Mexico elections: murders hit record high ahead of 1 July vote

More than 130 political assassinations add to death toll amid endemic gang violence

State police officer stands guard near a mass grave that was found in Iguala, Guerrero state, Mexico
Police officer stands guard near one of Mexico’s many recently discovered mass graves
(Image credit: YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty)

Murder rates in Mexico are at a record high following a spate of politically motivated kilings as the country prepares to go to the polls.

On average, someone was killed in Mexico every 15 minutes during May, according to Time magazine. If the bloodshed continues at this rate, the Latin American country will surpass the 29,168 killings reported last year, the highest annual total on record.

Unsurprisingly, the soaring homicide rate has been at the top of the political agenda ahead of Sunday’s election. So what is driving this spike in violence?

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The infiltration of criminal elements in local politics is a key factor. In June 2017, twelve mayors from Puebla state were arrested on suspicion of involvement in a fuel-stealing ring, and there have been similar cases throughout the country. Last week, the entire police force in the northern town of Ocampo was detained on suspicion of having orchestrated the murder of a mayoral candidate.

This merging of the political and criminal worlds has seen the number of attacks on politicians soar by more than 2,400% between 2012 and 2018, says Ruben Salazar, director of Mexico City-based risk analysis firm Etellekt.

“What we are seeing at the moment is a deliberate employment of violence as a political tool, as not only organised crime groups but also local political groups try to perpetuate themselves in power, controlling government structures, as well as lands and both legal and illegal activities, through violence,” Salazar explains.

Since campaigning began in September, 132 politicians, party officials and political candidates have been murdered, CNN reports.

Whoever wins this weekend’s vote, the new president is not due to take office until 1 December, so there are few hopes of the violence abating any time soon.

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