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Mexicans go to the polls amid record violence against candidates, officials

Mexicans go to the polls amid record violence against candidates, officials
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MEXICO CITY – As Mexicans prepare to vote in the country’s presidential election on Sunday, 2024 has proven to be one of the most violent years for candidates and election officials in the country, with more than 225 killed, according to reports. 

On Wednesday, José Alfredo Cabrera Barrientos was murdered in front of supporters while campaigning for mayor of Coyuca de Benitez, in Guerrero state. He was ahead in the polls, in a region where the cartels are particularly strong.

According to Data Cívica, the victims of electoral political violence increased 235.7% from 2018 to 2023, during the term of the Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) administration, with 2024 being the most violent year so far.

“I was leaving a neighborhood assembly late at night in the Peralvillo neighborhood when I suffered a cowardly attack. They shot me 6 times while I was inside my vehicle,” said Alessandra Rojo de la Vega, candidate for mayor of Alcaldía Cuauhtémoc in Mexico City, who survived an assassination attempt a few days ago, in comments to Fox News Digital.

She blamed the lack of security being provided by officials. “This has not been the worst thing I have had to go through, but rather facing a prosecutor’s office that responds to government orders. I have been fighting for women victims of violence for 6 years so that they have access to justice. We help 30 women a day here in Mexico City and I know what the prosecutor’s office does, the criminal negligence with which they act. And when it happens to you, it feels so much deeper.”


Mexico election violence

A soldier walks at a scene where an explosive device was found by a person scavenging for recyclables in Mexicali, Mexico, May 27, 2024. (REUTERS/Victor Medina)

While the Mexican president’s spokesperson did not respond to Fox News Digital, Reuters recently reported that AMLO deemed the new data “sensationalism.” The Reuters report noted that AMLO defended his record, pointing to a drop of 5% in homicides in 2023 compared to 2022.  

According to a report from the Mexican consulting firm Integralia, political violence has left 701 victims from September 2023 to May 19, 2024, including 225 murders of candidates, politicians or former officials seeking office on June 2.

Mexico election.

Claudia Sheinbaum, center, candidate for mayor of Mexico City, speaks during the final event of the 2018 Presidential Campaign at Azteca Stadium on June 27, 2018 in Mexico City. (Photo by Carlos Tischler/Getty Images)

Candidate Rojo de la Vega complained that, “No authority has called me to inform me about how the investigation is going. I have 60 complaints to different authorities for the violence that I have experienced throughout my campaign in Cuauhtémoc and all the demands have been ignored, with the impunity that characterizes this government.” 

“The government blames and despises the victims. It is happening to me, and it has happened to thousands of women and Mexicans throughout the country. I am grateful to have the opportunity to make my case visible …the lack of justice and impunity that exists in Mexico which, far from protecting victims, favors criminals.”


Mexico election violence

Candidate Alessandra Rojo de la Vega said she was shot six times while inside her vehicle. She escaped unhurt. (Alessandra Rojo de la Vega)

According to a special report on political violence, “Map of risks of criminal interference in local elections 2024,” produced by Integralia, “Organized crime interferes in elections through: murders, attacks and threats against public officials and candidates, campaign financing, imposition of candidates, mobilization or inhibition of the vote, and alteration of the voting process during the election day.”

The states with the “highest risk” of interference by organized crime in local elections include Guerrero, Michoacán, Colima, Jalisco, Chiapas and Morelos, while nine states have a “high risk,” including Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, State of Mexico, Tabasco and Veracruz.

Leticia Salazar, candidate for the municipal presidency of Matamoros, says she was also a victim of an attack. (Leticia Salazar)

The Intergralia report claims that “criminal groups mainly subjugate municipal governments to build their authority, so they can have access to valuable resources (such as collaboration with police) in order to operate with full impunity, to diversify their activities, and neutralize their rivals. Electoral processes offer the opportunity to establish and strengthen criminal authority since the beginning of the new administration.”

President López Obrador recently noted that 500 candidates have received federal protection against violence.

“This time it was my turn. However, this is what all the citizens of Matamoros experience, where confrontations, shootings, and risky situations are experienced every day,” Leticia Salazar told Fox News Digital. Salazar is a candidate for the municipal presidency of Matamoros. Matamoros is located in Tamaulipas, a border state with the United States.

Mexican election campaign.

A musician performs during a campaign kick-off rally for Mexico’s opposition presidential candidate, Xóchitl Gálvez of the Fuerza y Corazón por México coalition party, in Irapuato, Guanajuato State, Mexico, on March 1, 2024. (ULISES RUIZ/AFP via Getty Images)

“While we toured the Brisas neighborhood, visiting house by house, we encountered a confrontation between criminals and state police. The bullets were very close, but I survived. A family allowed us to take shelter in their home so that the entire team would be safe. Unfortunately, this is what most families in Matamoros suffer. My story is known because I am a candidate seeking the municipal presidency, but it is what the citizens of Matamoros experience every day.” 


Mexico election 2024

Mexican army and national guard members take part in “Operation Juarez” aimed at reducing violence in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Feb. 17, 2024. (Reuters)

“We need order in the city of Matamoros. Criminals have advanced so much because no one stopped them. One of the most common crimes here is extortion. It happens to many families, merchants, and businessmen. I am determined to put order in the city. Nobody is going to stop us. Nobody is going to intimidate us nor are we going to be afraid, even having suffered this event,” she said.

While Claudia Sheinbaum is ahead in official polling, some analysts are pointing to other polls predicting the election is much closer, even positing that the main opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez’s showing could surprise many.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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