Three men who were hoping to stand as candidates in municipal and state elections in June were murdered in separate incidents in three states in the first week of January.
Alfredo Giovanni Lezama Barrera, a councilor in Cuautla, Morelos, who aspired to become a National Action Party (PAN) deputy in the state Congress, was the first would-be political candidate to be murdered in 2024.
The 37-year-old was shot and killed by a lone gunman at a Cuautla gymnasium last Thursday.
His murder preceded the homicides of mayoral aspirants David Rey González, 54, and Sergio Hueso, 35, a day later on Jan. 5.
The Chiapas Attorney General’s Office reported that the former was found dead in Suchiate, a municipality on the southern border with Guatemala.
Rey González, president of a local landowners’ association who aspired to represent the PAN, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) in the Suchiate mayoral election, had evidently been shot.
Later on Friday, Hueso was shot dead in Armería, Colima, the municipality where he hoped to stand as the Citizens Movement party candidate in the June 2 mayoral election.
No arrests have been reported in any of the three cases. Another aspiring politician, Ricardo Taja, was murdered in Acapulco, Guerrero, on Dec. 21. He was hoping to represent the ruling Morena party in the lower house of federal Congress.
The murders of the three “pre-candidates” in the first week of the year came around five months before the June 2 elections, which will be the largest in Mexico’s history. Voters will elect over 19,000 people to federal, state and municipal positions.
In terms of homicides, the 2018 elections in which Andrés Manuel López Obrador won a landslide victory in the presidential race were the most violent in Mexican history with 48 candidates murdered. Scores of incumbent politicians were also murdered during the nine-month electoral period.
Writing in the newspaper Criterio Hidalgo, well-known journalist Eduardo Ruiz-Healy said that there is no doubt that “many politicians” and people close to them will be killed during the electoral period leading up to the June 2 elections.
“It remains to be seen whether the number of homicides and non-lethal aggressions will break the current record,” he wrote.
Xóchitl Gálvez, who will represent the PAN-PRI-PRD alliance Strength and Heart for Mexico at the presidential election, weighed in on last week’s murders at an event in Pachuca, Hidalgo, on Sunday.
“It’s serious and delicate that three opposition candidates have been murdered in recent days,” she said.
“… I’m going to tell the president that the opposition isn’t his enemy. What we want is a different country, a democratic country [where] it’s okay to think differently,” Gálvez said.
She claimed that her main rival for the presidency, ruling Morena party candidate Claudia Sheinbaum, “keeps quiet” and buries her head in the sand “like an ostrich” when “crimes against citizens and candidates occur.”
“She simply maintains that we’re fine, that the people are extremely happy, … when what we see is a bloodbath,” Gálvez said. “It’s a shame because I thought she was a woman with more guts.”
At an event in Mexico City on Sunday, Sheinbaum predicted a “peaceful election,” and said that the federal government is working to “deal with the insecurity problem” and would continue to do so.
Homicides declined in the first 11 months of 2023 compared to the same period of 2022, but murder numbers remained high at over 27,000.