Not just political parties are wriggling their hands over the nearly 6.8 billion peso budget requested by the National Electoral Institute (INE) to organize the upcoming general federal, state and municipal elections on July 1, 2018, but organized criminal organizations want their slice of the pie too. And the main concern is not at the state or federal but at the municipalities level: here’s why.
Traditionally elections in municipalities go for the most part unnoticed nationally. They are a local event that only matter, territorially speaking, to those who live within the limits of a municipality.
Yet it is this lack of focus on municipal mayoralties that is at the crux of Mexico’s organized criminal organizations are expected to demand — gun in hand — their share of the electoral budget, one way or another.
Over all, out of the nation’s 2,457 municipalities a whopping number of 1,993 will hold elections. For Mexico City residents, the number includes the 16 boroughs or “delegaciones” that will now become municipalities and the city, a federal district, will become a state.
But overall, municipalities will be the focus of special attention mostly because according to the Interior Secretariat (Segob) studies and research, they represent the greatest danger of being taken advantage by organized criminals as the great majority of them lack a proper police department and at best have a ragtag army of ill-equipped and paid cops who just have no way of protecting society.
Over all, only 14 of the nation’s 32 states have a full-fledged police department in all municipalities. In the rest, there’s been a lot of talk in the nation’s Congress about the creation of state-controlled police but discussions have not shed a solution for the nation’s security problems.
This problem has become particularly acute with the proliferation of criminal organizations which have wreaked havoc in Mexican society with kidnappings galore and human trafficking.
Municipal police departments are filled up with cases of human rights violations by organized criminals that don’t even get anywhere near to being investigated.
Plus municipal mayors have problems of their own, as illustrated by an anonymous video gone viral over the past weekend in which the mayor of a small municipality of Mazatepec in the state of Morelos — near Cuernavaca — in which a masked organized criminal group threatened to kill back in December 2015, the elected new mayor if he didn’t “cooperate” with the group. The group demanded five million pesos a month plus a job to one of their own to oversee construction contracts of the municipality.
Mayor Jorge Toledo Bustamante — held at gun point — was threatened to be executed on the spot if he refused to the gang’s demands. He managed to convince them that five million was just too much money.
“Do you know what my budget is? It isn’t anywhere near what you demand. I’m not going to mess with any of you and you do your job.”
He ended up paying them some 30,000 pesos a month until January 2017 when the group of gangsters vanished from the municipality and did not demand their ransom anymore. Mayor Toledo was part of a group of municipalities in southern Morelos that paid, and one who refused to do it, a lady named Gisela Mot, was executed.
Her killers, part of this gang were caught and given 45 year sentences.
But this case is the tip of the iceberg. Stories like the one told in this video abound in the state of Guerrero, Michoacán, State of Mexico, Sinaloa, Sonora, Chihuahua and you name it where criminal gangs have run amok.
Surely just the announcement of the proposed budget for elections that will go to all political parties — most of which have municipal offices — will surely awaken the appetite and greed of these criminal organizations ready to hit at the weakest point in the electoral system perhaps even by imposing their own candidates to political parties.
It will be very difficult for national and even state government INE authorities to control the moral quality of candidates and potential ballot fraud. Yet it will be a must in order to safeguard the peaceful life of otherwise participating voters who do believe that they are not appointing a mobster as their municipal mayor.