Monday’s disturbing violence, involving a brazen attempt on the life of former Jalisco Attorney General Luis Carlos Najera and the subsequent torching of several buses (see story page one), has rattled nerves and rekindled outrage still flickering from the disappearances of three film students in March.
Making matters even more volatile was the death of Tadeo, an eight-month-old baby who died from burns sustained aboard one of the torched buses.
And lest we forget, this is election season. Passions aroused by tragedy and fear can become, in the hands of a savvy politician, valuable political capital.
Coinciding with the bloody events was the presence in the state of the two main frontrunners for the presidential election, to be decided July 1. Whilst on the campaign trail, neither wasted much time in lamenting the violence itself, while only one seemed interested in detailing solutions.
Frontrunner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a left-wing veteran politician known widely as AMLO, placed the blame squarely at the feet of those in charge of combatting the drug cartels since 2006 – the governments of Felipe Calderon and Enrique Peña Nieto, controlled by the PAN and PRI parties, respectively. Neither party is a friend to Lopez Obrador, who has come close to being elected twice before, losing by a hair both times. He currently polls at 46.1 percent, well ahead of the opposition.
Meanwhile, PAN candidate Ricardo Anaya, who trails AMLO in the polls at 27.7, avoided laying specific blame, outlining instead his intentions in regards to public security upon election to the presidency. Included in his master plan was the creation of a special Department of Civic Security, doubling the size of the federal police force, making an effort to “professionalize and certify law enforcement of the nation as a whole,” and to “change our relationship with the United States so that guns aren’t put into the hands of criminals.” He also recommended increasing intelligence activities in the fight against cartels, in order to destroy them from the inside, rather than simply assassinate their leadership, a strategy which has long proved fruitless and only creates dangerous power vacuums.
So which statesman stands to gain at the ballot box? While during his visit to Jalisco Lopez Obrador offered little in the way of specific remedies to the plague of violence and corruption eating at the country, his reaction may end up being the more honest of the two. Anaya’s earnestly delivered proposals, like so many which have emanated from the mouths of politicians looking to sail into office on a gust of fear-allaying assurances, may be empty lip service paid to an anxious public with itchy voting fingers.