Mexican Drug Gangs Intervene in Elections

By May Wilkerson 06/29/12

This weekend's Mexican elections are critical to drug gangs who need local leaders to turn a blind eye.

Ramirez has his fair share of enemies.
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Mexico will elect a new president on Sunday—but the nation's drug cartels have more at stake in the country'slocal elections. The gangs rely heavily on local politicians—especially mayors—who control the police force and can often be made willing to turn a blind eye to drug-trafficking operations. In the lead-up to gubernatorial and mayoral elections in states across Mexico, there have been numerous reports of the notoriously violent cartels using bribery and scare tactics to back candidates who won't interfere with their activities—and sabotage those they see as a threat. Graco Ramirez, a gubernatorial candidate in the central state of Morelos, says armed gang members approached his campaign staffers, and warned him to stay home on election day. "Drug gangs don't want me to become governor," he says. "We would stop turning a blind eye to their activities." On April 30, members of La Familia drug cartel opened fire on the house of Saul Garcia—a candidate for mayor in a small Morelos town—and left a note threatening to kill him and his family if he didn't withdraw from the race. "I don't have enemies," says Garcia. "When I realized they were threatening me and saying I had to quit I thought, 'But wait, we are free to vote and to be elected.'" 

Drug gangs have reportedly been "influencing" local elections in such ways for decades. With six governors about to be elected, as well as hundreds of mayors and council members in states across Mexico, officials say violence and kidnappings have increased. "We've said for several months that we have to recognize the presence and action of criminal groups around the election, particularly in the local sphere," said Mexico's federal interior secretary, Alejandro Poire, on Thursday. "We are acting to contain it, to prevent it and to bring those responsible to justice." 

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.