In another massive blow to the electoral process and stability in Mexico the candidate of the populist PRI political party for the governor’s race in the violence plagued border state of Tamaulipas was assassinated this morning outside of the state capital, Ciudad Victoria.
The election for statewide and local offices in Tamaulipas and several other Mexican states are scheduled for Sunday, July 4th.
The candidate, Rodolfo Torre Cantú and his campaign team were ambushed by gunmen on the highway to the local airport while on their way to fly to a political event in the border city of Matamoros across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas.
According to the state prosecutor’s office 4 other members of Torre Cantu’s campaign team were also killed. They were identified as a state representative (Diputado) Enrique Blackmore Smer, a bodyguard and 2 campaign staff members.
His father in law Enrique de la Garza, his chief campaign aide Alejandro Martinez Villarreal and 2 other members of his security team were injured in the attack.
Apparently gunmen on board a convoy of 7 pickup trucks intercepted the 2 vehicles carrying the candidate and his team after blocking the highway with a tractor-trailer.
Torre Cantu, 46, married with three children and a medical doctor, was the candidate of the alliance comprising the PRI, the Green Party and New Alliance Party, and was the heavy favorite in various polls, which gave him between 55 and 58 percent of the vote.
The state of Tamaulipas is a stronghold of the organized criminal group known as the Gulf Cartel (CDG) and has been converted into a terrifying no-man’s land since February of this year as the CDG and the Zetas, the breakaway former paramilitary force of the CDG, wage a bloody war over drug trafficking routes into the U.S.
The fighting between both organized criminal groups and against the military and law enforcement authorities attempting to re-impose the rule of law has claimed hundreds of lives.
Organized criminal groups in Tamaulipas have threatened the campaigns of most candidates running for political office. On May 13 of this year Mario Guajardo, the mayoral candidate of the National Action party (PAN) for the city of Valle Hermoso, and his son were executed after ignoring death threats warning him to abstain from running for office.
Other candidates for statewide and local offices have been assassinated in Chihuahua, Guerrero and Sinaloa. Yesterday in Sinaloa a busload of 40 sympathizers working for the PAN-PRD Convergencia coalition candidate for governor, Mario Lopez Valdez, were attacked by gunmen outside of the port city of Mazatlan. No injuries were reported in that incident.
Both the PAN and the PRD have suspended their campaigns in Tamaulipas and have urged their supporters to turn out and vote on Sunday, July 4th, as a show of defiance against the terror tactics of the drug cartels.
Nearly half of Mexico’s 31 states hold elections on July 4 and the results could shape the 2012 presidential race. Twelve of the 15 elections involve gubernatorial races. Mexico’s powerful governors usually set the agenda that will determine the relative strength of political parties in the race to the presidency. The PRI is in position to win between 8 and 9 of the governorships.
The drug cartels in Mexico have reached the level where they now constitute, for all practical purposes, an insurgency that uses terrorism against the population and state institutions in a bid to usurp the rule of law and to permanently institute the impunity with which they already operate within their areas of influence.
In areas where the La Familia Michoacana cartel operate, the objective seems to be a complete takeover of political rule.
The irregular warfare tactics used by organized crime includes guerilla style attacks against law enforcement and the military; assassination, threats and co-optation of civil authorities; intimidation of the population through the use of violence, extortions and kidnappings and now attacks against the electoral process in a bid to destabilize the state further and in some cases to have their own candidates elected.
After learning of the assassination President Felipe Calderon ordered an immediate meeting of his security cabinet.
After the security cabinet meeting ended, the chief executive stressed that what happened is not an attack on one citizen, but against the democratic institutions and the whole of society, so it demands a response "united and firm", since "organized crime represents the greatest threat to security and the tranquility of the Mexican nation”
He also called for unity the unity of all political parties, legislators and governors, to put aside differences and fight this enemy that knows no boundaries "and to defend the institutions during these sensitive moments. "
In his message, President Calderón stressed that organized crime "will not achieve its objectives".