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Violence clouds the last day of campaigning for Mexico's election

Violence clouds the last day of campaigning for Mexico's election
3 weeks 5 days 5 hours ago Wednesday, May 29 2024 May 29, 2024 May 29, 2024 6:23 PM May 29, 2024 in News - Mexico
Source: APnews.com
Supporters of ruling party presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum arrive at the Zocalo for her closing campaign rally in Mexico City, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, on the last day of campaigning ahead of the June 2 general election. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico held the last day of campaigning 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 absolutely 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López Obrador has withdrawn funding for police forces and directed it to the quasi-military National Guard, which critics say lacks the professional and investigative abilities needed to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 is scheduled to hold her final rally later Wednesday in Mexico City's vast, colonial-era central square.

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.

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.

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