For the sixth year running, Mexico registered more than 30,000 murders in 2023, marking the most violent period in the country’s recent history.
Violence has become a central issue in the 2024 general election in June, though voters are not confident that the two leading presidential contenders have a strong plan for cracking down on gang violence. The public is also growing frustrated with government officials concealing murders by reclassifying the deaths as having occurred due to an “undetermined intention.”
Experts and leaders are worried the rise in violence will see the backsliding of democratic norms in Mexico, with the already heavily militarized country unlikely to put down arms anytime soon.
Political assassinations make officials reluctant to tackle drug cartels
Another string of political candidate assassinations has many worried that Mexican democracy is backsliding. Violence does “not distinguish between party, ideology, or positions,” wrote Senator Claudia Ruiz Massieu for El Universal, after candidates for both the ruling and opposition parties were murdered on the campaign trail in drug trafficking hotspots in the last month. The rise in political violence means officials are less willing to stand up to drug cartels, and the government is “surrendering democracy to criminals,” Ruiz Massieu opined.
President’s ‘hugs, not bullets’ approach has ended up militarizing law enforcement
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) promise of ending Mexico’s “War on Drugs” has fallen short of its goals, and has inadvertently only contributed to violence, opined columnist Demetrio Sodi for El Economista. Dubbed the “hugs, no bullets” campaign, AMLO sought to “moralize” police through top-down reforms to centralize the federal security force, including the creation of a national guard. Although this central command structure has helped reduce kidnappings and robberies, the reforms neglected to support local and state police, who are “the only ones” that can “monitor and guarantee security in the communities,” Sodi wrote. Mexico “has never been more militarized,” in stark contrast to AMLO’s “demilitarization” promise at the start of his campaign.
Voters skeptical that a female president will help solve gender violence
Two women are running for president this year, but ”Mexican feminists are skeptical, if not outright pessimistic,” that a woman leader will do much to solve skyrocketing violence, particularly femicides, journalist Barbara Gonzalez wrote for Refinery29. Both candidates, Xóchitl Gálvez and Claudia Sheinbaum, have said they would do little to reverse AMLO’s militarization, and both have only made “vague offers” about cracking down on murder rates without offering specific policy goals to tackle femicides. They have instead capitalized on “sympathizers” that see a female president as more symbolic than strategic, Gonzalez wrote. “A female president does not automatically translate into improving the situation of insecurity, poverty, inequality, and violence,” one feminist voter said.