Elections suspended in two violent municipalities in Mexico

Voting has been suspended in two municipalities in southern Mexico due to an increase in violence, authorities said Saturday, just a day before the country elects a new president.

The decision comes in a particularly bloody election season, in which at least 25 political candidates have been killed in a country wracked by drug cartel violence.

Some 27,000 soldiers and members of the National Guard will be deployed to bolster security during Sunday’s election, and incumbent President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has promised Mexicans will be able to vote “calmly, safely and without fear.”

But the local electoral council said polling booths could not be set up in Pantelho and Chicomuselo, both in Chiapas state, because of violence and the towns’ inability to maintain order.

Unknown persons burned election papers on Friday in Chicomuselo units, which are in the middle of a turf war between two drug cartels, the board said. Election officials have also received threats.

In mid-May, 11 bodies were found in the city.

In Pantelho, officials were unable to train election workers because of the constant presence of suspected armed gang members, election authorities said.

Chiapas attracts tourists with its lush jungle, indigenous communities and ancient Mayan ruins, but turf wars have also intensified between gangs fighting for control of drug and people-trafficking routes.

– Historical change attracts –

Sunday’s election promises to be a watershed moment for Mexico, with millions of citizens expected to elect the country’s first female president.

Ruling party candidate Claudia Sheinbaum, a former Mexico City mayor and scientist-in-training, had a double-digit percentage lead over her main opposition rival, Xochitl Galvez, in opinion polls days before the election.

Nearly 100 million people are registered to vote in the world’s most populous Spanish-speaking country, home to 129 million people.

The campaign ended on Wednesday when a gunman shot a mayoral candidate at a campaign rally in the southern state of Guerrero.

On Friday, a mayoral candidate was killed in the central state of Puebla.

The attacks brought to at least 25 the number of local political aspirants who have been killed this election season, including several in Chiapas, according to official figures.

More than 450,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands have gone missing since the government deployed the army to fight drug trafficking in 2006.

Addressing the cartel violence that makes murder and kidnapping a daily occurrence in Mexico will be among the major challenges facing the incoming president.

Sheinbaum pledged to continue Lopez Obrador’s controversial “hugs not bullets” strategy to fight crime at the grassroots.

Galvez, who often evokes her childhood story of growing up in a poor rural town in central Mexico, promised a tougher approach, saying “hugs for criminals are over.”


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