HomeNewsAnalysisMexico's Calderon Talks up Narco Threat to Elections
ANALYSIS

Mexico's Calderon Talks up Narco Threat to Elections

MEXICO / 8 DEC 2011 BY PATRICK CORCORAN EN

With a few months before Mexico's presidential election campaigns kick off, President Felipe Calderon has warned that criminal groups could try to meddle with the outcome.

In an address to the nation this weekend, Calderon stated that:

Crime, as I have said, now also constitutes an open threat to democracy. The criminals' obvious and clear intervention in electoral processes is a new and worrying fact; a fact before which no political party can remain silent or compliant. It's a threat for everyone and one which we must counteract together, and without hesitation.

There is evidence to support Calderon's words. Last month, following an election for the governor of Michoacan, in which Calderon’s sister Luisa Maria was among the candidates, audiotapes emerged of an alleged member of the Familia Michoacana gang threatening voters who didn’t opt for Fausto Vallejo, candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Vallejo went on to win the election.

Vallejo’s narrow victory, by less than three points, went against a wide range of opinion polls that had forecast Calderon as the victor, and showed her level of support increasing heading into the election. Instead, she came in second place.

The events in Michoacan follow a pair of gubernatorial elections in 2010 in which the drug trade played a key role. In Tamaulipas, PRI candidate Rodolfo Torre Cantu was murdered just weeks before the vote. The murder was blamed on his refusal to collude with either the Zetas or the Gulf Cartel, the two dominant gangs in the region.

In Sinaloa, a close race for governorship swung in favor of Mario Lopez Valdez after photos surfaced of his opponent, Jesus Vizcarra, also of the PRI, with his arm around Ismael Zambada, alias "El Mayo," one of the most notorious capos in the country.

Clearly, then, drug traffickers are both willing and able to interfere in Mexico's elections. This is particularly worrying given the fast-approaching presidential contest of July 2012 -- the stakes are far higher than in local elections, and criminal groups have a deep interest in influencing the outcome.

However, there is reason to doubt that the presidential vote will be marred by criminal influence to the same extent as the local elections described above.

One fundamental reason is that in the three states in question, the influence of criminal groups arguably runs more deeply than anywhere else in the country. Each of them have spawned their own trafficking groups -- the Sinaloa Cartel in Sinaloa state, the Gulf Cartel (and the Zetas) in Tamaulipas, and the Familia and Caballeros Templarios in Michoacan -- which have deep ties to local business and politics. Crime hasn’t been imported from outside, but is an organic part of public life in each state, which makes it much more difficult to isolate politics from crime.

Vizcarra’s explanation for the photo with Sinaloa capo Zambada was illustrative: he didn’t deny it was real, but said it didn’t show collusion of any kind. As a rancher with ties to powerful business interests in Sinaloa, it was only natural that Vizcarra would have become acquainted with the longtime kingpin.

In some other states, even those which suffer high levels of violence, the links between drug trafficking and politics are not so inevitable, because organized crime is a comparably recent arrival. It is far less likely for criminals in, say, Queretaro or San Luis Potosi to be willing or able to exert influence over an election in the same way the Familia attempted to do in Michoacan.

For similar reasons, it is unlikely that there are photos floating around of the leading presidential candidates --Mexico State’s Enrique Peña Nieto or Tabasco’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador -- arm-in-arm with a wanted man.

Furthermore, the presidency is chosen by a nationwide, winner-take-all election in which some 40 million people will cast a ballot. Even in the unprecedentedly close 2006 presidential elections, the difference between Calderon and runner-up Lopez Obrador approached 250,000 votes. Against that backdrop, any drive to redirect votes from one candidate to another, even by the most powerful gangs, would almost certainly be futile.

Governor’s races, in contrast, are much smaller affairs, in which local capos shifting votes from one side to another could have a real impact. In Michoacan, for instance, the proportional margin was five times larger than Calderon’s victory in 2006, yet the number of votes separating the top two candidates barely exceeded 40,000.

That’s not to suggest that the organized crime won’t play a role on July 1. In addition to the presidential contest, there are, after all, dozens of state and local elections that offer easier targets for Mexico’s drug gangs.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 24 MAR 2022

The 2021 ranking of the world's most violent cities predictably features a heavy presence by Latin American and Caribbean population…

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 4 JAN 2021

A series of unusual and contrasting seizures of rare fauna in the Mexico City area have raised important questions about…

FEATURED / 22 OCT 2020

Despite having long played down the presence of the powerful Jalisco Cartel in Mexico City, a series of recent moves…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…