Mayoral candidate murdered in Mexico two days before election

Jorge Huerta Cabrera, who was shot dead in Izucar de Matamoros, is the latest contender to be killed ahead of June 2 polls.

A police officer stands guard at a checkpoint in the border city of Tijuana [File: Tomas Bravo/Reuters]

A candidate running for local office in Mexico’s central Puebla state has been killed at a political rally two days before the elections, adding to the toll of murdered contenders in what is seen as the country’s most violent polls on record.

Jorge Huerta Cabrera was shot dead on Friday in the city of Izucar de Matamoros where he was a candidate, according to the state prosecutor’s office.

The candidate’s wife and one of his colleagues were also wounded in the attack which was captured on video. The footage showed mayhem erupting at the rally after the shots rang out.

The killing takes the number of assassinated candidates in the 2024 election season to 37, one more than during the 2021 midterm election when 36 candidates were killed, according to data from security consultancy Integralia.

However, the federal government reported 22 candidates killed as of Tuesday. Since then, three more deaths have been recorded, AFP news agency reported.

Integralia has also counted 828 non-lethal attacks on candidates during the current election season, up from 749 since just Monday.

Campaigning for Sunday’s elections, in which a new president, federal legislators, state governors and thousands of local officials are to be elected, has been marked by a wave of attacks against candidates that spiked in the last week.

On Wednesday, the campaign period closed for the vote, in which about 100 million Mexicans, of a population of 129 million, are eligible to cast ballots.

Violence linked to organised crime in Mexico has long killed politicians from various parties, especially those who hold or are seeking regional positions.

Drug cartels have often carried out such assassination attempts in an attempt to control local police or extort money from municipal governments.

Eduardo Bohorquez, the head of Transparency International Mexico, has told Al Jazeera that corrupt politicians and organised crime seek controlling political positions, which leads to the violence experienced in the country.

He said: “It is that they take control of the office. They can buy the candidate, and all the candidates. I mean, it’s very easily financed by illegal forces.”

Violence tops election agenda

The issue of violent crime has emerged as one of the top issues in this year’s presidential contest, in which the governing party of outgoing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been forced to defend a persistently high murder rate, as the opposition has sought to use the bloodshed to argue for change.

Governing party hopeful Claudia Sheinbaum is widely expected to win Sunday’s vote and become Mexico’s first female president. Her main rival is another woman, Xochitl Galvez.

Tackling the cartel violence that makes murder and kidnapping a daily occurrence in Mexico will be among the major challenges for the winner.

Rene Valencia, a mayoral candidate for Morelia, said the state “has the means to stop the violence but does not want to combat crime because it generates dividends”.

“It generates profits, bribes, money. A delinquent generates money for the authorities, while a victim is just a statistic,” he told Al Jazeera.

Earlier this week, a local mayoral candidate in southern Guerrero state was shot dead at point-blank range during a campaign rally.

He was among 560 candidates and election officials who have been given security guards by the government due to persistent threats.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies