Mexico Elections Pit Teachers Against Gang Members in Violent Riots

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Mexico’s elections are pitting teachers against gangs members and corrupt politicians in some of the worst political riots that the nation has ever seen. The mid-term elections, which triggered the outpouring of hostility and unrest among the country’s citizens, are seen as a test for Mexico’s current president, Enrique Pena Nieto whose International Revolutionary Party are expected to lose several seats and only retain power with a small majority.

The violence began in the lead up to the elections on June 3, when a group of radicals from an aggrieved teachers union, National Coordinator of Educational Workers (CNTE), protested against Pena Nieto’s education reform policy and what they believe is a corrupt government system. The teachers claim that Mexican politicians are in league with known criminal gangs, some of whom are alleged to be behind the disappearance of 43 student teachers in September, 2014. The students, presumed dead after the morbid discovery of fragments of one student’s bones, are just a small number of those who have fallen victim to the Mexican drug cartel over recent years. The teachers blocked roads, burned ballot papers and broke into electoral offices in the southern towns of Oaxaca, Veracruz and Puebla. Although locals claim the two largest parties, the PRI and the PDI, both work closely with the gangs, sympathetic Representative for the Electoral Commission, Luz Fabiola Matildes Gama, claims there is nothing that she can do about it, “my work is to ensure the elections run normally,” she said, “it is not political.”

Reports suggest that at least 20 political campaign workers have also been killed in the run up to the Mexico elections. Drug cartels are presumed to be behind the savage attacks on campaign party headquarters, individuals and party related events in an attempt to intimidate and eradicate those whose political interests do not serve their own. Reports claim that a week ago, a finance manager for one political party was found hanging in New Mexico with a bullet in his head. Law enforcement officials, however, were quick to declare it a suicide. Be-headings and gunfights continued to take the lives of those active in Mexican party politics as recently as yesterday, Saturday June 6, when 13 were killed in the crossfire of a violent outbreak between two opposing police forces in Acapulco.

MexicoIn the Mexico election that has pit teachers against gang members, Mexican government officials retaliated to the violence by deploying armed soldiers and police to the affected areas on Saturday, June 6, with the intention of protecting voters who wish to cast their ballots. A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry did not wish to divulge exactly how many federal troops had been assigned to the task, but a statement confirmed that a “nationwide operation” had been launched in order to “guarantee citizens the conditions that will let them exercise their vote.” With 3000 police officers and approximately 1500 armed military entering the town of Oaxaca on Saturday morning, some may say the official government present is bordering on excessive, but spokesperson for President Pena Nieto, Eduardo Sanchez, assured reporters that their conduct would remain above-board, “we will take all necessary measures to protect the elections,” he said, “within the framework of legality.”

As Mexicans cast their ballots for nine state governorships and over 1000 state posts across the country, the mid-term elections this year are expected to see a higher turn out than usual. Usually an election that passes without much ceremony, the Mexico mid-term elections that have seen gang members and corrupt politicians pitted against the mourning families of missing students and dissident teachers has created more interest in the political workings of the country than usual. That said, most residents still believe their votes do not really count for much. Victoria Salmeron Hernandez, sister to missing student Jorge Luis said, “We don’t want elections. What is the point in electing new governors? They keep doing the same thing.”

By Alison Klippenstein

LA Times: Violence, boycotts loom on eve of Mexico’s elections

BBC News: The Mexican town ‘governed by gangs’ goes to the polls, Mexico votes in mid-term elections marked by violence

BBC Mundo: Chilapa, la violenta ciudad mexicana que llama al boicot de las elecciones

Yahoo News: Mexico mobilizes army in face of election protests

Elfinanciero: Encuentran cuerpo del secretario de Finanzas del PRD-DF

Photo Courtesy of Chris Christensen’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

In Line Photo Courtesy of Presidencia de la República Mexicana’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License