Tue | Jun 15, 2021

Drug cartels work to sway local vote

Published:Friday | June 29, 2012 | 12:00 AM

EMILIANO ZAPATA (AP):

Before the sun climbed above the hills around this central Mexican town, Saul Garcia and his family awoke to the sound of bullets piercing the front gate. A masked motorcyclist had opened fire on their brick home, leaving behind a poster signed by the La Familia drug cartel, warning the mayoral candidate to withdraw from the race or the gang would kill him, his wife and three children.

Garcia, a candidate for the local Social Democratic Party, didn't pull out. A state police officer now follows Garcia 24 hours a day while he courts voters on the steep and narrow streets of Emiliano Zapata, a suburb of Cuernavaca in the state of Morelos.

As Mexicans head to the ballot box Sunday, drug cartels are registering their votes with scare tactics and cold, hard cash to make sure whoever is elected doesn't interfere with their lucrative operations. The focus is usually on local politics, where officials and their police departments can cause problems, or smooth the way, for gangs moving drugs or shaking down businesses. It's also easier to influence a local race than an extensive, well-financed national election in the glare of media coverage.