Home NewsCrime Democracy in Guerrero is kidnapped by drug traffickers (Animal Político)

Democracy in Guerrero is kidnapped by drug traffickers (Animal Político)

by Yucatan Times
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In Guerrero, local candidates reveal that without the permission of the drug trafficker they cannot campaign; With six candidates murdered between September 2023 and March of this year, the state is the most dangerous to seek public office.

The news portal “Animal Politico” interviewed Elena, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons. She only allows it to be said that she is a member of Morena, the party of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, that she has been a candidate for different municipal positions several times, and that she has survived three attacks to keep her in silence.

It is, of course, not the only voice that organized crime has tried to silence in Guerrero, one of the most violent states in Mexico, with more than 6,500 murders and more than 1,500 disappearances in the last 5 years. and one of the states that is suffering the most from electoral violence in this 2023-2024 process, according to data collected by the civil organization Data Cívica in the project known as ‘Vote between bullets’.

In fact, with six candidates murdered between September 2023 and March 28 of this year, two of them in the same week in the municipality of Chilapa, the state of Guerrero is the most dangerous to aspire to public office, even though the campaigns for mayors formally start until April 20 and those for local deputies began only on March 31.

Elena, in addition to being displaced from her municipality due to threats from organized crime, says that she takes extreme precautions—during the conversation with Animal Político in Chilpancingo, she keeps nervously observing who comes and goes through the door of the café—because she already knows what it’s like to lose something very dear: her parents were shot to death years ago, after her father announced his aspirations to run for public office.

Elena was very nervous, the ringing of the cell phone made her jump with fear, she thought they were threatening her once again, and she narrates how she had to flee in an old truck along dirt roads to another municipality in Guerrero, to survive the third attack against her.

When asked why they want to kill her – the other two attacks were in the 2021 campaign, one on voting day, while police officers were escorting her as a precautionary measure granted after the murder of her parents. Elena explained that in Guerrero, if you want to be a candidate for any public position, you have to comply with an elemental rule.

“In Guerrero, if you want to be a candidate for anything, and you want to campaign, the first thing you have to do is ask permission from the drug trafficking groups”, she stated.

After the lapidary phrase, which she pronounces lowering her voice so that the diners at the neighboring tables do not raise an eyebrow, Elena lets a few seconds pass to make sure that no one other than the journalist in front of her has heard her.

—If they give you permission, then you can tour towns, do your propaganda and campaign. But be careful—she now raises her index finger as she opens her eyes wide—even if they give you permission, you can’t mention anything about security. Nothing about crime, drug trafficking, violence, insecurity, peace, or anything related to that topic.

—What if they don’t give you permission? —the journalist asked Elena.

Elena moves uncomfortably in her chair, shrugs her shoulders, and looks suspiciously again at the diners around her.

—Without permission you have no right to campaign. It’s that simple. And if you go ahead because you feel very brave, or because you want to campaign in good faith, then it will not take long for you to receive the threat that, at any moment, they will try to kill you.

—But why does organized crime seek so much to influence the elections?

Next, the woman clears her throat and begins to explain something that will be repeated both on the recorder and outside of it, by former officials, party leaders, and her own candidates.

—They have money, they have weapons, they have territorial control, but they do not have, or not yet is full political relations to influence other public spaces.

—That’s why the election has become so important for them —she adds—. And not only because of territorial control and the distribution of drugs through the region, but also because of the domination of public transportation, markets, poultry business, slaughterhouses, livestock, etc.

What interests the cartels is that the public budget reaches their hands, so they use it however they want, Elena stated.

And all of this, she concludes, with a difference compared to past electoral processes.

—Candidates used to campaign and if they won, then they were contacted by these criminal groups. But today it is not like that. Now you need their permission to become a candidate. And if you don’t ask for their approval, they kill you before you get to the polls.

For this reason, Elena says with her head down, with an exhausted and resigned expression on her face, that she has been mulling over a possibility in her head for some time.

—The government of President López Obrador is not seeking to pacify the country, they want the cartels to keep the people in terror, being extorted and threatened, and who can guarantee that people in Guerrero can go out and vote freely?

Elena shakes her head and takes a deep breath.

“The truth is, I’m thinking about leaving the country and it hurts a lot.” She looks at her hands and makes another brief pause. But if I can’t fight politically to change things, I will try to do it from the outside, because I can’t do it here, if I go out to speak publicly about all this… they will kill me.

“Democracy is kidnapped”

Unlike the electoral processes of 2018 and 2021, when the events of political-criminal violence were concentrated in the Western, Southern and Gulf regions, for this 2023-2024 process the violence has already spread throughout almost the entire country, with Guerrero being one of the most violent states, along with Guanajuato, Veracruz, Zacatecas and Baja California, according to data collected by Data Cívica for ‘Voting between bullets’.

This research also provides other important data. For example, the ‘political-criminal’ attacks occurred in 581 municipalities that concentrate up to 75 million people, which translates into 60% of the Mexican population living in a territory where organized crime seeks to influence the political sphere. through the use of attacks (assaults, extortions, kidnappings, murders, etc.) directed at different political actors, and their families.

And another revealing fact: of the 1,373 attacks registered in the period 2018-2024 against these political actors, including not only candidates but also public officials such as mayors, councilors or local police, almost 80%, that is, Almost a thousand people were killed. Or what is the same: 8 out of every 10 organized crime attacks against political actors are lethal in Mexico.

In the case of Guerrero, there are up to 16 criminal groups that carry out a good part of this electoral violence: three ‘national’ cartels—Familia Michoacana, Jalisco Cartel, and the Caborca/Los Rusos cartel—, and 13 of a local context, among which stand out ‘Los Ardillos’ and ‘Los Tlacos’, whose confrontations for territorial control and the extortion business against transporters, merchants, and poultry, meat and food businesses, among many other items, have unleashed terror especially in the capital, Chilpancingo, and in surrounding municipalities such as Tixtla, Quechultenango, José Joaquín Herrera, and Chilapa —where images of armed children to confront the cartels went viral around the world—.

It is very difficult, or almost impossible, to campaign in Guerrero, because there are entire regions and municipalities controlled by organized crime. And although there are National Guard and Army checkpoints everywhere, everything is under the cartels control. I would say that there is between 60 and 80% of Guerrero’s territory controlled by criminal groups.

When asked if there is any region of Guerrero where there are free elections, she responds that you can “more or less” campaign in places like Acapulco, despite its almost 1,500 murders in the last three years, the capital Chilpancingo, which also suffers serious insecurity problems in some areas of Iguala, in the municipal seat of Tlapa, and in some places in the high mountains that are far from drug trafficking routes and that are not of interest to the cartels.

“There is no real democracy in Guerrero,” she concludes bluntly. Under this scheme in which we live, what there are are impositions of organized crime, with the consent of the state and federal government, to decide who does and does not govern.

“Unfortunately,” she concludes, putting her hands together and showing her open palms, “democracy in Guerrero is kidnapped by drug traffickers.”


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