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Mexico Overwhelmed by Wave of Political Murders Ahead of Elections 

Published: May 28, 2024
(Image: A member of the National Guard stands guard at a crime scene where two people were shot in Acapulco, Mexico, May 7, 2024. REUTERS/Raquel Cunha)

Guarded by more than a dozen police officers equipped with semi-automatic rifles and donning a helmet and bulletproof vest, Ramiro Solorio looks more like he is leading an armed raid than running for local political office in the next elections.

In parts of Mexico, the risk of violence and assassination are so severe that many feel they have no choice but to campaign alongside armed security and move around in armored cars. Many local political candidates have been murdered ahead of national elections scheduled for June 2.

Solorio, 55, who is running for mayor of Acapulco for the Social Encounter Party, is particularly concerned with security, a core issue of his campaign. He said “we are afraid of being murdered,” as he greeted residents in one of Acapulco’s poor outskirts.

More political candidates — six — have been killed in the state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located, than in any other in Mexico.

From September to May, 34 candidates or aspiring candidates have been assassinated. Security analysts say the killings are mostly linked to drug cartels seeking to influence local elections.

Reuters talked to more than a dozen candidates and party heads to understand the impact of the violence on local elections and the fears many aspiring politicians face.

Solorio alleged, vowing to clean up local government and restore law and order, that “the coexistence between the government and crime is a reality.” 

Although the ruling MORENA party is expected to comfortably win the presidential election, the violence against local candidates is a significant blot on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s legacy. Many criticized him for failing to improve Mexico’s security situation. 

Lopez Obrador will leave office this year when his term ends. His successor is to be chosen on June 2, the same day as the violence-hit elections for local governments.

Lopez Obrador has dismissed data showing an increase in attacks as “sensationalism.” The president defends his record on security, pointing to a 5 percent fall in homicides last year compared with 2022. But murders still hover around 30,000 a year and more people have been killed during his presidency than during any other administration in Mexico’s modern history.

“There are areas that candidates definitely can’t enter,” said Eloy Salmeron, head of the opposition PAN party in Guerrero. In some parts, the party has not fielded any candidates. “There is a lot of fear,” he said.


According to the risk consultancy Integralia, this election campaign has already seen the highest number of violent incidents reported against candidates, counting 560 incidents. This is way above the previous high of 389 during the last presidential election, even if the number of murdered candidates is slightly below the 2021 gubernatorial elections.

“The violence that the electoral process is facing is unprecedented,” Armando Vargas, an expert at Integralia said.

Safety concerns have led to dozens of aspiring candidates dropping out in Mexico, and countless more decided never to run.

The impact on municipal politics in particular has put the very functioning of democracy at risk in certain states.

For example, in Tumbiscatio, Michoacan — a violence-ridden town where cartels have used drones armed with explosives — authorities have decided the town is not safe enough to host a voting booth and voters will have to travel to a neighboring town to place their ballot for mayor and other municipal posts. 

According to an electoral authority spreadsheet seen by Reuters, across Michoacan the locations of 11 originally planned voting booths have been canceled due in part to security concerns.

Vicente Sanchez, a security expert at the public research institute Colegio de la Frontera Norte (Colef) in Tijuana, said “It’s an attack on democracy itself”. Organized crime groups are effectively choosing local officials by threatening or assassinating those they oppose, he added.

In Michoacan, which borders Guerrero, Francisco Huacus is running for congress for the opposition PRD party. He campaigns in an armored vehicle and wearing a flak jacket.

“We have to campaign as if we were in a warzone,” he said.

Huacus says his colleagues running for local office are in even more danger than he is, with organized crime groups most interested in exerting local influence that enables them to help control trafficking routes.

The Mexican government has extended security protection to around 500 candidates throughout the country. That’s only a fraction of the total candidates running for more than 20,000 political posts.

Reuters contributed to this report.