Running for office in Mexico’s recent midterm elections meant risking your life: Opinion
Mexican citizens went to the polls June 6 to elect hundreds of candidates – the ones that survived with their lives intact - to federal, state and local positions. According to Etellekt Consultores, a consulting firm, the country just experienced one of its most violent election seasons in modern times.
Relying on open sources, Etellekt found 910 reported attacks between Sept. 7, 2020, and June 5, 2021, ranging from verbal threats to physical attacks and murders against candidates, officeholders, their relatives, and associates. A total of 91 politicians were assassinated.
Candidates from various parties were targeted, so mere political rivalries cannot explain this wave of political violence. Over the past two decades, the people of Mexico elected presidents from three different political parties, and they complained each time of disappointing results.
Besides politicians - numerous activists representing myriad causes, police and judicial officers - also were targets. Added to this are the relentless murders and abductions linked to organized crime (misnomer for drug-trafficking cartels).
The nonstop horror created by these brazen attacks seriously undermines Mexican democracy. The response by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been tepid at best. Who is killing these people? Security experts cited in news media accounts assert that drug cartels are involved. Apparently, criminal organizations select their preferred candidates and knock out the opponents. They act as proxies for politicians who want to remove rivals without getting their hands dirty.
Everyone knows the majority of these crimes will go unpunished, which contributes to the erosion of democracy. Obviously, the Mexican government cannot guarantee the safety of men and women that merely want to make their cities, states, and nation better.
Will we see more attacks, perhaps against the candidates who managed to get elected? If so, they could be forced to join the thousands of migrants fleeing violence in Mexico and Central America. They will have a good case if they apply for asylum in the United States.
Lopez Obrador is touchy when it comes to criticism about the widespread security issues that plague Mexico. Still, it is an issue that the United States cannot afford to ignore. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris likely was briefed on these matters ahead of her meeting with Mexico’s president this week.
In 2008, the U.S. Joint Forces Command released its “Joint Operating Environment (JOE)” report warning about Mexico’s potential collapse. "The Mexican possibility may seem less likely, but the government, its politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and press by criminal gangs and drug cartels,” the JOE report stated.
“How that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state. Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone."
Mexico is closer today to that precipice than it was when the JOE report first came out.
Going forward, the good people of Mexico deserve much, much better from their leadership.
Diana Washington Valdez is an international author-journalist based in El Paso, Texas, and a former El Paso Times staffer.