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Violence hangs over Mexican polls

MEXICO CITY, July 4 (UPI) -- Violence and the threat of it hung heavily over Mexico's elections Sunday, observers said.

The Los Angeles Times reported some polling stations never opened because many election workers feared for their safety. The newspaper said four bodies, including that of a prison warden, were found hanging from bridges in Chihuahua state as a warning, the newspaper said.

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Army troops were employed to protect Mexicans who risked voting and some political candidates showed up at the polls wearing body armor and their own body guards, the Times said.

More than 1,500 state, federal and local offices in 15 states were on the ballot in elections some analysts see as a referendum on President Felipe Calderon's anti-crime efforts.

Analyst Jorge Chabat told CNN the assassination of the front-running gubernatorial candidate in the state of Tamaulipas was a dire warning to voters from the drug cartels.

"They are sending a message that organized crime can decide who is in or who is out, or prevent people from voting in the person of their choice," Chabat said.

Calderon has called the death of Rodolfo Torre Cantu "an aggression" on Mexican society.

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One particularly important vote could be the mayoral race in Juarez. The border city has been racked by violence for years and, The Washington Post said Sunday, will be on the receiving end of a major U.S. aid investment in anti-crime programs.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI, which held sway in Mexico for decades until 2000, was expected to make electoral inroads as it aims at regaining the presidency when Calderon's term ends in two years.

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