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Violence clouds the last day of campaigning before Sunday's elections in Mexico

Supporters of presidential candidate Xóchitl Gálvez shout her name at her campaign rally in Los Reyes la Paz just outside of Mexico City, on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. Mexico's general election is set for June 2.
Fernando Llano
/
AP
Supporters of presidential candidate Xóchitl Gálvez shout her name at her campaign rally in Los Reyes la Paz just outside of Mexico City, on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. Mexico's general election is set for June 2.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico held the last day of campaigning Wednesday before Sunday's nationwide election, but the closing rallies were darkened by attacks on candidates and the country's persistently high homicide rate.

Opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez started her last campaign rallies early Wednesday on the outskirts of Mexico City, and she focused her ire on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's "hugs not bullets" policy of not confronting the drug cartels.

Gálvez is facing the candidate of López Obrador's Morena party, former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum. Sheinbaum, who leads in the race, has promised to continue all of López Obrador's policies.

"Are we going to continue with hugs, or are we going to apply the law to criminals?" Gálvez asked a cheering crowd. "Mexico wants peace, wants tranquility."

López Obrador has withdrawn funding for police forces and directed it to the quasi-military National Guard, which critics say lacks the professional and investigative abilities needed to fight the drug gangs. Gálvez promised to return the funding to police forces and guarantee them wages of at least $1,200 per month.

Gálvez also pledged to reconcile a country that has been highly polarized by the outgoing president's rhetoric, saying "enough division, enough hatred ... we are all Mexicans."

Sheinbaum held her final rally later Wednesday in Mexico City's vast, colonial-era central square. She delivered a strongly nationalistic speech to a large crowd.

"Mexico is respected in the world, it is a reference point," Sheinbaum said, claiming that López Obrador's government "has returned to us the pride of being Mexicans."

"Mexico has changed, and for the better," she said.

On the violence issue, Sheinbaum vowed to continue López Obrador's policy of offering apprenticeships to encourage youths not to join drug cartels.

"We will deepen the strategy of peace and security, and the progress that has been made," she said. "This is not an iron fist" policy, Sheinbaum said. "This is justice."

Supporters of presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum attend her closing campaign rally at the Zocalo in Mexico City, on Wednesday, May 29, 2024.
Matias Delacroix / AP
/
AP
Supporters of presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum attend her closing campaign rally at the Zocalo in Mexico City, on Wednesday, May 29, 2024.

Gang violence casts shadow over campaigns

While López Obrador has increased the country's minimum wage and increased government benefit programs, he has been unable to significantly reduce the historically high homicide rate, which currently runs at more than 30,000 killings per year nationwide. That gang-fueled violence has also cast a shadow over the campaigns.

Late Wednesday, a mayoral candidate in the violent southern state of Guerrero was shot to death in the town of Coyuca de Benitez. Gov. Evelyn Salgado identified the dead candidate as Alfredo Cabrera, but gave no further details on his killing. Local media reported he was shot in the head at his closing campaign event.

A mayoral candidate in the western state of Jalisco was shot multiple times by intruders in his campaign offices late Tuesday. Two members of Gilberto Palomar's campaign staff were also wounded, and all three were hospitalized in serious condition, according to Jalisco state security coordinator Sánchez Beruben.

Mexicans will vote Sunday in an election weighing gender, democracy and populism, as they chart the country's path forward in voting shadowed by cartel violence. With two women leading the contest, Mexico will likely elect its first female president. More than 20,000 congressional and local positions are up for grabs, according to the National Electoral Institute.

Gunmen killed an alternate mayoral candidate in Morelos state, just south of Mexico City on Tuesday, state prosecutors said.

Local media reported attackers on a motorcycle shot Ricardo Arizmendi five times in the head in the city of Cuautla in Morelos. Alternate candidates take office if the winner of a race is incapacitated or resigns.

About 27 candidates, mostly running for mayor or town councils, have been killed so far this year. While that is not much higher than in some past elections, what is unprecedented is the mass shootings: candidates used to be killed in targeted attacks, but now criminals have taken to spraying whole campaign events with gunfire.

Copyright 2024 NPR

The Associated Press
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