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Mexico: Violence Continues in Wake of Elections

After an electoral season marred by narco-violence and assassination of candidates of all parties, the results from Mexico’s June 7 vote are in. The coalition led by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico as a one-party state for 80 years, seems set to maintain its slim majority in the lower-house Chamber of Deputies, although it will lose some seats.

Gubernatorial races were also held in several states, including some hit especially hard by the cartel violence. The PRI gained the governorship of Guerrero, but lost control of Michoacán to the left opposition. In one upset, the PRI lost northern Nuevo León state to an independent, Jaime “El Bronco” Rodríguez Calderón—the first independent candidate to win a governorship in Mexico. The gadfly rancher survived two assassination attempts by the Zetas when he was mayor of García, a Monterrey-area municipality. He also lost a son who was killed in an attempted abduction. And his young daughter was kidnapped, although returned unharmed. El Bronco beat the PRI and other established parties with a populist campaign and invective against entrenched corruption. With the state’s establishment press bitterly opposed to him, he made deft use of social media to mobilize support.

Despite some 40,000 soldiers and federal police troops sent into the streets to keep the peace, violence continued right up to the vote—and has continued since. At least 1,000 people in the small town of Pueblo Nuevo, Guanajuato, staged an uprising June 8 as results showed a win for the PRI mayoral candidate, Lariza Solorzano Villanueva. Townsfolk torched police vehicles and ransacked government offices to vent their rage at a third term for a member of the Solorzano Villanueva family.

Activists were divided on whether to support the left opposition parties in the elections, or boycott them altogether as a farce. The National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), a radical faction of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), pledged to disrupt the elections. In Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Chiapas and other states CNTE teachers blocked highways, seized toll booths, and occupied offices of National Electoral Institute. In some places, they seized facilities of the Mexican state oil company Pemex. In Oaxaca, taxi drivers armed with clubs and rocks mobilized to evict CNTE teachers from a Pemex plant they had occupied, and clashes ensued.

In another sign of ugly divisions at the grassroots, a violent battle broke out in Mexico City’s  Tlahuac district June 5 after hundreds of squatters took over a vacant lot at a place called La Poblanita and set up an encampment. Other neighborhood residents moved in to evict them, sparking the donnybrook. While actual ownership of the property is unclear, the squatters were said to be organized by the Francisco Villa Popular Front (FPFV), in turn said to be linked to one of the major left-opposition formations, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Those who mobilized to evict them were reportedly followers of the Mexican Electricity Workers Union (SME).

The SME and PRD have generally been allied to oppose the PRI-led “reform” that would open Mexico’s power sector to private investment. The clash at Tlahuac speaks to a social fragmentation even affecting the popular opposition to the narco co-opted political establishment.

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