With elections just around the corner in the country unfortunately plagued with drug cartels and violence, unknown assailants in Mexico are increasingly targeting politicians in an apparent bid to take control of government structure and expand their criminal agendas.
Just last week, a candidate for Mexico Congress, Fernando Puron, who vowed to defy crimes in the country, was shot dead just moments after taking part in an election debate with his rival congressional candidates . Puron was reportedly the 112th politician who was killed in cold blood ever since the election process started in September 2017, according Etellekt, a risk analysis consultancy.
The firm also stated the ongoing electoral season was the "bloodiest president race in recent history."
The intensifying drug war in the Central American country hasn't even spare women. In fact, most of the assassinated electoral candidates were female. When a number of women in the country stood against the issue of misogynistic violence, also known as femicide, they were silenced just as brutally.
Earlier this month, in just 24 hours, three female politicians were gunned down in Mexico.
One of them was Pamela Teran Pineda, who was running for the Juchitan council as an Institutional Revolutionary Party member. She was fatally shot after leaving a restaurant in Colonia Centro, Mexico City. Her driver and photographer were also murdered.
The victims of such senseless brutality belonged to a variety of political parties and most of them were running for local offices far from national spotlight. Nevertheless, many of them were shot dead while others were stabbed. Most of the killers are still out in the open, their motives not fully known.
However, the widespread belief was the mafias in the country wanted to terrorize politicians so they would succumb under pressure and let criminal organizations control the police forces in their areas of influence.
Moreover, the fact criminal groups in Mexico reportedly earn a substantial amount of money from extortion and retail drug sales–which cannot be carried out without the protection of authorities– makes the government collusion crucial for cartels to operate.
"Criminal gangs want to be sure that in the next government, they can maintain their power networks, which is why they are increasing attacks," said Vicente Sanchez, a professor of public administration at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana.
The blatant barbarity displayed by criminal groups has also alarmed the electoral authorities who feared the voter turnout could get affected in some areas.
"State and local authorities are outgunned and outmaneuvered and the federal forces cannot be everywhere," said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. "There is an urgent need...to provide greater protection and insulation against organized crime."
Though federal and state governments provided bodyguards and bullet-proof vehicles to some candidates, it apparently hasn't stopped the killings as the death toll continues to rise.
However, the front in line in the upcoming presidential elections is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose longtime anti-establishment and anti-corruption rhetoric is finally appears to be striking a chord with Mexicans, who are now frustrated with disturbing level of corruption and violence.
López Obrador, who has been in the lead for a few months now, was 15 points ahead of his rival, Ricardo Anaya of the right-of-center National Action Party.
The attacks in the country, which have been downright brazen, are an alarming threat to Mexico's democracy and the rule of law. There were hundreds of candidates who backed out from the race out of fear for their lives, which means the country is losing out on candidates who could have taken out its crippling system from the evils of widespread impunity and systemic corruption.
Banner / Thumbnail : REUTERS/Imelda Medina