On Tuesday, Abel Montufar Mendoza, a PRI candidate for the state legislature in Guerrero, was shot dead in his truck after leaving his campaign headquarters. This was the third political assassination in four days nationwide, and the eighteenth in the State of Guerrero alone, which has been the most violent state for candidates in this year’s electoral process.
Two days earlier, a PRD candidate for local councilor in Chihuahua, Liliana García, and the head of the local chapter of the PES party (in alliance with AMLO), Eduardo Aragón Caraveo, were among nine killed in a series of armed attacks in the State of Chihuahua. Aragón Caraveo, who had been reported missing since the 4th, was found dead in the trunk of his own car on a highway linking the town of Aldama with the state capital.
And two days before that, the cadaver of Adiel Zermann, a mayoral candidate in Tenango del Aire, State of Mexico, was found with a gunshot to the head and possible signs of torture. Zermann, also a member of the PES party, had been a candidate for the MORENA-PT-PES coalition.
According to the Spanish newspaper El País, this brings the number of political assassinations in this election cycle to over 80. Adding in the number of acts of aggression that didn’t result in a homicide, and the number more than doubles. In keeping with President Enrique Peña Nieto’s grisly record of presiding over even more deaths than Felipe Calderón, who launched the “drug war” upon taking office in 2006, we are in the midst of what is likely to be the most violent election period in recent history (keeping in mind that due to Mexico’s recent consolidating of elections, July 1st will be the largest single election day in the nation’s history, with 3,416 offices up for election in one go).
This expanding list of assassinations — made up entirely, so far, of candidates for local office — is worrying for a number of reasons. From the standpoint of pure civics, it discourages people from running for office, participating in the electoral process through campaigning or precinct work, or even showing up to vote (which, in many cases, is precisely the point). It symbolizes the breakdown of Mexico’s social fabric and the level of collusion between government at all levels and the drug cartels. And, in a fundamental sense, it evidences a state unable and unwilling to investigate and punish crime.
But there is another point to be made here. In a year in which a progressive party — MORENA — is poised to win the presidency for the first time ever, the urgent question arises as to how far the state and its allied powers (the poderes fácticos, in Spanish, which include the army, the church, and the elite business classes) are willing to go to stop this from happening. For Mexicans, this is far from abstract speculation: In 1994, PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was assassinated in Tijuana, two short weeks after making a stirring speech promising a turn away from the neoliberal reforms enacted by his predecessor, Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Like the Kennedy assassination, the murder of Colosio has spawned an industry of articles, books, and a feature film, together with its own, equally implausible, “lone gunman” theory.
In a recent appearance on the Rompeviento TV program, journalist Alberto Nájar, BBC Producer and president of the Periodistas de a pie network, tells the story (minute 24:25) of a source who attended a meeting of the wives of prominent business elites and intellectuals. At one point, the subject turned to MORENA’s presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). “And when are they going to kill him?” a number of the women said. “What’s going on? They’re taking a long time.” Nájar recounts that the source was chilled not only by what was said, but with the naturalness of how such comments were bandied about.
From behind closed doors to right out in the open: On Saturday, journalist Ricardo Alemán tweeted an image with the following text: “John Lennon was killed by a fan. Versace was killed by a fan. Selena was killed by a fan. When are you going to do it, chairos [a pejorative term referring to lower-class supporters of AMLO]?” On top of the image, Alemán added his own comment: “THEY’RE TALKING TO YOU!!!” Faced with a deluge of criticism, Alemán went through several stages, first criticizing journalist Julio Hernández of twisting the meaning of the tweet, then claiming it was intended to be a warning of what was being circulated on the internet, before finally coming out with a video apology which also included the claim that he was a victim of a left-wing lynching. Unusually for Mexico, the response was swift: The very next day, Alemán was fired from the Televisa and Channel 11 TV networks, and on Wednesday, by the Milenio newspaper.
Violence and incitement. Bullets and words. No elite, of course, has ever given over power without a fight. The question in this election, in Mexico 2018, is whether this country’s elite is willing to give it over without bloodshed. Or rather, without more bloodshed. AMLO, famously, travels without a security detail, frequently citing the Biblical proverb “El que nada debe, nada teme” (He who owes nothing, fears nothing). But if something were to happen to him, Mexico would need more than proverbs and prayers to save itself.
This article was originally published at mexelects.com.