Mexico’s drug cartels appear to have declared open season on any candidate for public office who will not toe their line in the run-up to June’s midterm elections. On May 14, mayoral candidate Enrique Hernández Salcedo was shot to death by gunmen who fired from a passing truck as he was making a speech in the town of Yurécuaro, Michoacán. Three spectators were injured. Hernández was a leader of the town’s “self-defense force,” which took up arms to break the grip of the Knights Templar drug cartel in the region. He was running with the left-opposition Morena party.
But even more mainstream politicians are being targeted. Also on May 14, gunmen fatally shot Héctor López Cruz, who was running for the city council of Huimanguillo, Tabasco, on the ticket of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). López was ambushed as he returned home after stumping in local neighborhoods.
And on May 1, Ulises Fabián Quiroz, mayoral candidate running on the ticket of the PRI and the Green Party, was gunned down on his way to an election rally in his town of Chilapa, Guerrero. Chilapa has been the scene of a bloody turf war between rival narco-gangs; in one grisly incident in November, a pile of 11 decapitated bodies was left by a local roadside. Burned, decapitated or mutilated bodies have been turning up ever since, and the PRI initially had trouble finding someone to replace Quiroz as candidate.
There have also been politically targeted kidnappings. On May 12, Silvia Romero Suárez, a congressional candidate in Guerrero with the left-opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), was abducted at a roadblock on her way to a campaign rally in Ciudad Altamirano. She was released the following day, but the abduction was clearly intended as a warning.
Southern Tabasco state borders Guatemala and is emerging as a key trafficking route for drugs and migrants. It shows signs of following Guerrero and Michoacán into endemic violence. On May 18, two young grandsons of Maribel Zacarías Vidal, mayoral candidate with the left-opposition Labor Party (PT) in the Tabasco town of Macuspana, were kidnapped. They were released after several hours—but, once again, the double abduction was obviously intended as a warning.
The electoral season kicked off in March with the abduction and murder by decapitation of Aidé Nava, 42-year-old woman running for mayor in Ahuacuotzingo, Guererro, with the PRD. The current wave of attacks is worse than those that have occasioned other recent elections.