Mexico Voters Fear Nation on Edge of Chaos

Julie Watson, AP, May 17, 2006

MEXICO CITY—Police enraged by the kidnapping of six officers club unarmed detainees. A bloody battle between steelworkers and police leaves two miners dead. Drug lords post the heads of decapitated police on a fence to show who’s in charge.

Less than two months before Mexicans elect their next president, many fear the country is teetering on the edge of chaos—a perception that could hurt the ruling National Action Party’s chances of keeping the presidency and benefit Mexico’s once-powerful Institutional Revolutionary Party, whose candidate has been trailing badly.

Some blame President Vicente Fox for a weak government. Others say rivals are instigating the violence to create that impression, hoping to hurt National Action candidate Felipe Calderon, who has a slight lead in recent polls.

A poll published Friday in Excelsior newspaper found 50 percent of respondents feared the government was on the brink of losing control. The polling company Parametria conducted face-to-face interviews at 1,000 homes across Mexico. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

The conflicts are “a warning sign,” said Yamel Nares, Parametria’s research director.

Security is the top concern for Mexicans, and Fox has struggled to reform Mexico’s notoriously corrupt police. Meanwhile, drug-related bloodshed has accelerated, with some cities seeing killings almost daily.

In April, suspected drug lords posted the heads of two police officers on a wall outside a government building where four drug traffickers died in a Jan. 27 shootout with officers in the Pacific resort of Acapulco.

A sign nearby read: “So that you learn to respect.”

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