As the people of Mexico prepare for upcoming elections on June 7, an upsurge in election-related violence and killings has gripped the nation. The latest round of violence took place during the evening of Thursday, May 14, when two candidates in different states were killed in cold blood while campaigning.
Enrique Hernandez Saucedo, candidate for mayor of Yurécuaro, Michoacán State, was assassinated on Thursday in the city he hoped to govern.
Hernandez, the mayoral candidate for the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), was the former leader of the Yurétuaro autodefensa, a vigilante self-defense group that sprang up in 2013 to combat drug-related violence.
At around 8:10 p.m. on Thursday, Hernandez was participating in a campaign rally on Javier Mina Street, in the center of Yurécuaro, when a man riding in a pickup truck opened fire on Hernandez and his supporters. The gunman killed Hernandez and injured a woman and a child who were taken to the Hospital Regional de La Piedad for treatment.
Although Morena’s leader in the state, Miguel Ángel Sandoval Rodríguez, has accused the governor of Michoacán as being responsible for Hernandez’s death, Hernandez himself had been detained on murder charges only a year ago for the death of Gustavo Garibay García, the municipal president of the nearby town of Tanhuato. A judge, however, acquitted Hernandez of those charges.
Hernandez’s killing was not the only election-related death on Thursday night: at nearly the same time in the state of Tabasco, a candidate for Huimanguillo town council was killed in front of his home in Mecatepec after returning from a house-to-house campaign walk.
The candidate, Héctor López Cruz, belonged to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) — the same party as Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Candidate for Huimanguillo mayor Gerald Washington Herrera Castellanos shared his condolences with López’s family via Facebook.
The two killings are only the latest in an election season that has been marred by violence. On May 1, Ulises Fabián Quiroz, PRI mayoral candidate for Chilapa, Guerrero State, was killed while on the campaign trail.
He was shot to death in the community of Atzacoaloya. Also in Chilapa, Luis Walton Aburto, Movimiento Ciudadano’s candidate for the governorship of Guerrero, told press that on April 25 he and his campaign team were confronted by an armed group of up to 20 men, including several wielding grenade launchers.
No party appears to be immune from targeted violence. Juan Carlos Velázquez, a Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) candidate for mayor of Soledad de Graciano Sánchez, in the state of San Luis Potosí, Juan Carlos Velázquez, was attacked after one of his campaign vehicles was set on fire.
Violence against political aspirants had already begun before this year’s campaign activities were officially permitted to begin on April 5, 60 days before elections. On March 11, Aidé Nava González, precandidate for mayor of Ahuacuotzingo was found dead on the Tlapa-Chilpancingo highway. On February 19, Carlos Martinez Villavicecio, who was planning to run for the federal congressional district representing Tlaxiaco, in the state of Oaxaca, was assassinated along with two other people in an ambush.
As the violence escalates, however, the anger of candidates across Mexico’s political spectrum is inflamed: Thursday’s killing sparked the ire of Silvano Aureoles Conejo, Michoacán gubernatorial candidate for both the Revolutionary Democracy Party (PRD), Workers’ Party (PT), and New Alliance (PANAL).
“The authorities must act immediately. I demand that those responsible be detained immediately and that the motive for this aggression against Morena’s candidate be known,” he said in a statement.