In the July 5 national legislative elections President Felipe Calderon sought a public mandate to back his Cartel War. He did not get it. The old, hyper-corrupt PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) has won at least 36 percent of the vote, which will make it the largest party in the Chamber of Deputies. PRI will likely have around 200 seats once the final tally is verified by the IFE (Federal Electoral Institute). Calderon's PAN (National Action Party) got an estimated 28 percent of the vote. The left-wing PRD (Democratic Revolution Party) got a miserable 12 percent. The "anulista" movement may have had more success than anticipated, with seven to ten percent of the voters not choosing any candidates. The "anulista" message is: we don't trust any of you and we don't like the system. The IFE points out that the numbers could change, but well over 90 percent of the ballots have been counted. The PRI ran Mexico for seven decades. Its first big setback occurred in 1997 when a "left-right" (PRD-PAN) coalition won in the Chamber of Deputies. In 2000 PAN won the presidency. But now it is seen as weakened by the election results. Financial markets reacted by declining, as both domestic and foreign investors see more lawlessness with PRI in control of the legislature.
July 5, 2009: This is election day. 500 national congressional seats in the Chamber of Deputies (lower house) are on the ballot, six governorships, and 565 mayors. Some Mexicans are fed up with all of the national political parties and claim they will "deface" or put a big X on their ballots. This group has been dubbed "anulistas" (annul). It is not clear how large this group is, but support for "none of the above" has attracted media attention.
July 3, 2009: For months the government has been discussing drug cartel involvement in electoral politics. The discussion began rather quietly, but as the election nears stories are cropping up throughout Mexican and US media. The governor's race in Colima state (southwestern Mexico) has drawn particular attention, with allegations that the Gulf Cartel has "invested" in candidates. Similar allegations tag several candidates (particularly in the PRI) in northern Mexican states who are running for seats in the national legislature. Drug and crime gang involvement in electoral politics doesn't only involve money -- the government has reported numerous incidents of physical intimidation and death threats by the gangs against reform candidates who favor President Felipe Calderon's anti-corruption policies.
July 1, 2009: The government reported that police found a mass grave in Guanajuato state (central Mexico) containing 14 burned bodies. The discovery followed a raid on a "safe house" by Mexican Army soldiers that left 12 Gulf cartel "hit men" dead. A police statement said that the hit men were likely associated with the Zetas. The government statement said that the dead bodies were likely the remains of hit men who worked for other drug cartels who were executed by the Zetas. The Zetas, who were founded by army deserters, have publicly challenged --and ridiculed-- the Mexican Army. This raid looks like another calculated strike on the Zetas by the military --in other words, challenge accepted.
June 28, 2009: The army arrested a senior leader in the Beltran Leyva cartel, Omar Ibarra Lozano, in the city of Monterrey. Ibarra is an interesting case study. He is only 25 years old. He is a former police officer in Nuevo Leon state (which borders on Texas). He is also suspected of being involved in a string of murders and bribing other police officers in Nuevo Leon.
June 27, 2009: The office of the attorney general announced the arrest of nine members "suspected" of belonging to the Beltran Leyva drug gang.
June 26, 2009: The Calderon government's anti-corruption push continues, this time with a massive sweep in Hidalgo state (central Mexico). Mexican authorities arrested the chief of police in the town of Pachuca (Hidalgo's capital). The chief was suspected of "protecting" the Zetas (Los Zetas) gang. Federal police also arrested 91 other policemen in Hidalgo, on charges of corruption. The federal government has not backed down on its promise to crackdown on corrupt local and state police officials who are on the payroll of drug gangs.
Mexican authorities and media reported an assassination attempt on a candidate for the national legislature. Ernesto Cornejo (a National Action Party, PAN, candidate) was not hurt but two aides were slain by the attackers. Police said that they suspected "drug gang hit men" carried out the attack, which occurred in Sonora state. The PAN is the party of President Felipe Calderon.