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Funeral for José Melquiades, the former mayor of La Perla, Veracruz Funeral for José Melquiades, the former mayor of La Perla, Veracruz, who was running again for the position but was gunned down in March before becoming the PRI candidate.

Organized crime a threat to elections in at least 200 municipalities

'In some places there is no possibility of campaigning'

Organized crime groups have sought to influence the electoral process in at least 200 municipalities across Mexico, with actions ranging from the destruction of party advertising material to the murder of politicians and candidates.

Criminal groups have also ordered the suspension of parties’ political events, demanded the withdrawal of candidates and physically attacked candidates and members of their campaign teams, according to a report by the newspaper Reforma.

In addition, there have been shootouts near political rallies and attacks on vehicles used by candidates and their campaign teams.

According to officials from several parties — including representatives of the ruling Morena party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the National Action Party and the Democratic Revolution Party — the worst states for political violence are Veracruz, México state, Michoacán, Guerrero, Chihuahua, San Luis Potosí, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Guanajuato, Puebla and Sonora.

In the latter state, Abel Murrieta, a former state attorney general vying for the mayorship in the municipality of Cajeme, was murdered in broad daylight earlier this month, while in México state, a high-profile candidate for mayor in Valle de Bravo was  kidnapped and ordered to drop out of the race.

PRI precandidate José Melquiades on the campaign trail in Veracruz
PRI precandidate José Melquiades on the campaign trail in Veracruz this spring shortly before he was killed.

But the party representatives said the influence and actions of organized crime are most concerning in Veracruz. There are at least 30 municipalities where the situation is critical, they said, citing Tantoyuca, Playa Vicente, Jamapa, Cuitláhuac, La Perla, Cosoleacaque and Tezonapa as examples.

Reforma said that incidents of political violence have been recorded in 66 of the Gulf coast state’s 212 municipalities.

In Morelos, a municipality in Chihuahua’s southwest on the border with Sinaloa, there is only one candidate for mayor – José de Loreto of the Morena party – such is the fear of narcos who control the area. The municipality is currently governed by the PRI.

It has been impossible to run a normal campaign in 19 municipalities in the south of México state due to the threat of politically motivated violence, while some 30 municipalities in Michoacán are considered problematic.

A report by the newspaper Milenio said that criminal groups, including the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Cárteles Unidos, are seeking to influence municipal, state and federal elections in Michoacán. The report said that elections on June 6 could be compromised in at least 12 of 113 municipalities due to the presence of organized crime.

In the Tierra Caliente region, which includes troubled municipalities such as Aguililla and Tepalcatepec, cartels have already prevented candidates of all political persuasions from campaigning in territory they control. The state electoral institute has warned that the situation is particularly bad in Zamora, Aguililla, Apatzingán and Chinicuila.

“… In some places there is no possibility of campaigning,” acknowledged Raúl Morón, Morena’s federal delegate and party president in the state.

Móron said that both candidates and ordinary citizens have received threats warning them to not attend political events.

Organized crime has also demanded that parties install candidates of their choice in Michoacán and other states. In addition, criminal groups have demanded that parties withdraw candidates in certain parts of the state, according to Juan Manuel Macedo Negrete, Michoacán leader of the Progressive Social Networks party.

He acknowledged that organized crime controls certain parts of Michoacán, making it “very difficult” for his party and others to participate in the elections.

Morón said he hopes that municipal, state and federal security forces provide the security necessary in violent areas such as Aguililla so that people can safely participate in the elections, at which federal deputies, state lawmakers and governors, as well as thousands of municipal officials, will be elected.

Milenio also reported that authorities in 13 Michoacán communities that are fighting for political autonomy will not allow voting booths to be set up. The communities are located in eight municipalities, including Charapan, Cherán and Pátzcuaro. Parties have also been prevented from campaigning in the would-be autonomous communities.

Woman holds sign calling for an end to assaults and political violence in Hidalgo.
Woman holds sign calling for an end political violence in Hidalgo.

Michoacán police and Governor Silvano Aureoles have urged political parties and their candidates to take care on the campaign trail and report violence or intimidation to authorities. But Michoacán party leaders who spoke with Milenio countered that they need less advice and more action from the state government.

“… They give us recommendations, but they don’t give us security, they don’t give us peace of mind,” Morón said. “They have to establish order, and they have to act [against organized crime] because the truth is that they [the criminals] act in broad daylight, in the sight of everyone, and this cannot be allowed.”

This electoral season has been the second most violent this century, according to the risk analysis firm Etellekt. It published a report earlier this month that stated that there were 476 acts of aggression against politicians, candidates, their collaborators and their families between September 7, 2020 and April 30, 2021.

Murrieta, the mayoral hopeful in Cajeme, Sonora, was the 32nd candidate murdered in the run-up to election day, while more than 50 other politicians having been killed during the entire current electoral process.

Source: Reforma (sp), Milenio (sp) 

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