Mexican Election's Grim 'Post Mortem'


Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mex. -- A kid was killed this past Thursday night while buying bread at a bakery, along with the owner of the shop and an employee.

A woman was found dead in a suburban neighborhood.

A body was hurled from a moving vehicle.

A street vendor was murdered on a busy road.

As many media outlets hailed the July 4 elections as proof that democracy continues to be alive and well in Mexico, the wave of killings in this border city told a more ominous story and showed the limits of what elections can accomplish.

Out of town, the body of the state penitentiary’s chief of custodians was found hanging from an overpass.

A total of 13 executions in just one day.

Overall, only 35 percent of voters cast their ballots in last week’s state and local elections. Political analysts blamed the low turnout on the drug traffickers’ reign of terror that continues even as the winners’ campaign promises echo from signs still hanging from lamp poles and gigantic rooftop billboards.

“The numerous killings, locally and at the national level, despite the high number of arrests of narcos [drug traffickers], speaks loudly of the extreme incapacity of the government to deal with the problem,’’ said Avelino Soto Ugalde, a professor at the local university. Soto Ugalde, like many political experts, believes that the government is sinking deeper into crisis, exacerbated by a complete lack of public confidence.

That apathy and pessimism have increased with daily revelations of how political corruption and violence are closely linked. For example, a few days before the elections, a narco associate testified by video that the execution of a state prosecutor in charge of investigating drug-related crimes was ordered by top officials in the same office. Apparently they worried that the prosecutor was “getting too deep” into the cases of narcos already in prison.

“Somebody from inside the jail called us,” alleged 25-year-old Cristian Rosado Mendoza, a member of a reputed gang called La Linea, (the Line), in a video widely distributed to the media by the Mexican Federal Police, then recalled a few hours later. Rosado said he had been working for the narcotraficants for two and a half months and was paid 2000 pesos (about $US200) a week.

Sometimes his job included execution, he said, calmly detailing some of the operations in which he was involved.

No less troubling is the continuing failure -- or inability -- of the political class to respond to the violence. As the killings continued, the honchos from the mainstream PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), PAN (Institutional Revolutionary Party), and PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party), as well as some minor party including the PT, the so-called “Partido Verde” -- no relation to the Greens -- spent their time analyzing the polling results and strategizing for the next round of elections in 2011 and the presidential race of 2012.

For now, all political promises are on hold. Last week’s winners are still months away from taking office. In Ciudad Juarez, this is scheduled to take place in October. Meanwhile, the city’s acting mayor is expected to spend the next two months making that sure his accounts are in order and lobbying for his next political post.

At the national level, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the charismatic leader from the left who narrowly lost the presidential race in 2006 to PAN’s Felipe Calderón -- many argued because of fraud -- announced this week that he will run again in 2012. It’s not yet clear, however, whether he will do so again under the umbrella of PRD, or if he will run as the candidate of an independent coalition.

Calderón, for his part, is busy trying to assure what many describe as “an honorable exit’’ as he winds up his six-year term. But if he is to achieve that goal, he must first avoid derailment of whatever is left of his presidential agenda and ease tensions with the leadership of PRI, which held the presidency for 71 years until 2000 and won nine of the 12 governors races up for grabs last week, and PRD. PAN, meanwhile, had its own victories, including winning governorships in Sinaloa, Puebla and Oaxaca, the heavily indigenous state which the PRI has ruled with an iron fist for 80 years.

While publicly insisting that the election results will not change his strategies, Calderón did change the official slogan of his campaign against the narco cartels from “War Against Drugs,” to the tamer, vaguer “Our War.” The new slogan has annoyed many Mexicans, with good reason. They believe this is a war they never asked for and is draining public funds with no results.

The federal government reported recently that in the past 13 years, it has spent more than $6 billion in public security programs, yet crime has continued to soar.

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