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Mexico’s Wave of Political Violence

Mexico’s Wave of Political Violence

By Jason Collins

Claudia Sheinbaum and Electoral Brutality in Mexico

Mexico has seen some historic happenings during its latest presidential election, but not all of them have been good. Following the voting that was held in the first week of June, Mexico had its first-ever female president, a historic feat. But Claudia Sheinbaum’s success comes with a record number of political assassinations that make Mexico’s election the bloodiest in modern history which many are now calling a victory for organized crime.    

Here’s all you need to know about the new president of Mexico, Claudia Sheinbaum, and the extreme violence that plagued the elections. 

Who is Claudia Sheinbaum?  

The people of Mexico have spoken, albeit their choices were limited due to a number of political candidates who were killed off, and they have voted for their first-ever female president. Claudia Sheinbaum, from the Morena Party, is a 61-year-old climate scientist who was also a former mayor of Mexico City for six years. Known as la Doctora, Sheinbaum has a doctorate in energy engineering. Sheinbaum is also Jewish, making her both the first-ever Jewish person and female president in Mexican history. Her maternal grandparents fled Europe to escape the Holocaust and settled in Mexico. Sheinbaum was born in Mexico City several decades later in 1962. 

A prolific author, Sheinbaum has written over 100 articles and two books on energy and the environment. She’s long been considered a rising star within the climate change movement and Mexican politics.  

In the early 2000’s Sheinbaum entered into politics as environment secretary of Mexico City appointed by her mentor who also happens to be the former president of Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. In 2015 she achieved another historic milestone by becoming the first elected woman to head up the Tlalpan district of Mexico City. In June 2023 she stepped down to focus on her run for president and it certainly paid off. 

The Results 

On election night in Mexico, the results were clear: Claudia Sheinbaum was set to be the next president. Claudia won by a historic landslide with 58.3-60.7 percent of the vote. In addition to being the bloodiest, this election was also the biggest with close to 100 million Mexicans casting their vote. Sheinbaum battled it out with former member of Congress Jorge Alvarez Maynez who picked up 9.9%-10.8% of the vote and female rival Xochitl Galvez who received 26.6%-28.6%, putting her in second place. 

After accepting that she had won, Sky News reported that Sheinbaum told the press outside of a hotel,

For the first time in the 200 years of the Republic, I will become the first woman president of Mexico.

A Bloody Election 

A female president is a win for a country that has been battling criminal violence against women for decades. Statistics show that in 2023, around ten women were murdered every day in Mexico. Putting that in perspective, about that number are murdered every day in the United States, a country that has nearly three times the population of Mexico. Many are hoping that with Sheinbaum as president, femicide can finally be tackled. Public policy analyst Lilian Chapa Koloffon told Axios,

She’s likely to be more sensible to this matter, which could help move the needle if she adopts policies that better protect women.

But it was only hours after the election that tragedy struck when a female Mexican mayor was killed. Yolanda Sánchez was shot to death in the town of Cotija, located in Michoacán state, which was one of the most criminally strategic states during the elections. According to a statement from the Michoacan attorney general’s office, Sánchez and her bodyguard were gunned down after a moving vehicle opened fire on them. This wasn’t even the first political assassination of the election season. Buckle up because this is where it gets wild.  

A Record Number of Political Assassinations     

The official number of assassinated political candidates during the 2024 election season is currently sitting at a jaw-dropping 37 candidates. Many are calling Sheinbaum’s victory a victory for organized crime and unfortunately, the numbers don’t lie. Armando Vargas, an Integralia researcher, explained,

It’s possible that violence is being used as a means to define the election in advance.

It has been revealed that at least 23 political candidates were killed before elections while campaigning. One candidate, Jorge Huerta Cabrera, was shot dead two days before the elections at a rally. In May, mayoral candidate Lucero Lopez who was the candidate for the municipality of La Concordia, along with nine others, were killed in an ambush during a campaign rally. Lopez was a member of the Pensemos en Chiapas (Chiapanese Popular Party) a political party with a focus on Progressivism that some feel would turn Mexico into a welfare state.

Adding to the tally is Bertha Gisela Gaytán Gutiérrez who had just started her hopeful campaign. Gutiérrez, like Sheinbaum, was also a member of the Moreno party. The Moreno party (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional) is a left-wing political party that has interestingly been the ruling party since 2018. The Moreno Party platform advocates for socialism and progressivism.  

These killings have been linked to cartels and other organized crime who have long since played a role in the politics of the country, but not to this extent. On Friday, before the elections, local authorities reported that a house that was storing ballots was burned. While no official statement on the suspects was released, it doesn’t take Jack Ryan to figure out that the most likely culprit was one of the two warring cartels in the town. 

One local priest revealed that organized crime and electoral violence go hand-in-hand:

The criminal groups want to have absolute control over the populations and appoint candidates who are obedient to them.

By the time the votes were cast, over 129 political violence events were recorded. The election and results have begun to take on the form of an elaborate plan you’d see on a season of Narcos or The Bridge. Rarely have the lines between fiction and reality been so blurred in national electoral politics in the modern era. Suppose the cartels have played a significant role in this election, using coercion and outright force to get the candidate they want. In that case, they’ve achieved a level of power and audacity that should be alarming to all people in North America. 

So, while Sheinbaum’s historic victory does provide some hope for curtailing gender-based violence in the country, it does offer a stark reminder of who is really in charge in this Latin American country, and that cartel-related crime is not something of the past. The outcome of Mexico’s elections boils down to one depressing fact: this is more of a win for organized crime. Why? Many answers could be correct and one of them points to the rumors of the Moreno Party’s so-called ties with drug cartels coupled with political infighting within the party. For example, Salvador Llamas of the Moreno party was gunned down in a restaurant which led prosecutors to believe it was related to involvement with a drug cartel.

We have to confront the glaring question that emerges after such extreme political violence occurred over the last year. This election has cartel fingerprints all over it. But why? Why did the cartels exercise their “veto” and why is Sheinbaum the winning candidate? Since her win, Sheinbaum has made no mention of cartels and what her approach to them will be. In April it was reported that masked men from a cartel stopped Sheinbaum’s car and asked that she address the violence in Chiapas. Is Sheinbaum’s win a result of a unified reaction from the cartels or is it because as a Jewish female, she’s the perfect figurehead to run the country while they do whatever they want? Only time will tell.   

Todd Davis

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