Murders Mar Mexico Election Campaigning in Drug-Torn States

At least four candidates and politicians have been killed ahead of July 7 elections in Mexican states where drug cartels have long sought to gain influence with local officials.

A party leader in Oaxaca, mayoral candidates in Veracruz and Chihuahua states and a campaign manager in Sinaloa, were murdered in the past month. A new assassination attempt over the weekend left the husband and niece of another candidate dead in Oaxaca, while the son of a second campaign manager in Sinaloa was killed.

Mexicans go to the polls on Sunday in 15 states to pick mayors and local lawmakers. The states include areas where more than 60,000 people have been killed since the nation began deploying troops in December 2006 to areas overrun by drug gangs. While President Enrique Pena Nieto has presented figures showing violence diminishing since he took office in December, the battle for territory and influence among traffickers continues to mar this weekend’s vote.

“Political assassinations won’t end anytime soon,” said Jorge Chabat, a political science professor at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching, a Mexico City-based university. “It’s very probable organized crime groups are trying to prevent some people from gaining office, either because they think they’ll act against their group’s interests, or because they think they’re aligned with a rival gang.”

Tarnished Election

This isn’t the first election season tarnished by drug-war violence. In 2010, gunmen shot dead the leading gubernatorial candidate in Tamaulipas state, Rodolfo Torre Cantu, who had run on a crime-fighting platform. Gunmen killed at least 10 standing mayors in the same year.

The government will “thoroughly investigate” the recent killings and “seek out solutions and clarifications,” Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told reporters June 28.

Killings related to the drug war fell 14 percent in the first four months of Pena Nieto’s administration, from the same period a year earlier, the Interior Ministry said April 10. Milenio newspaper, which tracks drug violence in a monthly study, reported a 2.5 percent drop over the same period, according to data supplied by the newspaper in an e-mail.

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