "violence has become a serious threat to the country's democratic process." For the one who was also Nobel Peace Prize laureate, violence is threatening the country's institutions and therefore the population.

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According to Etellekt Consultores, so far in the electoral process, 105 politicians have been killed, of which 41 were pre-candidates or candidates. Additionally, about 120 have received some type of threat or intimidation, 47 have suffered attacks against their family and 40 were physically attacked.

Militarization has not been effective

When Felipe Calderón was the president of Mexico, before Enrique Peña Nieto, he bet on the militarization of public security to solve the wave of violence against politicians and candidates. The Law of Internal Security, promoted by Peña Nieto in December of last year, gave a legal structure to the participation of the Armed Forces in the fight against drug trafficking and crime.

The strategy analyzed jointly by Etellekt Consultores, has generated important arrests against cartel leaders. However, the measure has not been able to end this evil, because the cartels have managed to involve and perpetuate better locally than nationally. At the same time, "complaints of human rights violations have been stacking up, as is often the case when soldiers are assigned to perform police functions for which they are not trained," says the National Human Rights Commission in its most recent report published in his website last May.

And the presidential ones…

The presidential candidates during their campaigns have announced alternatives for the problem, however, very similar to those already existing and involving the armed forces. Andrés Manuel López Obrador de Morena is the only one that offers a change, his proposal is to revive the Ministry of Public Security, create a National Guard merging a sector of the Army, Navy and Police, and granting amnesty to those who had no choice but to participate in the drug trafficking

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There are still three weeks of electoral competition, and if the presidential candidates do not offer a new alternative, one cannot think that the situation will change. Mexico cannot allow its democracy to be threatened, on the contrary, it is time to reinforce its credibility and structure to face the challenge that the incumbents have already made of presidential periods.

Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella
Translated from “México: ¿La violencia en tiempos electorales amenaza la democracia del país?”

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