Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Drug gang violence casts shadow over Mexico elections

By Julian Miglierini
BBC News, Mexico City

•14 of Mexico's 31 states holding elections
•12 of them choosing new governor
•Elections also for state deputies, mayors and councils

"Violence has started to form part of the daily landscape of Mexico"

Lorenzo Cordoba
Electoral expert, UNAM

Sunday is election day in more than a dozen Mexican states, with voters set to choose governors, state deputies and mayors.

Attention will not just be on the results but on how polling day unfolds given the wave of violence that has marred campaigning in some areas.

Mexico's powerful drug gangs have been blamed for much of the violence, a sign, according to some, of the growing influence of organised crime in the country.

For months, candidates in many of the 14 states holding elections have complained of intimidation by alleged criminal gangs that has forced them to adopt special security measures and limit their campaigning in high-risk areas.

In areas of the country worst-hit by the drugs conflict, which has left some 23,000 people dead since late 2006, political parties admit they have found it hard to find citizens willing to run for office.

One person ready to stand was Rodolfo Torre Cantu of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who was favourite to be elected governor in the north-eastern state of Tamaulipas.

Mr Torre had spoken about his priority, if elected, to boost security in Tamaulipas, a key battleground between two powerful gangs, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, over drug-smuggling routes into the US.

But on 28 June, gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying Mr Torre and his team, shooting him and four of his aides dead.

Mr Torre's murder - the highest-profile political killing in Mexico since the assassination of presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio in 1994 - has deepened concerns over how Mexican democracy is suffering at the hands of organised crime.

"There is an escalation in the influence of the drug cartels in Mexican politics," says Lorenzo Cordoba, electoral expert from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Many see the threats and intimidation of this year's election campaigns as evidence of how Mexico's drug conflict has permeated into the political system.

"Almost all members of my campaign team have received dozens of calls," Xochitl Galvez, a candidate for governor of the state of Hidalgo, told the BBC recently.

The callers "identify themselves as members of organised crime", she added.

The head of the National Action Party (PAN), Cesar Nava, also said recently that many of his party's candidates had received threats which he attributed to the Zetas.

A mayoral candidate for the PAN in Tamaulipas was killed in an attack in May.

The violence has reignited the debate about President Felipe Calderon's decision to take on the cartels and deploy thousands of troops in violent hotspots.


The candidates on the ground have meanwhile learned to take extreme precaution when out trying to win votes.

President Calderon urged unity in the face of the violence Take for example the northern state of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juarez - Mexico's most violent city - is located.

The state's electoral institute was forced to ask for extra protection for candidates who are afraid of campaigning in areas like the valley east of Juarez, a crucial drugs route into neighbouring US territory.

Jorge Abraham Ramirez, the PRI's candidate for state legislator in Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, in central Chihuahua, says that he has taken special security measures on the campaign trail.

"We do not make our daily schedule public, and many times we use decoys. We announce we are heading for one place and then carry it out it another," he told the BBC.

Alex Lebaron, a fellow candidate in Nuevas Casas Grande, Chihuahua, told the BBC that his team had decided not to hold rallies during the evening and that they kept a low profile when canvassing some areas.


Many in Mexico think that local elections are the perfect chance for the drug gangs to flex their muscles - mayors control local police forces and, by being in charge of specific territory, are valuable targets for the cartels' pressure tactics.

Concern is now focused on how violence could disrupt election day and dissuade voters from going to the polls.

The federal authorities say they will deploy extra security forces to make sure the election goes according to plan and that safety for voters can be guaranteed.

Electoral officials sound optimistic.

"Many said we wouldn't find enough people to man the ballot stations around the state," says Fernando Herrera Martinez, president of the Chihuahua electoral institute. "But we are ready, 100%, to hold the election."

But the violent campaign, electoral export Lorenzo Cordoba believes, shows how Mexicans citizens have become all too used to news of drug-related crime.

"It's a regrettable scenario, in which the violence has started to form part of the daily landscape of Mexico," he says.


  1. Unbelievable! So we in the U.S. spend billions to inforce Democracy in Iraque, Afg etc. Mexico is our neighbor this needs fixing NOW!!

  2. your not spending billions to inforce democracy in Iraq or Afgan, your GoV is spending billions to bankrupt your country. Open your Eyes. And the U.S. is not fixing our problem, they are aggravating it. It would help if they quit selling the narcos weapons, and quit facilitating the importations of drugs into your nation. Of course not much can be said of ours, because it seems that narcoism is becoming a cultural trait - not one to be proud of.

  3. Democracy is an illusion. There has never been one in Mexico only a Democratic-Dictatorship. The U.S. is overwhelmed because to address the problems of its southern neighbor it must address its own issues with immigration reform, Drug policy, and gun control. IMO the 3 things NO American politician wants to tackle.

    When the Cartels start blowing up buildings on this side of the Rio Grande and assassinating American mayors and governors, the U.S. will occupy Mexico and send troops across the border.

  4. Anon @ 7:25 AM, 07/04:
    So we send in mil for to occupy MX. That's impossible unless we re-install draft and increase mil level by at least 300,000. Then examine how well our "total occupation" of AfPak and Iraq has been working out. Let me recommend:
    Review some of their current articles by people who have been there, done that. Then reevaluate.

  5. Anon @ 7:25AM, 07/04:
    So US sends in mil to occupy MX. That's impossible with current force level. Congress must increase level and funding for at least 300k act mil. Then review how our current occupation of AfPak and Iraq has been working out, by people who've been there, done that at:
    Apparently not working out so good. Then on US side, how to combat gargantuan levels of addiction to marijuana, cocaine, heroin? 2nd Amendment right of free access to guns, ammo, grenades and more? Not likely. Go to Plan B.

  6. U.S. Gov is protecting opium growers in Kandahar and profiting from the drug trade. I assume the same model will eventually be applied to MX.

  7. @ Anon-4:14 PM

    So what makes you think that they aren't already profiting?
    The Columbians grow it, the Mexicans move it, and the Americans consume it. So the US is dumb enough to be the only one not profiting? I don't think so. Rethink that.

  8. U.S. Gov is protecting opium growers in Kandahar and profiting from the drug trade. I assume the same model will eventually be applied to MX.

    Just a quick question...HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO KANDAHAR AIR STATION? ...Have you ever served served in the ACTIVE forces (not reserves or guard units)Times have changed this is not the Col. North's war...those days are long gone. Besides if the government was making money on drugs my taxes would be lower.

  9. "Besides if the government was making money on drugs my taxes would be lower."
    Woooooohahahahooooooo oh gawd, oh gawd! wo heehee hee haha! Oh man! Thanks, I needed a laugh about now.

  10. Just what do you think we were doing in Marjah? Bringing democracy? No! we were taking out the competition, the U.S. gov helps Hamid Karzai's brother grow and sell opium in exchange for protection in Kandahar. This is a known fact, I don't need to go to Afg. to know this.

    More than likely the U.S. will apply this template to MX if they haven't started already. consider the fact the BP is already flying drones across the border.

  11. united states is one of the bigger drugs and firearms traffikers in the world guys that si why they do not worry about drugs war


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