As the electoral dust settles in Mexico, electoral commissions around the country are reporting the winners and losers of the recent elections of new majors and governors, among other posts across the country. Sadly, the tragic violence surrounding the July 7 election has made more of an impression that the electoral competition itself. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that the northern coastal state of Tamaulipas was not affected by the violence that took place in other parts of the country.
A brief but violent history
The armed conflict between the Mexican government and the various cartels since former President Felipe Calderon deployed his security forces circa 2007 has affected Tamaulipas more than nearly any other state in the country.
Media reports in January 2013 ranked the region among the ten most dangerous in Mexico, with 36 violent murders for every 100,000 inhabitants.
Due to the territorial war between the Gulf and Zetas Cartels as well between the Cartels against the security forces, violence is especially intense in Tamaulipas.
For instance, in just one bloody day of fighting in early November 2012, nine people died after several shootouts in Reynosa, close to the U.S. border. Most recently, nine individuals, including one member of the military, died in a 24-hour period during another round of fighting in Reynosa and San Fernando last June 25-26.
Aside from the violence carried out by the cartels, the boldness of their attacks is notable. This was best exemplified on February 2012 when unknown individuals threw two grenades at the government palace of the governor of Tamaulipas. Three individuals were injured.
After the attack, Governor Egidio Torre Cantu argued that the incident was a backlash from the successes of security forces against organized crime. Despite this positive twist of the attack, Cantu was critiqued for being passive amidst the high rates of violence over the past few years.
It was in this climate of constant violence that the state held elections this past July 7 to elect 36 local deputies and other local positions.
The elections in Tamaulipas
After the elections took place, Governor Torre Cantu stated that the necessary conditions were in place so that the citizens of his state could “go out with liberty to carry out [their] right to vote,” and that “[voter] participation was very good.”
The State Electoral Institute of Tamaulipas has backed this positive statement, reporting that voter participation increased from 44 to 48 percent, when compared to the same electoral process that took place in 2010.
As for the elections themselves, the big winner in the state was the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – the party of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Even though it will take a few more days before final tallies are made public, the PRI seems to have won at least 35 of the state’s 43 townships, and has also won 16 of the 22 seats open for local deputies.
Although violence instigated by organized crime was experienced throughout the country leading up to the elections, Tamaulipas seems to have been slightly spared.
A major reason for this violence-free environment was the deployment of around five thousand security personnel across the state to guard voting stations.
However, even if cartel-related crime may have been temporarily controlled, there were reports of politically-motivated violence. For example, a PRI delegate in Reynosa, Guadalupe Gonzales Galvan, said that two members of her party were apparently assaulted by members of another party, while a local PRI leader, Benito Saenz Barella, was allegedly threatened by a senator of the PAN party.
The aforementioned analysis should not give the impression that the elections in Tamaulipas were completely free of cartel-related violence, but the low rates of violence were unexpected. In March 2013, Ramiro Garay Medina, an electoral council for Nuevo Laredo was kidnapped by masked individuals from a local electoral center.
The author of this VOXXI commentary has been unable to find any public record of whether or not Garay has been freed, or, in a worst-case scenario, if his body was ever found.
Certainly, the terrifying violence leading up to the elections justifiably raised concerns that the cartels could have used this civic process to carry out major attacks against civilians or the numerous security forces deployed across the state. Fortunately, it seems that at least in Tamaulipas, the July 7 elections were carried out in a peaceful and tranquil manner.
As for the newly elected state officials, we can only wish them a safe and successful political tenure. Of particular concern is the future of the famous “Pacto por Mexico” that EPN signed with the opposition parties, the PAN and the PRD, which was aimed to achieve some cohesion among the country’s major political groups.
After the July 7 elections, EPN said that he wanted the Pact and dialogue across political party lines, but there are reports that both major opposition parties may reconsider their membership in the Pact after voter irregularities.
Political competition aside, Tamaulipas is an important state due to its location along the U.S. border (it’s one of the major crossing points for the movement of goods between the two countries), but it is also a region that has tragically been fraught with violence over the past years.
Perhaps the new political officials can learn to cooperate with each other in order to form a united front to confront criminal syndicates that have run rampant across the state. The successful July 7 elections, at least when it comes to the lack of violence, is hopefully the start of a better tomorrow for that Mexican state