Families of people who have been killed or kidnapped during Mexico's drawn-out drug war met with presidential candidates on Monday.
All four presidential hopefuls were berated by the bereaved, who demanded that more be done to end the violence that has plagued the country for the past five years.
Drug violence has become a top issue for the July 1 elections. More than 55,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence and 5,000 have gone missing since President Felipe Calderon began his militarized crackdown against the cartels.
Deaths and killing occur on a daily basis, and kidnappings are rampant. Over the weekend, 10 people were reportedly murdered in Acapulco, their mutilated bodies scattered across different sections of the Pacific resort city. In the border town of Nuevo Laredo, 14 decapitated bodies were discovered in a van outside of city hall and nine people were hung from a bridge.
On Friday and Saturday, five warehouses owned by the Mexican potato chip company, Sabritas, a subsidiary of PepsiCo., were set on fire, allegedly by members of the Knights Templar drug cartel, and on Sunday, 40 assailants with AR-15 and AK-47 rifles attacked a police station in Jalisco state, according to BorderlandBeat.
The drug war is especially relevant for two candidates -- Josefina Vázquez Mota, who must repair the reputation that Calderon has left on the National Action Party, and Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. According to polls, Nieto is the clear front-runner, but he has still found it necessary to distance himself from Tomas Yarrington, a former governor of the border state of Tamaulipas and PRI member, who found himself in the middle of a drug trafficking and money-laundering scandal last week.
U.S. prosecutors believe that Yarrington, who has not been charged with a crime, used drug money to purchase multi-million dollar homes in the United States and Mexico. According to the LA Times, the allegations have brought up memories of the PRI's shady past, when corrupt party officials used to accept billions in payments from the drug cartels.
"How many criminals have gone unpunished and are still in your party?" renowned poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was murdered by suspected hit-men last year, asked Nieto at Sunday's event. Sicilia, who has become the face of the anti-drug war movement, branded all four candidates "cold," "arrogant," and "superficial," Reuters reported.
During his campaign, Nieto has pledged to change the current method of fighting cartels, saying that he will focus on reducing the violence, rather than targeting specific gangs and gang leaders. If elected, Nieto has vowed to shift resources over to cutting down the incidence of homicide, kidnapping and extortion by augmenting the security presence in Mexico's most violent areas, but not attack specific cartels.
"This doesn't mean that we don't pay attention to other crimes, or that we don't fight drug trafficking, but the central theme at this time is [in] diminishing violence in the country," Nieto said in a recent interview with the Associated Press.
"Each administration chooses its operational objectives, and the objective per se is not the extradition or capture of big bosses, or the burning of seized drugs."
Some critics suggest that these methods show that Nieto is happy with reliving the old party model of leaving cartels alone.
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