On Sunday, July 1st, 2018, Mexico’s polls opened up for what is arguably the country’s most important elections. The current president, Enrique Pena Nieto, will be replaced and Mexican voters will also choose approximately 18,000 others to fill congressional seats, governor positions, and municipal seats.
The race for the presidency is being contested by four candidates: Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who formed a new party called the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) just four years ago, Ricardo Anaya of the National Action Party (PAN), Jose Antonio Meade of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and Jaime Rodriquez Calderon who is running as an independent.
Being such a pivotal and momentous election, the campaigns leading up to July 1st have experienced some of the worst political violence that Mexico has faced in its history. According to the BBC, Mexico experienced its most violent year in 2017. Official reports claim that over 25,000 people were murdered throughout the year. Organized crime was responsible for approximately three-fourths of the killings.
Mexico’s ruthless and violent drug cartels have accounted for a vast number of murders and disappearances. Nieto and his predecessor Felipe Calderon of the PAN both declared a war on drugs during their tenures in office. Monitoring done by the BBC reports that both presidents heavily targeted cartel leaders who were either arrested or killed, but rather than bringing murder rates down it only lead to a splintering among cartels and spawned new and dangerous drug-trafficking gangs.
An article published by CNN that was written by Nicole Chavez and Daki Andone point out how targeted killings orchestrated by the cartels have impacted the campaigns leading up to the elections. Etellekt, a security consulting group, reports that 138 politicians were killed during campaigns last year of which 48 were running in the current elections. Just last month PRI candidate Fernando Puron was killed while posing for a photo making him the 12th PRI member to be killed during the year’s deadly campaigns.
Murders have not solely been limited to politicians or those affiliated with Mexico’s political parties. Journalists have been either killed or are disappearing in a country that has a notorious reputation for being especially dangerous for those in the line of work of journalism.
Polls suggest that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of his young but increasingly popular National Regeneration Movement is the favourite to win the election. No matter who wins, it is clear that they will face a significant task in reducing the rife political violence Mexico faces at the hands of the drug cartels.
While the previous two presidents may have cracked down on transnational drug trafficking, crime and murder rates carried out by the cartels has seen a dramatic increase in the last few years. Even though the capacity for drug cartels to push their products across borders into the United States may have been diminished, they have adopted other illicit activities. In an article outlining the volatility of Mexican drug cartels published in the BBC, Duncan Tucker explains how these organizations have managed to maintain and increase their profits by dealing in “kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, illegal logging and mining, and stealing oil from government pipelines.”
Obrador, commonly referred to as AMLO by his supporters, has expressed in his political platform that he does not want to escalate Mexico’s war on drugs any further. Instead, he has advocated for the alleviation of poverty across Mexico as a means to combat the rampant violence of the cartels. If Obrador wins the election and implements his method of targeting poverty it would mark a significant shift in the way Mexico has previously tried to deal with violence and insecurity.
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