Friday, December 9, 2011

Threat to Elections

Apropos of Calderón's claim that threats from organized crime forced 50 candidates out of the Michoacán elections, I have a piece at InSight regarding the potential threats to the outcome of 2012. I focused not on the possibility that criminals could influence policy after the election, but whether they are actually capable of swinging a significant chunk of the votes, a la Michoacán (allegedly, anyway). Highlights:

However, there is reason to doubt that the presidential vote will be marred by criminal influence to the same extent as the local elections described above.

One fundamental reason is that in the three states in question, the influence of criminal groups arguably runs more deeply than anywhere else in the country. Each of them have spawned their own trafficking groups -- the Sinaloa Cartel in Sinaloa state, the Gulf Cartel (and the Zetas) in Tamaulipas, and the Familia and Caballeros Templarios in Michoacan -- which have deep ties to local business and politics. Crime hasn’t been imported from outside, but is an organic part of public life in each state, which makes it much more difficult to isolate politics from crime.

Vizcarra’s explanation for the photo with Sinaloa capo Zambada was illustrative: he didn’t deny it was real, but said it didn’t show collusion of any kind. As a rancher with ties to powerful business interests in Sinaloa, it was only natural that Vizcarra would have become acquainted with the longtime kingpin.

In some other states, even those which suffer high levels of violence, the links between drug trafficking and politics are not so inevitable, because organized crime is a comparably recent arrival. It is far less likely for criminals in, say, Queretaro or San Luis Potosi to be willing or able to exert influence over an election in the same way the Familia attempted to do in Michoacan.

For similar reasons, it is unlikely that there are photos floating around of the leading presidential candidates --Mexico State’s Enrique Peña Nieto or Tabasco’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador -- arm-in-arm with a wanted man.

Furthermore, the presidency is chosen by a nationwide, winner-take-all election in which some 40 million people will cast a ballot. Even in the unprecedentedly close 2006 presidential elections, the difference between Calderon and runner-up Lopez Obrador approached 250,000 votes. Against that backdrop, any drive to redirect votes from one candidate to another, even by the most powerful gangs, would almost certainly be futile.


Richard said...

While I am not sticking up for Vizcarra, his explanation made perfect sense to most people in Sinaloa. After all, with the opium poppy trade having been a staple of Sinaloan agriculture since the 1880s, and marijuana being a cash crop people can count on (even if it is illegal), it's next to impossible to have roots in this state without being related to someone connected to the largest organized business connected with that trade. I think about it, even I "know people" and if I were a bit more sociable, I might show up in some photos with people not exactly on the right side of the law, too.

pc said...

Yeah I see it pretty much like you do. I don't feel the need to defend him, but those kind of relationships are pretty common, it would seem. It's not like Vizcarra is worse, or at least we don't have evidence to believe that he is, than the average man in his position and from his social background. The only problem is that he got photographed.