Mexican Drug Cartels Threaten Elections

Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post, January 5, 2008

Drug cartels are trying to influence the outcomes of major elections in Mexico by kidnapping and threatening candidates, according to Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora.

The remarks by Medina Mora, released by his office Friday, underscored the Mexican government’s growing willingness in recent months to acknowledge the threat drug cartels pose to the nation’s fragile democracy. The problem is most severe, Medina Mora said, in the border states of Baja California and Tamaulipas, and in Michoacan, the home state of Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

“We have evidence, complaints from candidates who were kidnapped or intimidated, or who received threats intended to influence the results of an election and the behavior of candidates,” Medina Mora told the Spanish newspaper El Pais, according to a transcript of the interview.

Medina Mora did not disclose the names of candidates who have been kidnapped.

Mexico’s drug cartels have been involved in a major turf war over the past two years, sparked in part by the arrests of several top drug lords, whose rivals have tried to seize control of vulnerable trafficking routes. Medina Mora said drug killings rose from 2,350 in 2006 to 2,500 in 2007.

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Rumors of drug cartels trying to influence elections are rampant almost every time Mexican citizens cast ballots. But such rumors are seldom acknowledged by public officials.

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