Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – Scores of politicians and candidates have been assassinated leading up to Mexico’s July 1 federal and local elections in what one expert is calling the bloodiest election season ever seen in Mexico.
“This is the most violent election in Mexico’s history,” Rubén Salazar Vázquez, director of the risk consultancy Etellekt in Mexico City, told CNSNews.com.
There have been at least 211 acts of aggression towards politicians and candidates running for office since Sept. 8, 2017, resulting in 82 assassinations.
Ninety percent have occurred against candidates running at the state or municipal level, Vazquez said.
“This is a figure we have never seen.”
In 70 percent of the attacks on candidates, high-caliber weapons were fired from passing automobiles or motorcycles, a pattern which Vazquez said is typical of organized crime.
There is no confirmation of who is responsible for the attacks, but organized crime syndicates are highly motivated to control who runs local governments.
Control over local police, the awarding and funding of municipal projects, and the provision of public services, like water, provides organized crime with ample opportunities to launder money and conduct illicit activities, such as narcotics trafficking, Vazquez said.
“We could say at the local level there is a significant growth in organized crime that is affecting local government. Police are very corrupt and they don’t have sufficient ability to confront this problem.”
Sixty-six percent of the political assassinations since last September have been concentrated in the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla, Veracruz and the State of Mexico according to results of an analysis of political violence recently released by Etellekt.
Well-known trafficking corridors for the transit of illicit drugs into the U.S. are located in Guerrero and Oaxaca on the west coast and Veracruz on the east coast.
Vazquez said elections in Mexico need better planning, to reduce the number of local offices open in any one election season.
There are 1,000 more contested offices this year than normal, he noted.
Federal protection take-up is low
Candidates running in state and municipal election can ask state authorities to provide them with security while candidates for the office of president or Mexico’s Congress can request protection from the nation’s elections institute.
Of 500 congressional and 128 senate offices up for election, only nine candidates have sought federal protection, however.
Etellekt does not have data on the number of state and municipal candidates who have sought state-funded protection.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist former mayor of Mexico City and founder of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party, currently leads in the polls in the presidential election.
Lopez Obrador has his own security detail and refused federal protection, according to Raúl Guillermo Benítez Manaut, a security specialist and professor and researcher at Mexico’s national university UNAM.
“People say his security is very weak. The quality of the security offered by the government is very professional and very good.”
José Antonio Meade, representing the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – the party of current President Enrique Peña Nieto – and independent candidate Margarita Zavala, wife of former President Filipe Calderon, have both accepted federal protection, Manaut said.
“It’s much more difficult to attack someone running for president but it’s not impossible.”
Attacks on candidates have increased as the level of criminal violence in Mexico has surged in recent years, Manuat said.
Mexico’s homicide rate topped 29,000 last year, exceeding the previous highest level seen in 2011.
Crimes committed with guns increased nationally by 36 percent and increases were seen in 28 out of the country’s 32 states in 2017, according to the 2018 Peace Index just released by the global think tank Institute for Economics & Peace.
The economic impact of violent crime in Mexico is equal to 21 percent of Mexico’s GDP, or the equivalent of $261 million dollars.
The index shows that the economic cost of violence shot up by 15 percent last year alone.
The total cost was seven times greater than total healthcare spending in Mexico and six times greater than investment in education.
The economic impact of homicides last year totaled 10 percent of Mexico’s GDP, or the equivalent of $120 million dollars.
Mexico spends an equivalent of one percent of its GDP on internal security – 60 percent of the average spent by the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to the index.