May 30, 2024 - World

Battle against surging violence awaits Mexico's new president

A group of people led by two women who are crying push a brown casket with white flowers atop

Relatives mourn at the funeral in Celaya, Mexico, of Gisela Gaytán, a mayoral candidate killed on April 1 amid a wave of violence against politicians. Photo: Mario Armas/AFP via Getty Images

The candidate who on Sunday will be elected as Mexico's next president faces an uphill battle in stemming violence.

The big picture: Outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's security policies, which included creating the National Guard and giving it tremendous power — while staying mostly away from battles with cartels and focusing on employment and education instead — have largely failed to stem criminal activity, experts say.

  • "Evidence suggests that illegal outfits now have more social control, state allies and economic might," a recent report from the International Crisis Group found.
  • Large criminal groups are fighting over territory for drug routes to the U.S. and increasingly to make money off human smuggling.

Zoom in: Violence has increasingly targeted politicians.

  • Since 2018, public officials and political candidates have been the targets of more than 1,938 threats, attacks, kidnappings and murders, per a specialized database from nonprofit Data Cívica.
  • This election cycle, at least two dozen candidates have been killed, and 469 candidates were granted special police protection after they received threats, the security ministry says.

What they're saying: "Criminal meddling in elections through threats or murders, hitting practically all political parties, has become more regular in the past 10 to 15 years," says Laura N. Medellín Mendoza, a law and criminology researcher at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León.

  • She adds that the situation has been more dire this election and that it's become clear authorities aren't equipped to protect so many candidates.

The bottom line: "Criminality in general is so entrenched that it's hard to think any of it will be magically resolved based on June 2," Medellín says.

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