Catholic Church warns of threat posed by organized crime in upcoming elections in Mexico

Mexico elections Credit: ACI Prensa

The bishops of Mexico have expressed their concern about the possibility that “organized crime and other criminal groups may intervene” in this year’s elections for various offices throughout the country including the nation’s president.

That would be “the worst scenario, the one which we should principally avoid,” the prelates stressed.

In a March 2 statement posted on X, the Mexican Bishops’ Conference urged the authorities responsible for public safety and law enforcement to “guarantee protection and an environment of peace” during the election campaigns.

The prelates stressed “the importance and significance of the next election day,” when in addition to electing the successor of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexicans will also vote for new state and federal representatives and senators, the governors of nine states, and presidents of “municipios,” the rough equivalent of counties in the U.S.

According to the National Electoral Institute (INE), this election season is “the largest that Mexico has ever had.” The INE is an autonomous agency that directly organizes federal elections and works in cooperation with state election officials in organizing local elections.

In this context, the Mexican bishops warned about the “risks that threaten democratic stability because of criminal violence.”

Growing violence, organized crime

The term of outgoing President López Obrador, which began in December 2018 and will end in October of this year, is considered the most violent period in modern Mexican history with more than 180,000 homicides recorded. Just between Jan. 1 and Feb. 18 this year, 4,379 homicides have been recorded in the country.

Of the 50 most violent cities in the world in 2023, 16 were in Mexico according to the list compiled by the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice. At the top of the list was Colima, the capital of Colima state on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

Based on documentation from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the 2022 report “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations” from the United States Congressional Research Service identifies nine “main” cartels operating in Mexico: Tijuana/Arellano Félix, Sinaloa, Juárez/Carrillo Fuentes, Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas and the Noreste Cartel, Beltrán Leyva, La Familia Michoacana, Los Rojos, and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).

However, the report acknowledges, crime gangs in Mexico are more fragmented and more competitive than in the last 10 to 20 years. Some of these smaller gangs exerted a major influence for a few years and then disappeared.

“The political violence leading up to Mexico’s midterm elections in 2021 — when reportedly more than 100 politicians were killed and many more were threatened — led some analysts to assert that Mexican cartels have taken direct electoral interference to new levels,” the report stated.

In addition, Mexico has become “one of the world’s most dangerous countries in which to practice journalism,” the report pointed out, noting that “between 2017 and 2020, a journalist was murdered in Mexico nearly once a month on average” and that “in the first five months of 2022, 11 journalists were murdered in Mexico.”

And according to the map of election-related political violence prepared by the news site Infobae, at least 11 candidates have been murdered between Jan. 1 and March 3 of this year.

‘A totally unacceptable combination’

Given the current situation, the bishops acknowledged in their statement that “the conditions the country is experiencing, unfortunately, are not the best.”

In addition to the challenges regarding security, the prelates pointed out that “social inequality, economic growth, insufficient formal [above board] and decent employment, available quality education and health care coverage, migration, social polarization, and other problems persist.”

More in Americas

Consequently, the bishops asked the authorities to guarantee that election-related “assaults, attacks, and the deplorable murders of candidates, politicians, family members, journalists, and other citizens” will be averted. 

“Democratic elections mixed with crime is a totally unacceptable combination, it is a sign of the most deplorable corruption that must be avoided at all costs,” the conference emphasized.

The bishops also called on all Catholic faithful to offer up prayers, “respecting the diversity of religious beliefs and political preferences” to beg God in his providence “to provide us with the necessary wisdom to guide the decisions that Mexico faces.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.