Over 130 candidates murdered in Mexico’s bloodiest-ever campaign season

Latin America

Over 130 candidates murdered in Mexico's bloodiest-ever campaign season

Mexico’s campaign season for state and city races has been especially tough – and deadly. More than 130 candidates were murdered in the nine months leading-up to the election.

That’s according to a risk management company.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports on the high level of violence in Mexico’s political scene.

As Mexicans go to the polls, the country is reaching the end of the bloodiest election process in its entire history.

In nearly three hundred days of official electioneering, one hundred and thirty-three politicians have been murdered. And the authors of a study on the violence say that the organized crime groups that the candidates were pledging to tackle were most often behind the plots.

As Mexico’s war on drugs turns inward and criminal organizations turn to activities such as kidnapping and extortion to keep their profits steady, it’s perhaps no surprise that lawmakers who promise the public the change they crave have become targets.

It has left politicians treading a fine line between appealing to the electorate, and appeasing the cartels.

“The narco has become a very powerful force in Mexico, and that has partly been because the government has not known how to control them,” said electoral analyst Gonzalo Manrique.

“In becoming powerful, they have imposed themselves upon local leaders, forcing them to ignore their activities for fear of worsening violence. For many, it is a case of co-existing in order to survive.”

Mexico’s worsening political violence is a problem that became notorious at the US-Mexico border.

Political murders weren’t always commonplace in Mexico. But during 1994’s electoral race, the country witnessed a new low when Luis Donaldo Colosio, a bright and dynamic hopeful for president, was shot and killed by a masked gunman in Tijuana, the country’s largest border city.

As the murdered candidate’s driver, Othon Cortez was accused of involvement in the assassination.

He was later acquitted, and today campaigns against political violence.

“As Colosio said, the Mexican people hunger and thirst for justice, but we have never truly seen it,” he told CGTN in Tijuana, where he now lives. “Since Colosio’s murder, many more politicians have been murdered, and the impunity that surrounds this practice has stopped any meaningful change to our political system.”

Jose Luis Perez was Baja California State’s civil rights attorney who handled the Colosio murder case, and remains an active voice against the corruption he blames for the violence.

“It will be very difficult to break the current levels of complicity between the authorities and organized crime,” he said. “It will require a very strong government, that also has the support of the people. The most important thing will be to pursue the politicians that have allowed this to occur. From that point, things can improve.”

As a result of the violence, Mexico’s choices Sunday are reduced. 48 of the 133 politicians killed had been running for office, mostly at the local level. Now Mexicans will look to those left – who come out victorious – to be the agents for change.