Mexican Drug Lord's Brother Arrest Rep. Pic
Mexican cartels are playing a large role in Mexico's electoral campaign Markus Spiske/Unsplash.

In Mexico's ongoing electoral cycle, violence from cartels has permeated the campaign landscape, escalating the risks faced by candidates seeking public office, with dozens already killed and the period already the violent in the country's history, according to an April report by Laboratorio Electoral.

The Washington Post recently embedded with Willy Ochoa, a senatorial candidate, during a campaign stint to recount the dangers he faces on a regular basis, with the candidate mobilizing an unprecedented security presence in response to the looming threat of cartel attacks.

Ochoa's convoy is fortified by three truckloads of national guard troops, two state police cars with flashing red lights, his own bulletproof SUV, and a cohort of vigilant bodyguards. Bodyguards remain vigilant for potential drone attacks while spotting cartel members who could potentially attempt direct attacks. Ochoa decided to send his family out of state to continue campaigning.

Mexico's electoral climate has become increasingly hostile, with organized crime groups transforming the democratic process into a lethal battleground. This year's campaign has witnessed over two dozen candidate fatalities and numerous withdrawals from the race and more than 400 candidates seeking federal protection.

The motivations behind these violent acts are clear, the Post adds: organized crime seeks to install sympathetic leaders in local offices to further their exploitation of Mexican communities. Cartels, once primarily focused on drug trafficking to the United States, have expanded their operations to include migrant smuggling, extortion, and securing contracts for affiliated businesses.

The impact of cartel influence extends beyond municipal elections, permeating gubernatorial and congressional races. In regions where cartels wield substantial control, they dictate entry permissions and even constrain public discourse, stifling any discourse critical of their activities.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's reluctance to acknowledge the gravity of the situation has drawn criticism, with accusations that the government downplays the extent of violence in regions like Chiapas.

AMLO, as the president is known, said in late April that cartels are "respectful" people as they mostly attack each other. "Fortunately, the attacks that happen in this country generally occur between (criminal) groups. They respect the citizens," he said.

The Mexican president has refused to have any direct confrontation with the cartels, claiming that their members are turn to crime due to the lack of opportunities in the country. Under this administration, he uses a strategy called "hugs, not bullets," focusing on providing job training programs for young people to prevent them from joining the cartels as gunmen.

However, even López Obrador's allies, including presidential front-runner Claudia Sheinbaum, have encountered intimidation tactics from masked assailants aligned with powerful cartels.

The episode took place in late April, when Sheinbaum was stopped by a group of masked men who reportedly asked her to resolve the violence in the southern state of Chiapas if she won in the upcoming elections.

The leading presidential candidate's vehicle window was down as she listened to the men's demands calmly. The men filmed the entire interaction on their phones, and one of them shook hands with her before allowing the vehicle to move further.

The entrenched nexus between cartels and politicians underscores the formidable challenge facing candidates like Ochoa, the Post concluded. The proliferation of cartels in Chiapas, once an emblem of revolutionary resistance, illustrates the evolving dynamics of Mexico's drug trade and its implications for local governance.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.