Mexico Political Party Withdraws After Cartel Threat

Published: 11 June 2013


Following death threats from drug cartels, Mexico’s National Action Party (PAN) has pulled out of upcoming local elections in the state of Chihuahua.

Alleged drug traffickers have threatened party members over the phone, and politicians have been confronted by groups of armed, masked men. The party deemed the risk too high in the municipalities of Maguarichi and Gomez Farias and will not run in the July 7 mayoral elections. PAN has been threatened in 40 municipalities in the region, but will continue running campaigns in those locations with increased caution.

Party Chairman Mario Vazquez Robles confirmed the threats. The message was clear: “Stay out because your life is at stake. Here there is no other option than the PRI.” The PRI, or the Institutional Revolutionary Party, is the current party in power both in Chihuahua and at the national level. 

Robles noted that the threats in the other municipalities, though concerning, are not as severe. The pullouts were in places where the threats were worse and where traffickers have carried out threats in the recent past.

The Mexican government claims that organized crime is declining. The average number of killings per day in Mexico has allegedly decreased from 41 to 34, but the accuracy of the numbers is disputed by analysts, including InSight Crime, who question the government’s methodology and data. Tijuana newsweekly, ZETA, found that the number of organized crime homicides were actually higher than what the government reported.

Second to Guerrero, Chihuahua is one of Mexico’s most violent states. It has seen violent crime increase over the past few years. In 2011 the Mexican government reported that 1,933 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez alone. As of November 2012 Chihuahua recorded 2,350 murders for the year, 9 percent of the country’s total murders.

The ability of drug cartels to use violence to assert influence in public and private spheres continues to be a major issue. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 68 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 1992 and more journalists have gone missing than in any other country in the world. At least six media outlets were violently attacked in 2012 alone.

Using violence to secure political outcomes is not new in Mexico. PAN’s decision is another example that illustrates the tenuous process in gaining political office in a society laden with powerful drug cartels.