A wave of violence targeting political parties and candidates has generated a climate of fear and distrust in the lead up to Mexican midterm elections scheduled for June 7.
Miguel Angel Luna, a candidate to the lower house of Congress, was shot dead Tuesday. It marked the eighth assassination of political candidates since February, in what many consider the worst pre-election climate in history.
Since February political parties and candidates have been targets of heightened violence attributed to criminal organizations looking to dictate the result of the elections by appointing their own candidates, or influencing the behavior of elected officials through the use of violence. Mexico's most powerful political force, the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party — known as the PRI — has been among the prime targets of such attacks .
On May 1, armed civilians killed PRI candidate Ulises Fabian Quiroz, who had run for mayor of Chilapa in the city of Chilpancingo, Guerrero state. In another incident March 10, the mayor of Ahuacuotzingo (also Guerrero state), Aide Nava Gonzaleza, was beheaded. On May 14, Mayor Enrique Hernandez of Yurecuaro, who had been a candidate for the National Regeneration Movement, was gunned down while at a rally in a public square. Hernandez's death came the same day that Hector Lopez Cruz, a candidate for town councilor in Tabasco state, was shot 16 times and died. On May 20, Lord de la Cruz Gallegos, the leader of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) in Juchitan , Oaxaca state , was gunned down by unknown assailants .
In the month of May alone, scores of people were reported dead in violence-related cases; including seven in Baja California, 14 in Tijuana; 11 executed in Guerrero, and four bodies found wrapped in blankets in Chilapa.
Beyond assassinations, violent clashes, threats, uprisings and kidnappings have also been reported in the lead up to the elections.
Social movements and trade unions throughout the country have declared their intention to disrupt the elections through an active boycott, claiming the vote lacks legitimacy due to allegations of corruption and ties to organized crime for political parties.
Members of the teachers’ union CNTE set fire to an office of the National Electoral Institute and burned electoral material in Oaxaca. In Oaxaca City, teachers also set fire to electoral documents and empty boxes outside electoral institute offices. The messages "electoral boycott" and "general strike" were painted on the walls outside the offices. In total about 13,000 ballots were destroyed.
"We are going to permanently and indefinitely take hold of the eleven district offices in the state, as agreed during our state assembly. We are not going to allow material to be taken in or out of these spaces,” said Othon Lavariega, a teacher from the CNTE.
In the southwestern state of Guerrero, approximately 20 masked individuals from the Guerrero People's Movement entered the offices of the Electoral and Citizen Participation Institute, where they recovered 87,000 ballots for the upcoming elections. The individuals then took the ballots to the center of the city of Tlapa and burned them in the middle of the plaza. Meanwhile in the city of Xalapa in state of eastern state of Veracruz, a similar incident saw a group of at least 30 masked persons throw Molotov cocktails at a satellite office of the National Electoral Institute.
These incidents have led Mexican authorities to beef up security at electoral offices. However, National Electoral Institute president Lorenzo Cordova said the government will not install voting stations if the security of electoral officials cannot be guaranteed.
"We can't do anything about that. We have to take all the precautions we can, within our possibilities, if it's possible to set up voting stations. If it's not possible, then it's not possible,” said Cordova.
Officials from the electoral institute say they were working on reprinting ballots to replace those destroyed.