Candidates Shot, Kidnapped, Tied With Noose as Mexico Vote Nears
(Bloomberg) -- An Olympic athlete running for mayor of a quaint resort town is kidnapped and threatened if she doesn’t drop out of the race, her party says. The son of a prominent politician is held by townspeople who tie him in a noose. A candidate in northern Mexico is shot dead in broad daylight after tweeting he would fight violence.
As Mexico’s June 6 midterm elections approach, aggression against candidates and politicians has risen 64% above record levels seen during the 2018 presidential race, according to Etellekt consultancy, which tracks election-related violence. Killings alone are slightly lower than during the same period in 2018, with 79 politicians murdered, but they’re up compared to the previous midterm vote in 2015.
At stake is the proper functioning of Mexico’s largest-ever election, as measured by number of offices up for grabs. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has pledged measures to keep politicians safe, but his “hugs not bullets” approach to fighting drug violence has raised questions about the government’s ability to rein in attempts by organized crime groups to interfere in the midterms.
“This is a time when some criminal actors feel greater leeway than before, perceiving the inertia by the federal government,” said Falko Ernst, a senior analyst in Mexico at the Crisis Group, an international conflict-prevention think-tank.
Mexico’s elections have been marred by violence for decades. And this year’s high levels of aggression may reflect the sheer number of positions at play, including ballots for 500 lower house lawmakers, 15 governors, and hundreds of mayors. But the “state and policy makers haven’t learned their lessons from past electoral exercises to put the necessary bulwark in place to prevent this,” Ernst said.
Zudikey Rodriguez, an Olympic sprinter and reality-TV personality, was rising fast in the mayoral race in Valle de Bravo, a weekend getaway popular among Mexico City’s elite. She was just a few percentage points behind the ruling party Morena candidate in one poll. Then, days ago, she was abducted, according to one of the parties in her coalition.
“They picked her up and they threatened her. They said either leave the campaign or we kill you,” a spokesman for the National Action Party, or PAN, told Bloomberg News. According to journalist Raymundo Riva Palacio, Rodriguez was threatened by an arm of the powerful Jalisco Nueva Generacion drug cartel.
Rodriguez, a candidate from the PRI-PAN-PRD alliance, stopped sharing content on her usually busy social media feeds earlier this week. She reappeared in a Facebook video late Thursday saying she was “doing fine,” and still identifying herself as a candidate, but didn’t address the reports she’d been abducted.
Also this month, Juan Salvador Camacho, son of a former Mexico City mayor, was held hostage for hours in a village in the state of Chiapas. Camacho, who aspires to become the mayor of the municipality of San Cristobal de las Casas, was forced to wear a noose around his neck before agreeing to pay for his release. He’s the brother of Goldman Sachs Mexico managing director, Manuel Camacho.
Politicians from all parties have suffered attacks in recent months, with Morena and PRI recording the most cases, according to Carlos Rubio, political risk deputy director at Integralia consultancy.
After Abel Murrieta, a mayoral candidate for the small Citizen’s Movement party, was gunned down while campaigning in Sonora state, a photo of his body near campaign fliers attracted international attention. He was a legal adviser for the LeBaron family, nine of whose members were killed by gunmen in a 2019 ambush near the northern border.
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Lopez Obrador launched a program in March to protect candidates with the help of local police forces and the National Guard, but the violence continues.
Alejandra Lagunas, a candidate from a small and relatively unknown party, pulled the plug on her mayoral campaign in the state of Morelos after receiving a death threat. “I have an 8-year-old who watches the news and every so often he tells me, ‘Mom, I don’t want you to get killed’,“ she recently told the BBC.
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