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Jun-28-2013 17:06printcomments

Clowns, Cats and Corpses: Mexican Elections 2013

Scattered episodes of violence, especially in regions dominated by organized crime, have once again marred some contests.

Morris the cat - Mexico elections
Morris the cat - Mexico elections

(LAS CRUCES, NM) - Though downplayed by the international press, strategic state and local elections will be held this summer in 14 Mexican states. The northern border states of Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Tamaulipas are among the entities where voters will go to the polls in uncertain numbers.

As the July 7 election day creeps closer, the political mood is punctuated by accusations of excessive campaign spending, last-minute party switching, charges of narco-infiltration, church and state controversies, popular revulsion, and renewed predictions of widespread voter abstention.

Assessing this year’s competition as one that is not taken seriously by the majority of the electorate, Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez sociologist and columnist Carlos Murillo Gonzalez writes that electoral coalitions and alliances stripped of ideological content, “cheap discourses,” vote-buying, and “markedly business candidacies” define Decision 2013.

Scattered episodes of violence, especially in regions dominated by organized crime, have once again marred some contests.

On June 27, the body of Nicolas Estrada Merino was recovered with signs of gunshot wounds. The president of the Oaxaca state branch of the PRD party, Estrada had been missing since June 15 or 16. On June 23, a hostile street encounter between members of two other rival political parties was blamed for the murders of two men in the Oaxaca municipality of San Miguel Soyaltepec.

Last week, violence also flared in the northern state of Sinaloa, where political leader Eleazar Armenta Acuna was found murdered on June 18. Armenta was the coordinator of a multi-party coalition consisting of the PAN, PRD and PT parties, as well as an alternate candidate for the town council of Sinaloa de Leyva.

Less than a week earlier, on June 12, Jaime Orozco Madrigal, the PRI party candidate for mayor of Guadalupe y Calvo, Chihuahua, was discovered murdered after being kidnapped.

Threats against other PRI and PAN candidates have been reported in the northern border state, prompting the PAN to declare conditions did not exist for it to run candidates in the municipalities of Gomez Farias and Maguarach; at least six candidates are reportedly receiving protection from the Chihuahua State Electoral Institute.

Fears abound that continued outbreaks of violence in the Chihuahua mountains could result in not enough people willing to staff the election on July 7.

Additionally, the PAN reported that three of its campaign vehicles were fire-bombed in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, while the conservative party’s 2012 presidential candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, received a telephoned threat not to visit Saltillo, Coahuila, where the former Calderdon administration official was headed to stump for a candidate. Vazquez Mota was undeterred, however.

An analysis by criminologist Edgardo Buscalgia could be useful in understanding the mayhem behind some local elections. According to the transnational organized crime expert, mafias typically seek to control the municipal police force, the mayor’s office and the public works department where inflated contracts can be obtained for front companies controlled by the underworld.

A noteworthy development emerging from the 2013 elections is how widespread dissatisfaction with the political system and the parties that control it is encouraging innovative citizen initiatives ranging from write-in protest movements to unorthodox candidacies.

Animal candidates are the rage in 2013- Debora the Snake of Cancun, Morris the Cat, Tina the Chicken, and the indomitable Burro Chon. In a campaign laced with double and triple entendres, “El Candigato” Morris has captured the imagination of Veracruz and much of Mexico. If elected, the feline pledges to rid the city of Jalapa of “ratas,” or rats, which is standard Mexican slang for thieves but increasingly synonymous with politicians. Morris even has a campaign jingle, written to the beat of a cumbia.

In the two-legged world, the Citizen Movement party is running a pair of professional clowns for two state legislative posts in Sinaloa and Ciudad Juarez, while the same political force is postulating a drag queen for another Ciudad Juarez legislative district. Known for dressing up like singer Paulina Rubio, Jose Luis Delgado Pizano firmly backs gay marriage and full equality.

“Society is ready to accept us, and it’s only a question of the rulers having more open minds..,” Delgado proclaimed.

In Chihuahua City, meanwhile, rock singer Ivan Chavero of the Seis Pistos group is running for mayor as a write-in with a far-less ambitious platform.

“Vote for me and I’ll tell you right now that I will do nothing,” Chavero promises.

The long-shot admitted that his principal objective in getting elected is to secure the legal immunity enjoyed by Mexican politicians so he can freely skateboard down the street without getting “hassled by the police.” The bearded rocker has a 39 second spot on You Tube spiced with vulgar words. Honesty is what distinguishes his campaign from the others, Chavero says.

In the border city of Ciudad Juarez, the mayor’s race is entering the final stretch with a flurry of appearances by frontrunners Enrique Serrano of the PRI and Maria Antonieta Perez Reyes of the PAN.

Serrano, who is the predicted winner, has wielded a big reach and a noticeable campaign war chest. Messages for the seasoned politician are flashed in movie theaters, displayed at the entrances to the New Sinaloa and Chess nightclubs on Avenida Juarez and beamed from the covers of slick magazines. Participants in a recent run for Serrano were promised televisions, electronic gadgets and clothing.

Serrano’s camp has made inroads into the PAN’s base, and courted evangelical churches. “Nothing moves without the will of God,” the onetime personal secretary of former Ciudad Juarez mayor and maquiladora industry pioneer Jaime Bermudez was recently quoted. “It is (God) first and our votes that will make our triumph possible on July 7.”

In a bid to become Ciudad Juarez’s first woman mayor, the PAN’s Maria Antonieta Perez is putting some distance between the party and herself. Running in a year when the PAN is still licking its wounds from recent major losses, Perez stresses her independence and leadership in citizen causes like the fight against the pricing practices of Juarez Natural Gas Company.

“I don’t have the support of any powerful group, and I am not protected by any politician,” Perez said. “I am a woman with her own political trajectory and an effort based on the confidence shown by Juarez residents when they elected me as a federal legislator.”

In an unusual departure for a member of the Mexican political class, Perez told an interviewer that tourism promotion would have to take second seat at the moment to other, more pressing issues like poverty and security.

“Of course, the tourist is an important source of income, but we have to worry about our own people,” Perez said. “When we manage to make the city more dignified, the same tourist will be inspired to come to Juarez.”

Not to be outdone by either Serrano or Perez, El Burro Chon is making a late but concerted push to capture the border city’s highest office.

On Sunday, June 23, the laid-back activist officially launched his mayoral campaign at the Benito Juarez Monument, the traditional gathering place of the old braceros who worked U.S. farms decades ago but are now largely forgotten by governments in the U.S. and Mexico.

The left-leaning contender has released a quite detailed political program that addresses economic development, environmental protection, human and labor rights, femicides, public transportation, security, participatory budgeting and, not surprisingly, animal rights.

The “dark donkey” candidate promises to open an animal shelter as well as prohibit bull, cock and dog fights. El Burro Chon is against the privatization of water, and opposes the retention of it in New Mexico’s Elephant Butte Reservoir upstream on the Rio Grande.

The write-in candidate favors abortion rights, decriminalizing marijuana, prosecuting current police Chief Julian Leyzaola for alleged human rights violations, demilitarizing the drug war, and handing life sentences to public officials caught extorting the public.

Strongly backing a secular state, El Burro Chon, pledges to not deliver the “keys to the city to any god,” out of respect for minority religions and non-believers alike. “Besides, few believe in the burro god,” he says.

El Burro Chon has fared quite well in social media. He had registered 3,801 Facebook likes as of June 27, compared with 3,913 for Enrique Serrano and 6,179 for Maria Antonieta Perez.

The four-legged, droopy-eared darling of the borderland concludes his program with a revolutionary appeal: “Animals of the World Unite!”

In exclusive comments made to Frontera NorteSur, members of El Burro Chon’s general staff assured that the campaign would not distribute “despensas,” or the packets of goodies commonly handed out to would-be voters at election time, but conceded that giveaways of food would be considered, especially burritos. Under Mexican election rules, write-in votes for El Burro Chon will be dutifully annulled and tossed out by officials, the candidate’s followers said.

Additional sources:

  • El Universal, June 27, 2013.
  •, June 18, 23, 25, 26, 2013.
  • La Jornada, June 25, 2013. Article by Javier Valdez.
  • Somos Frontera (El Paso Times), June 18, 2013. Article by Lorena Figueroa.
  •, June 18, 2013.Article by Carlos Murillo Gonzalez.
  •, June 18, 23 and 26, 2013. Articles by Heidi Rodriguez, Don Mirone and El Universal.
  • El Diario de Juarez/Chihuahua, June 12, 2013. Semanario (Ciudad Juarez), June 10, 2013.
  • Proceso/Apro, June 7, 16, 24, 26, 27, 2013. Articles by Jesusa Cervantes, Patricia Mayorga Veronica Espinosa, Pedro Matias, and editorial staff.

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico



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