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This guide will no longer be updated, as it was a special project about the 2015 Mexican midterm elections. It will, however, remain available for research purposes.

For further analysis on Mexican politics, please visit the Mexico Portal or our Mexican Politics Resource. Thank you for your interest.

Violence grips Mexico ahead of midterm elections

By Renee Lewis in Aljazeera America 05/21/15

A wave of violence and intimidation has engulfed Mexico in recent weeks as the country prepares for midterm elections on June 7, with gunmen killing four candidates and kidnapping dozens of residents in Guerrero state — reviving fears that the still-unsolved disappearance of 43 students last September was not an isolated incident.

Enrique Hernández, who was running for mayor of Yurécuaro in the western state of Michoacán for the left-leaning Movement for National Regeneration Party, was killed on May 14 when gunmen opened fire on his campaign rally. Hernández was a leader of the town’s self-defense group formed in 2013 to curb the power of the Knights Templar cartel.

The state’s attorney general, José Martín Godoy Castro, said Wednesday that the Yurécuaro’s police chief and two of his aids knew about plans to kill Hernández, and left town ahead of the murder. Godoy said he would file charges — of participation through omission in a homicide — against the three officers.

Less than an hour after Hernández’s murder, gunmen shot Héctor López Cruz 16 times as he returned from campaigning in Huimanguillo, in the southeastern state of Tabasco. López was running for city council of Huimanguillo on the ticket of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

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El Bronco: Blunt, Frequently Vulgar, and Aiming to Run Nuevo León

in  The New York Times 05/24/15

MONTERREY, Mexico — He goes by the nickname El Bronco, and he aims to buck the political system in Mexico.

For the first time since a constitutional change in Mexico in 2012 allowing independent candidates, one is making a serious run for governor. And the political world is eager to see if he upsets the entrenched order, not just in his state but also in a nation increasingly frustrated and exhausted by the status quo.

It also helps that the insurgent comes in the form of Jaime Rodríguez Calderón, 57, a cursing former mayor and rancher in cowboy hat and boots who wants to run Nuevo León, a large state along the Texas border that is a hub for big business as well as organized crime.

Mr. Rodríguez, in interviews and on the campaign trail, veers from humility to arrogance, calling himself a simple, unvarnished rancher while making it clear, over and over, that he has the fortitude — he uses an anatomically vulgar synonym — to set things right.

“We are about to make history,” he said in an interview on Thursday as he prepared for the final dash to the June 7 state and local elections. “We are about to prove to people that in this country you don’t need money or parties, you just need people to change things around.”

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Mexico Elections 2015: Lorenzo Córdova Apologizes After Indigenous Insults From Wiretapped Conversation Go Viral

By Julia Glum in International Business Times 05/20/15

The head of Mexico’s National Electoral Institute was forced to apologize after illegally recorded audio of him ridiculing indigenous people leaked online. Lorenzo Córdova Vianello, the director of the group that will oversee the country’s elections June 7, was still trending on Twitter Wednesday morning as users passed around the controversial clip.

The audio, thought to have been obtained via wiretap, was posted to YouTube on Tuesday afternoon by “Jon Doe.” The roughly two-minute video reportedly includes a part of a conversation between Córdova and his executive secretary, Edmundo Jacobo.

 

The exchange likely happened after an April 23 meeting where indígenas, or indigenous people, asked to be allowed to create another federal constituency in Congress, Excelsior reported. The indígenas had said they’d stop the elections if their requests weren’t granted, and they eventually met with Córdova.

The next day, in conversation with Jacobo, Córdova made fun of what they said. He compared the leaders to characters in the “Lone Ranger” and ridiculed how they spoke, Telesur reported. “From the dramatic meetings with the parents of the Ayotzinapa kids, to this jerk … There was one, no s—, I can’t lie, let me tell you how this jerk spoke,” Córdova said in Spanish. “’I boss, great nation Chichimeca, I come Guanajuato. I say here or legislators, for us, I don’t permit your elections.’”

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New Candidate Jolts Mexican Politics

By Dudley Althaus in  The Wall Street Journal 05/22/15

MONTERREY, Mexico—A maverick former mayor known as El Bronco is mounting a competitive bid as Mexico’s first independent gubernatorial candidate, a sign of Mexican voters’ rancor toward the country’s traditional political parties.

Running a social media campaign waged on a shoestring—supporters press crumpled bills into his hands on the stump— Jaime Rodríguez is shaking up politics in Nuevo Leon, the conservative northern border state that includes the industrial powerhouse of Monterrey, and jolting politicians nationwide.

An opinion poll published Friday in El Norte, Monterrey’s leading newspaper, puts Mr. Rodríguez ahead of his rival from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in the June 7 vote. The PRI has ruled Nuevo Leon for 80 of the past 86 years.

Mr. Rodríguez’s unlikely bid has emerged as one of the most watched in a midterm vote that will replace all 500 members of Mexico’s lower house of Congress, nine governors and hundreds of state legislators, mayors and city councils. Polls suggest that the PRI and its allies are likely to retain a slight majority in Congress.

But that doesn’t mean all is well in Mexico for the ruling party. Mr. Rodríguez, a rancher, businessman and thrice married father of six, represents a new page in Mexican politics: the rise of independent candidates running against the traditional parties, something that was illegal until a 2014 political overhaul passed by congress.

“This is making the political parties tremble because a candidate without a party, a structure or resources is giving them a fight,” Mr. Rodríguez, 58, said in an interview.

June’s vote takes place amid mounting voter frustration with continued underworld violence, a lackluster economy, and corruption scandals that have hit all three major parties, especially the PRI. President Enrique Peña Nieto and his finance minister have come under scrutiny for property deals they made with government contractors. They both deny any wrongdoing. Civic groups have accused family members of Nuevo Leon’s current governor illicit enrichment through dirty land deals. They deny wrongdoing.

“We have a cancer which has to be eradicated and that’s corruption,” Mr. Rodríguez said to whoops and applause at a recent stop in Monterrey’s wealthiest suburb. “I don’t want to be just one more governor, I want to change the system.”

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Mexican Officials Reassure Public Amid Pre-Election Assassinations

By Brianna Lee in International Business Times 05/20/15

The weeks leading up to Mexico’s June 7 regional elections have been a violent affair, with a slew of murders of candidates in some regions. The federal government assured the public it was providing security for candidates facing violence, while attempting to play down the security threat.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, speaking at a press conference Tuesday, said the government had a strategic plan to guarantee security for candidates in areas where homicides and drug-related violence are rampant, including the states of Jalisco, Guerrero and Tamaulipas. “We hope [the plan] will deliver results and the peace we are asking for,” he said. Twenty candidates so far have asked for government protection and will receive it, he said.

But while Osorio Chong expressed sorrow at the recent string of murders, he asserted they were “isolated cases.”

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Mexico’s top election official offended the nation with a racist rant

By Ioan GrilloGlobal Post in Los Angeles Daily News 04/27/15

MEXICO CITY — Racism in Mexico has different dynamics than over the border in the United States.

The majority of people here have both European and indigenous roots. The census does not identify people by skin color. After the Mexican Revolution, the government promoted the concept of the “Raza Cosmica,” an ideal of a mixed-race nation.

Yet, racism still exists, and at some of the highest levels. That showed this week in a blowup over a leaked phone call with Mexico’s top electoral official, in which he mocked indigenous people — the 15 million Mexicans who speak languages such as Nahuatl or Mixtec.

Lorenzo Cordova, president of the National Electoral Institute, was talking on the phone to an aide when he launched into his racist rant.

He ridiculed an indigenous leader who’d called for a new electoral district, saying, “I’m not lying, I’m going to tell you how this bastard spoke.” Then he proceeded to impersonate Tonto from the “Lone Ranger”: “Me, boss Chichimeca great nation. Me come Guanajuato. Me to say you….” Then he compared the community to “Martians.”

To give a sense of how incendiary this is — it’s a bit like if a white US Supreme Court justice were caught using the N-word and speaking in mock Ebonics.

The audio of Cordova’s call mysteriously appeared on YouTube on Tuesday, and clocked up a quarter of a million views within a few hours. It went viral on Twitter and drew thousands of comments on websites.

“Incredible phone conversation of Lorenzo Cordova. Making fun of those he should be serving,” tweeted the columnist Gabriel Guerra.

It couldn’t come at a worse time for Cordova. He’s overseeing midterm elections on June 7, in which Mexico will vote for hundreds of new lawmakers, governors and mayors.

The ballot has already been clouded by corruption scandals and political violence.

On Tuesday, Cordova apologized for his outburst in a hastily called press conference.

“During the phone call I spoke in an unfortunate and disrespectful manner,” Cordova said. “I’d like to take this opportunity to offer a frank and sincere apology to anybody who could have been offended.”

However, he also filed a criminal complaint with federal prosecutors about someone recording and leaking his calls.

It’s unclear who was behind it. The audio was posted on YouTube by “Jon Doe.”

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Local Police Tied to Killing of Mayoral Candidate in Mexico

By AP in ABC News 05/20/15

The top prosecutor in a western Mexican state says his investigation has tied the local police chief, his deputy and another underling to the killing last week of a mayoral candidate.

Michoacan state Attorney General Jose Martin Godoy Castro said in a statement Wednesday that the three knew about a plan to attack Enrique Hernandez, a mayoral candidate in Yurecuaro. Godoy Castro said he would file charges of participation through omission in a homicide.

Godoy Castro alleges that the suspected masterminds behind the attack paid the local police for protection and on May 14 told them to leave town so they could kill Hernandez.

He says their beef with Hernandez apparently stemmed from a disagreement over control of a sandbank.

Can Mexico’s Electoral Authority Stop Criminal Funding?

By Patrick Corcoran in Insight Crime 05/11/15

Mexico is weeks away from a landmark midterm election, but many analysts worry that the nation’s electoral authorities are dropping the ball as far as criminal organizations financing their preferred candidates.

On June 7, Mexico will elect the entire lower house of congress, nine governorships, and local offices in more than half the country. While the Senate and the presidency are not in play, it is the most important date in the electoral calendar prior to the 2018 election.

Against that backdrop, some analysts are worried that the nation’s campaign regulatory agency, the National Electoral Institute (INE), is not doing enough to prevent the flow of money stemming from organized crime into candidates’ campaign war chests. Jesus Tovar Mendoza, the Executive Director of the think tank Red de Estudios sobre la Calidad de la Democracia en America Latina, recently complained to E-Consulta that the statutes enforced by the INE are insufficient.

According to Tovar, campaigns have to make detailed filings outlining what they spend, but the INE does little to verify where the money comes from. As a result, criminal groups are able to provide cash or in-kind benefits to campaigns or directly to voters in order to sway votes. And since INE leaders are heavily reliant on the political parties for their posts, there is a heavy disincentive to crack down on illicit funding, because all of the parties benefit from extra cash flowing through the campaign coffers.

Mexico has long struggled to deal with illegal political money. In the aftermath of Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidential election in 2012, journalists and investigators turned up evidence of his party’s illegal vote-buying schemes financed through prepaid debit cards. Some of the financing for these cards was traced back to figures linked to organized crime.

Mexico has also, of course, long suffered from the links between politicians and criminal organizations, which can be solidified through campaign contributions that essentially buy a politician’s loyalty. The clearest example of this is the rash of prominent and powerful politicians who have been exposed as criminal allies, from former Michoacan Congressman Julio Cesar Godoy to Jose Luis Abarca, the former mayor of Iguala, Guerrero.

There is also the possibility that organized crime dollars could influence the outcome of the election. While swinging a presidential election in a nation of 110 million is a tall order, it is completely plausible to buy enough votes to influence a close gubernatorial election in, say Colima, a key Pacific state where 140,000 votes will likely be enough for a victory. That is to say nothing of the lightly contested local races around the country.

InSight Crime Analysis

The INE was originally created in 2013 to replace the now-defunct Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). While organized crime was not a direct cause of the switch, the new agency at least theoretically should have helped limit the presence of dirty money in elections. The INE centralized the electoral apparatus, and reduced the role of state tribunals that were largely beholden to governors. Because state governments are widely seen as being more susceptible to corruption than their relatively honest counterpart at the federal level, particularly with regard to organized crime, this shift theoretically should have produced a less vulnerable electoral framework.

This logic, popular though it is in Mexico, appears to have been faulty. And not for the first time: many analysts have long advocated for the disappearance of Mexico‘s thousands of municipal police departments, again on the untested theory that the mere centralization of the forces into 32 states will translate into more effective police. As with the INE’s replacement of the IFE, this was overly simplistic.

The persistent problems at the INE also demonstrate that institutional reform is a very tedious process. Mexican leaders have long demonstrated a fetish for creating new agencies when old ones fail. This is especially true in the security realm; Mexico has cycled through countless new federal police bodies over the past twenty years, none of them markedly better than their predecessors. The reason is that merely creating a new institution does nothing to strengthen it. On the contrary, often the same pathologies afflicting the old agency are absorbed into the new one. And while improving institutions is both a laudable and vital enterprise in Mexico, there is no reason to expect it to occur simply by decreeing a brand new entity. A new name is little more than a first step.

It’s hard to determine at this stage how much damage there might be from criminal groups financing politicians. It seems unlikely that the new class of leaders will be especially vulnerable to narcos, since this is not a new problem. Nevertheless, it remains clear that this is one of a number of persistent security challenges that Mexicohas been unable to surmount.

And the result is a political class of which the nation is rightly suspicious. Mexico has grown quite competent at rooting out its most dangerous criminals with regularity. A more effective INE would be an effective tool in also reining in the criminals’ political supporters, but it remains a far-off goal.

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Video of Mexican Official Mocking Indigenous Peoples Goes Viral

By TeleSur 05/19/15

The head of Mexico’s National Electoral Institute was forced to apologise after a recorded phone conversation leaked.  The director of Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE) is coming under heavy fire and calls for his resignation after an audio was uploaded on Tuesday afternoon of the public servant allegedly mocking indigenous peoples and the families of the disappeared 43 Ayotzinapa students. The video has gone viral.

Lorenzo Cordova, head of the agency that guarantees and organizes national elections can be heard on a recorded telephone conversation with Edmundo Molina, Executive Secretary of the INE, ridiculing indigenous leaders who participated in a meeting with the bureaucrat, denouncing the electoral process.

“From the dramatic meetings with the parents of the Ayotzinapa kids, to this jerk…There was one, no shit, I can’t lie, let me tell you how this jerk spoke,” said Cordova. The director continued in a voice mimicking the indigenous participants of the meeting: “I boss, great nation Chichimeca, I come Guanajuato. I say here or legislators, for us, I don’t permit your elections.”

Cordova continued, in a loud laugh: “I see a lot of ‘Lone Ranger’, with this jerk ‘bull’, no shit, he only lacked saying ‘I great sitting bull chief, great leader of Chichimeca nation’, no shit, no shit, it is of horror man.”

The INE did not reject the authenticity of the audio, and later on Tuesday issued a press release in which it said it expressed its “indignation” for these kinds of activities. However it also denounced the audio as an “illegal intervention”. “With this detection of an illegal intervention of telephone conversations between the Council President and the Executive Secretary of the National Electoral Institute (INE), today a formal penal complaint has been filed with the Attorney General’s office.”

Late on Tuesday, Cordova formally apologized for the comments made on the April 24th conversation. He said in the brief press conference, “I offer a frank apology if I offended anyone with my comments.”

It is still unclear who recorded the telephone conversation, however speculation circulates as to the motivation with only weeks until Mexico’s June 7th midterm elections.

This material was originally published in TeleSUR, you can read the original post here.

You can hear the conversation here (in Spanish).