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The bloodiest election campaign in Mexico’s history

Reuters | The funeral of Erika Cazares, local councillor and candidate for local deputy, who was killed on July 2.

The election campaign that comes to an end when voters go to the polls on Sunday has been the most violent ever to take place in Mexico, with at least 48 candidates murdered and many others attacked since September 2017.


Being an election candidate in Mexico is “practically tantamount to a death penalty”, Mario Alberto Chavez, a mayoral candidate in the southwest of the country, told AFP.

On June 25, a new victim was added to the already long list of murdered candidates for the general election. Emigdio Lopez Avendano, a candidate to become a local deputy in the southern province of Oaxaca, was ambushed while driving along a country road and killed along with his four passengers.

While the death toll of 48 comes from Mexican security group the Etellekt Institute, the country’s interior ministry puts the figure at 34.

>> Read more: Will the next Mexican leader be a good ‘hombre’ for Trump?

Candidates step down because of violence

It took until June 18 for the ministry to put forward plans to protect presidential candidates – and, so far, only Jose Antonio Meade, the ruling PRI party’s candidate and the protégé of current President Enrique Pena Nieto, has benefitted from this measure.

According to a statement from the National Security Commission, only 214 candidates for public office benefit from protection measures from local or regional authorities, while 12 have their security ensured by the federal police.

However, in the southwestern state of Guerrero alone, nearly 200 people decided to give up their candidacies because of the violence. Others in Mexico have come to the same decision because of pressure from organised crime groups. The extent of the violence and intimidation is such that in some municipalities in Guerrero, Oaxaca, Michoacan and Puebla – all states in the south of the country – have decided to dissuade their candidates from running.

Mayoral candidates among most targeted

Twenty-three of the forty-eight candidates murdered since September were mayoral candidates. In the most recent case, town hall candidate Fernando Angeles was shot dead on June 21, in the municipality of Ocampo in Michoacan. State authorities then arrested all of the district’s police officers before carrying out their own investigaton.

According to a study by Laura Calderon, a Mexico specialist at the University of San Diego, “mayors are 25 times more likely to be murdered than an average citizen”. The survey also noted that at least 150 mayors and mayoral candidates were killed between 2002 and 2017.

Candidates running against incumbents have been the biggest targets by far during this year’s election campaign, particularly those standing for the PRI or Morena – the party of the current favourite, the populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador – in states where a different party is in power.

This article was adapted from the version in French.

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