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Mexico’s Uninspired Mid-Term Election Gets Bloodier; 70 Attacks Reported So Far

A Mexico City newspaper said as many as 70 political attacks have occurred since February, as Mexico prepares to elect 500 lawmakers, nine governors, and hundreds of local office-holders.
May 29, 2015, 5:55pm
Photo via EPA

At least 70 incidents of violence have occurred in Mexico's current election campaign season, making the run-up to June's vote one of the bloodiest since Mexico became a multi-party democracy in 2000.

The panorama of violence in the election season is usually limited in press reports to cases related to candidates running for office, and during official campaigning season.

But on Friday, the Mexico City newspaper Reforma said it counted more than 70 attacks against not only candidates but also local party bosses, campaign managers, "operators," and local council members. The paper also tallied known attacks from both the current campaign period and in the "pre-campaign" period that began in February.

Drug cartels or organized crime groups are believed responsible for the attacks in many cases, yet highly local rivalries or disputes are also said to be driving the violence.

The very latest attack to grab headlines occurred here in Mexico City on Wednesday night.

— Fernando Canales F (@FerCanalesF)May 28, 2015

A campaign manager for a candidate for delegate of the Azcapotzalco borough was shot to death as he sat inside a truck covered with campaign imagery, directly in front of his candidate's headquarters.

The victim was Israel Hernandez Fabela, campaign manager for the Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate for Azcapotzalco borough delegate, Aida Beltran. Her party, known as PRI, is attempting to make inroads with voters inside Mexico City's 16 boroughs, which are largely governed by the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD.

Related: Mayoral Candidate Is Beheaded in Guerrero Ahead of Mexico's Local Elections Season

Mitín por — unam en rebeldía (@cghUNAM)May 26, 2015

Frustration and disdain for Mexico's political system has boiled over into the streets.

On Tuesday, the eight-month mark since the September 26 disappearances of 43 teachers college students in Guerrero state, protesters burned a heap of campaign propaganda before a prominent monument in the center of Mexico City.

A movement composed of students, parents of the missing, union members, and others in Guerrero are calling for a boycott or cancelation of the June 7 vote.

Although turnout is expected to be low, some 83 million Mexicans could cast ballots to choose 500 federal legislators, nine state governors, and hundreds of regional and local office holders in elections that will also be measuring the political temperature of the country three years into the term of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Peña Nieto's election in 2012 marked the return to power for the PRI — which ruled Mexico for most of the 20th Century using far-reaching authoritarianism, patronage, and repression.

The Sunday, June 7, mid-term vote also comes in the midst of spiking drug war violence in the states of Jalisco, Michoacan, and Guerrero. Violent attacks related to the campaign have also occurred in Tabasco, San Luis Potosi, Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz.

With Israel Hernandez's murder in Mexico City, Reforma said 18 people have been killed in attacks related to the elections since February 19. The newspaper also included four supporters for a minor party known as Panal who were killed after attending a political rally in Guerrero on April 30.

In a separate count, included a resolution sent to Mexico's interior minister, an opposition federal lawmaker on Wednesday said seven candidates or political operators have been killed between February 18 and May 18. Thirty-six people related to the election have received injuries, death threats, or attacks to their property, said congresswoman Lizbeth Rosas.

The incidents of political violence have sometimes been spectacular or gruesome.

Enrique Hernandez (pictured above), a mayoral candidate for the leftist Morena party, was shot to death while at a campaign rally in the municipality of Yurécuaro, Michoacan state. In troubled Guerrero, another local candidate was beheaded in the campaign pre-season.

"The figures clearly show this is one of the most violent election seasons in the recent history of the country," said Rosas, the lawmaker and member of the PRD.

The party receiving most of the violence or threats, she added, is the National Action Party, or PAN, with 18 in total. The center-right PAN is the only other party besides the PRI that has held Mexico's presidency in modern times, with two terms between 2000 and 2012. But in many parts of the country the PAN remains an opposition or minor political force.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong has sought to placate fears of more violence by assuring voters and candidates that security forces will be on hand on election day to ensure a safe turn-out. An Osorio Chong aide later said "only 19" candidates have asked for federal protection during the campaign.

Related: Town Booted Out Mexico's Political Parties — Now Some Residents Want Them Back

Follow Daniel Hernandez on Twitter @longdrivesouth.