Monday, May 20, 2024

Federal government providing security protection for 250 political candidates

Against a backdrop of at least 15 murders of hopefuls for political office during Mexico’s current election cycle, the federal government on Tuesday offered assurances that candidates seeking protection are now getting it immediately.

Rosa Icela Rodríguez, head of Mexico’s Security and Citizen Protection Ministry (SSPC), told reporters at President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s Tuesday morning press conference that the number of national-level candidates who have requested protection from the federal government rose to 273, by her bureau’s most recent count.

Mexico security head Rosa Icela Rodriguez standing at a podium at a press conference
Federal civilian security head Rosa Icela Rodríguez told reporters Tuesday that candidates are now getting protection “faster and faster.” (Rosa Icela Rodríguez/X)

All requests are now processed “without pretext and without bureaucracy” on order of López Obrador, she said.

In Mexico, presidential, gubernatorial and congressional candidates receive federal protection from the Army and National Guard, while state governments are responsible for safeguarding aspirants for state and local positions.

This process could be seen as skewed, wrote the online news source Animal Político, because “applicants for municipal positions are the most vulnerable.”

Rodríguez said Tuesday that the streamlined 2024 Candidate Protection Plan eliminates risk analysis and ensures swift protection. As of Monday, 250 candidates had received the security they requested, Rodríguez said. Twenty-three declined the offered protection, she added.

“We are making the procedure faster and faster to provide the necessary security immediately,” the Security Minister said.

Rodríguez acknowledged the murders of one candidate, five pre-candidates and nine aspiring candidates who hadn’t yet registered formally. Investigations into these killings are underway by the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) and local prosecutors, she said.

Candidates for Mayor of Maravatio, Michoacan, Miguel Angel Zavala and Armando Perez Luna
From left to right: Miguel Ángel Zavala and Armando Pérez Luna, rival candidates for mayor of the Michoacán municipality Maravatío, were killed in March within 12 hours of each other. (Vive Maravatío)

However, according to the news site La-Lista, the consulting firm Data Int puts the number of murdered candidates at 28, while the data analysis nongovernmental organization Data Cívica reported 11 in the second half of 2023 and 15 in the first quarter of 2024.

In one of the year’s most high-profile cases, Gisela Gaytán — a 38-year-old Morena party candidate for mayor of Celaya, Guanajuato — was shot to death on her first day of public campaigning. Just hours before her April 1 murder, she said she had previously asked the state’s electoral authority for protection. 

Animal Político reported that her request was caught up in red tape for over three weeks.

“The citizens are with us. They look after us, but, of course, we’re going to have security protocols… Let’s see whether they have an answer for us today,” she said at that time, according to the newspaper El Pais.

In March, there were three politically motivated murders over seven days, including rival candidates for mayor in the Michoacán municipality of Maravatío, who were slain within hours of each other.

The surge in violence underscores the challenges Mexico faces in conducting safe elections. Voters will go to the polls on June 2 to elect a new president, all 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies and all 128 Senators, eight governors, 31 state legislatures and many other representatives in what will be the largest elections in Mexico’s history.

With reports from El Universal, Milenio and La-Lista

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