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Americas

PRI party eyes return to power after key election gains

Video by Ioan GRILLO

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-05

Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party made significant gains over the ruling National Action Party in state elections Sunday, according to exit polls, boosting the main opposition party's bid to regain the presidency in 2012.

REUTERS - Mexico’s main opposition party looked set to sweep elections for state governors, mayors and local deputies across a third of the country on Sunday, setting the stage for its push for the presidency in 2012.

Exit polls showed the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, winning most of the 12 gubernatorial votes, which would bolster a likely presidential bid by the party’s rising star, State of Mexico Governor Enrique Pena Nieto.
 
The PRI pushed out rival parties in three states and kept hold of at least six others it already controlled, exit polls by newspaper Milenio and pollster Mitofsky showed.
 
While voting was based more on local than national issues, the fact that the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, lost to the PRI in two central states is evidence that the feeble economy and unrelenting violence by drug gangs is hurting the government.
 
With Mexico’s left divided and President Felipe Calderon sinking in opinion polls, the PRI is eyeing a return to power in 2012, two terms after a history-making election win by the PAN in 2000 ended its 71-year rule.
 
Staining Calderon’s legacy, more than 26,000 people have been killed during his time in office, mostly traffickers and police but also civilian bystanders. Human heads and mutilated bodies are often dumped in public as gangs fight over turf.
 
“I voted for the PRI because Calderon got us into this war where innocent people are paying the price,” said Jorge Lopez, 46, an unemployed builder in a shantytown full of drug dens and brothels in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez.
 
Campaigning was blighted by drug gang intimidation in northern states as suspected cartel hitmen murdered two candidates and threatened others in recent weeks.
 
It was some of the most blatant evidence of traffickers interfering in politics since Calderon came to power in late 2006 and launched a drug gang crackdown that has ended up fueling more violence as cartels splinter and feud over turf.
 
Investors spooked
 
There were no reports of drug-related violence around polling stations, but some voters reported vote buying and irregularities in several states on a tense election day.
 
In the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, plagued by drug gangs, long lines formed at polling stations after some 40 percent of election volunteers quit fearing attacks.
 
In terrorized towns outside Ciudad Juarez, which feuding cartels have turned into one of the world’s most murderous cities, many residents have fled and only around 20 percent turned out to vote. Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, suffered an average of 10 drug-related killings a day in June.
 
Along the U.S-Mexico border cartels rule over semi-lawless swaths of territory employing networks of lookouts, from taxi drivers to taco-stand owners. Journalists there increasingly face threats and business owners pay regular extortion fees.
 
In many areas, the situation is deteriorating despite more than a $1 billion in anti-drug aid from the United States.
 
Investors sold off Mexico’s peso at the start of the week after Rodolfo Torre, the PRI front-runner for governor in the border state of Tamaulipas, and four aides were ambushed and killed by gunmen as they went to a campaign event, Mexico’s highest-profile political murder in 16 years.
 
A mayoral candidate in Tamaulipas, where the Gulf cartel is battling an offshoot gang of former enforcers called the Zetas, was also murdered by suspected drug hitmen likely trying to influence the voting. Egidio Torre replaced his dead brother as candidate and was shielded by bodyguards as he voted.
 
As well as being angry at Calderon, some voters blamed local PRI politicians for not doing more to stop the violence.
 
“The insecurity we are living in here is because of bad PRI governments. I can’t say anything more because it might cost me my life,” said a 55-year-old businessman in Reynosa, a major manufacturing city in Tamaulipas across from McAllen, Texas.
 
Mexico grapples with endemic corruption within state-level politics and a number of candidates have been accused by rivals of being on drug cartel payrolls.
 
Mexican media have reported that the sitting PRI governor of Tamaulipas has a bodyguard wanted by the United States on drug charges, while the left-wing mayor of the resort of Cancun is in jail awaiting trial on charges of laundering drug money.
 
Also this week, a severed head was dumped at the house of the PRI front-runner for Ciudad Juarez mayor, accused by rivals and rights groups of working for the Juarez drug cartel.

 

 

 

Date created : 2010-07-05

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