Assassinations, Arrests Mark Mexican Election
JACKI LYDEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Jacki Lyden, in for Liane Hansen.
Voters in Mexico go to the polls today in 15 of Mexico's 31 states. These are local elections for governors, mayors and state congressional representatives, but the balloting could be a barometer of Mexico in the midst of a vicious and unrelenting drug war. The elections have already been marred by political assassinations, arrest of candidates and allegations of fraud.
NPR's Jason Beaubien joins us from Mexico City. Good morning.
JASON BEAUBIEN: Good morning, Jacki.
LYDEN: Well, youve just returned from some of these areas. Whats the mood going into these elections?
BEAUBIEN: This election is turning into like an episode of "Lost," where absolutely anything could happen. Back in May, we had the mayor of Cancun, he was arrested and charged with working for two of the largest drug cartels in Mexico. And then just this week we had the leading candidate for governor in Tamaulipas, he was assassinated in a gangland-style hit. And then his opponent, out in Quintana Roo, his plane crashed and killed much of his campaign staff. The candidate, however, wasnt on the plane at the time.
There's this element of fear surrounding these elections right at the moment. People are fearful for themselves, in terms of getting out and voting, and fearful that these elections might spark more violence across the country.
LYDEN: Who stands to gain politically in this environment in the elections?
BEAUBIEN: The former ruling party, the PRI, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, looks like they're really going to make gains in this election. President Calderon, he's from the PAN which is a conservative party. There's a lot of dissatisfaction with Calderon and with his drug war, in the sense that it has just spawned violence, it hasnt accomplished anything.
The PRI ruled Mexico for 71 years up until the year 2000 when the PAN finally won back the presidency. And now the PRI is really on the verge of coming back. There are 12 governors that are up for grabs and it looks like the PRI very well could win 11 of them.
You're also getting some surreal alliances taking place, where you got the conservative PAN and the Socialist Labor Party ganging up trying to oust the PRI from other governors' posts.
LYDEN: What are the most significant contests here, you think?
BEAUBIEN: Certainly the governor's race in Oaxaca is a very interesting race. The PRI has been in power for a long time there. There's an attempt to oust the PRI. Also, the mayor of Juarez, that post is up for grabs. You got five people running for what is basically a job where you would be the head of the most deadly city in the Americas at the moment. The current mayor has been under almost constant death threats. The drug gangs threatened to behead him several times.
And, you know, it raises the question of why anyone would want that job. and then, whoever does win, you know, how are they going to go about trying to fix this situation?
LYDEN: Well, it raises it for me, Jason. Why do you think there's five candidates for mayor of Juarez?
BEAUBIEN: It's interesting. I mean, youve got people who seriously think that they can sort this situation out. But also, in Mexican, being in political office gives you great power, great access to resources and it's something that's very coveted in Mexico. So any election at any time, including these, are very important in terms of who's going to be controlling these funds that are available through the government.
LYDEN: NPR's Jason Beaubien. Jason, thanks very much.
BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.
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