Posted on July 8, 2013

Mexico’s Election Violence Is Said to Be Worst in Years

Karla Zabludovsky, New York Times, July 7, 2013

Running for public office in Mexico has long been perilous, with threats, assaults and sometimes outright killings by criminal gangs, political rivals and other opponents.

But this season is one of the worst in recent years, some experts say, with at least six candidates killed since February and another wounded in an attack that left her husband and an assistant dead. Party and campaign officials have also been assaulted, their family members targeted and sometimes killed as well.

As nearly half of Mexico’s states prepare to hold local elections on Sunday, the outbreak of violence has proved an embarrassment for the new government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has promised to control violence and has sought to portray the country as on the mend from wanton killings.

While the Peña Nieto administration promised to take steps to protect voters, opposition leaders have called on the president to put the army in the streets in some states to ensure peaceful voting proceedings, a common practice here.

“We are in the midst of the most violent elections in our history,” said José María Martínez, a member of a conservative-leaning opposition party and president of the special electoral commission of the Senate. “This is not the country that any Mexican deserves.” {snip}

The motives for many of these attacks, from which no major party has been spared, remain unclear. Local investigations of crimes, even killings, are notoriously haphazard and thin.

{snip} Last month, Nicolás Estrada Merino, leader of a state branch of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, was found shot to death in a sugarcane field in the southern state of Oaxaca. Isaac López Rojas, a candidate for deputy mayor from the small, leftist Cardenista Party in the coastal state of Veracruz, was kidnapped and killed, also in June. A few days earlier, in the border state of Chihuahua, a mayoral candidate from the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, Jaime Orozco Madrigal, was found dead after being forcefully taken from his house.

Newspapers have reported a number of candidates dropping their campaigns out of fear, and news channels have featured interviews with bloodied and bruised party members speaking after unexplained attacks.