One of Mexico's main political parties has withdrawn from local elections in Chihuahua state after candidates received death threats from alleged drug traffickers, highlighting a trend of increased political violence as cartels look to secure political protection in July's vote.
The National Action Party (PAN) has pulled candidates out of the coming elections in the municipalities of Maguarichi and Gomez Farias after party members were threatened by groups of armed, masked men, and received threats by phone, reported Terra.
According to the chairman of the PAN's State Executive Committee, Mario Vazquez Robles, candidates were warned to "stay out of here because your life is at stake, there is no option here other than the PRI [the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party]."
Robles added that the party had faced threats in 40 municipalities in the region, but would continue to contest the other elections, albeit with a low-profile campaign.
The PAN's withdrawal follows several recent incidents in the state of Guerrero. Last week, there was an attempt on the life of a PRI mayor and an assault on the house of local politician from the Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD). Another Guerrero mayor, also from the PRD, reported that in April he was abducted, beaten, and told to leave the area.
InSight Crime Analysis
Before 71 years of unbroken PRI rule came to an end in 2000, Mexican drug cartels seeking protection from corrupt politicians always knew exactly who to turn to.
Since the arrival of multi-party democracy, the situation has become more complicated for the cartels. According to a Wilson Center report [pdf], the cartels have responded by hedging their bets -- paying off local politicians on all sides before an election, so that they have a friend in office regardless of whoever wins.
While the bribes handed out to individuals may be smaller, cartels must now pay out a greater amount of money overall. This financial drain could arguably spur criminal groups to rely more on violent threats instead of just bribery. It could also motivate them to try and eliminate all but their favored option from the field of candidates.
The politicians favored by the cartels are not necessarily the PRI representatives, as demonstrated by the attack on the PRI mayor in Guerrero. Such incidents cast doubt on assertions that the PRI's return to the presidency could signal a return to the so-called "narco-pact" that once existed between the PRI and the drug cartels. However, the threats faced by the PAN in Chihuahua could also feed such suspicions.