Mexico’s violence-torn Guerrero state will elect its governor today as President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party backs an opposition candidate against the once-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party.
Calderon’s original candidate, Marcos Parra Gomez, dropped out of the race last week, encouraging supporters to vote for Angel Aguirre, of the Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD. Aguirre leads Acapulco Mayor Manuel Anorve by 7 percentage points, according to a poll published Jan. 24 in El Universal, a Mexico City newspaper.
A victory by Anorve’s PRI, which ruled the country for more than 70 years, would be a “return to the semi-permanent fiefdom we moaned about for years,” Parra said in a statement announcing his withdrawal on his website.
The vote in Guerrero is the first of six state elections ahead of next year’s presidential ballot, in which the PRI is seeking to return to power after a 12-year absence.
Coordinators of both campaigns said today there have been only minor incidents of aggression or intimidation against voters or supporters, Reforma newspaper reported. A group of Aguirre supporters in Acapulco said they were beaten by unknown assailants who kidnapped four people, the newspaper reported. Jesus Zambrano, Aguirre’s campaign coordinator, told Reforma he couldn’t confirm the details of the incident.
Guerrero is caught up in a turf war triggered by the navy’s 2009 killing of drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva and the capture last year of two other leaders of his cartel, said Carlos Ramirez, Mexico analyst for the Washington-based Eurasia Group.
Last year, the state had the fourth-highest death toll among Mexico’s 31 states and the federal district, according to the government.
Violence surged in the past year as two other cartels seek to gain control of trafficking routes in the resort town of Acapulco, Ramirez said. The one-day body count reached 28 on Jan. 8, when 15 decapitated corpses were found in front of an Acapulco shopping mall.
Mexico last year reported the most drug-related deaths since Calderon took office in December 2006 and began deploying troops in its battle against cartels. Homicides tied to the nation’s drug war increased almost 60 percent in 2010 to 15,273 from 9,612 in 2009, according to government figures. A total of 34,612 people have been killed in drug violence under Calderon.
The government estimates violence shaves 1.2 percentage points off output a year. Mexico’s economy will grow 3.9 percent in 2011, the International Monetary Fund said Jan. 11.
The violence hasn’t slowed tourism or a rally in Mexican stocks. Tourism sales will jump 20 percent this year to $15.4 billion, Tourism Minister Gloria Guevara said Dec. 15. The benchmark IPC index of stocks added 19 percent in the past year.
Aguirre’s accord with Calderon’s PAN party may set a precedent for future alliances against the PRI in coming gubernatorial races, such as the Feb. 6 vote in Baja California Sur, Ramirez said. PRD Secretary-General Hortensia Aragon has also said such alliances are possible.
Calderon defeated PRD candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in the 2006 presidential election.
Aguirre had 50 percent support among 1,000 Guerrero voters surveyed between Jan. 20 and Jan. 23 by Centro de Investigacion, Documentacion y Analisis. Anorve has 43 percent, according to the poll for El Universal. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The PRI is favored by 3 percentage points to win the 2012 presidential elections over Calderon’s PAN, according to a Dec. 6 poll by El Universal and Berumen y Asociados.