Inside world’s bloodiest election in Mexico with more than 130 candidates dead
To his supporters, Fernando Puron was a new breed of politician those living in the Mexican border city of Piedras Negras desperately needed.
To his enemies, the father-of-one was too big a thorn in the side of the country’s most ruthless drug cartel, Los Zetas.
The chance of him winning a congressional seat in tomorrow’s elections was too great for the drug barons, so after finishing an election debate on June 8, he was assassinated.
As a fan asked to join him for a selfie, a bearded gunman shot Puron in the head.
The murder, which was captured on CCTV, was the 112th of a politician in Mexico since campaigning began in September.
Now, just three weeks on, the death toll of candidates stands at more than 130.
The country is heading for a record 32,000 reported murders this year, more than double the rate in 2014. Just 2% have been solved.
Despite billions spent and huge cash injections from the US, Mexico is the world’s most dangerous country devoid of war, as Los Zetas, Jalisco New Generation, Sinaloas and Tijuana cartel members fight for supremacy.
Security expert Alejandro Hope says: “With the evolution of crime, it becomes much more important to gain control over territory, over local governments.”
A political activist we will call Francisco Riveria, who asked that his real name not be used for fear of reprisal, confirms the political murders were carried out on the orders of the cartels.
“Anyone who poses a threat to their power, to their success has a target on their backs,” he says. “The cartels will take a life as easy as a man takes a shave in the morning. They have no value for life.
“Anyone who has a ran a campaign promising to bring them down has been killed. Puron’s death was one of the most clinical, others have been tortured alive before
As recently as Sunday, the town of Ocampo’s entire police department was detained after a mayoral candidate was shot dead.
Federal police arrested 28 cops and the local public security secretary following the murder of Fernando Angeles Juarez two weeks ago. There are suspicions that the officers were involved in the 64-year-old’s murder, while prosecutors have accused them of having links to organised crime groups.
Unsurprisingly, many candidates have dropped out of their electoral races, in some cases leaving no one to stand. In the border state of Chihuahua, more than 80 withdrew after the murders of 10 people.
On Sunday Mexico will elect not only a new president but also a large proportion of its congress and a new mayor of Mexico City. More than 15,000 candidates are campaigning for 3,400 local, state and federal positions.
They include brave mother-of-three Maria del Carmen Ortiz, who took her husband Jose Remedios Aguirre Sanchez’s place after he was assassinated in May for defying the cartels.
Many Mexicans hope that current president Enrique Pena Nieto, who holds a mere 12% approval rating, will finally be gone.
Corruption has peaked during his term in office, with 14 former or current governors from 31 states under investigation for
bribery, fraud or collusion with organised crime cartels.
When Pena Nieto is seen or referenced, Mexicans have taken to chanting “F*** your b**** mother” at him.
The frontrunner to replace him is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has run a
populist campaign promising to crack down on the corrupt elite and organised crime syndicates while also supporting the poor.
Even he may not be safe from the cartels though. It is almost 25 years since leading presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was shot dead at a political rally in Tijuana, proving violence is nothing new in Mexico.
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