Here is an excerpt from Marc Lacey's article in the New York Times:
"A popular candidate for governor of Tamaulipas State who had made increased security his prime campaign pledge was killed along with at least four others Monday morning when gunmen opened fire on his motorcade as he headed to a campaign event, the authorities said. The killing of the candidate, Rodolfo Torre Cantú, 46, drove election-related violence in Mexico to a peak unseen since 1994... Mr. Torre’s death followed the killing of a mayoral candidate and that of an activist during a get-out-the-vote effort. Explosives have been thrown at two separate campaign offices. Immediate suspicion in the Torre case fell on drug cartels since Tamaulipas, a northeastern state bordering Texas on the gulf coast, has been the site of fierce fighting in recent months between rival trafficking organizations, the Zetas and their former allies, the Gulf Cartel." Link to Full Article
Analysis: The important take-away from this story is not the person who was actually assassinated, but the fact that DTOs are using this as a tactic to benefit their business operations. Killings in Ciudad Juárez hit a record daily high last week, and some people are asking what's causing the uptick in violence. Upcoming gubernatorial and municipal elections aren't the whole story, but they're a big part of it. Violence in certain parts of Mexico is often cyclical or even seasonal, but DTOs do have a message to send at this particular time of the year.
And that message is two-fold: one for the candidates and one for the people. Organized crime in the US has always held a certain amount of influence over some politicians, but Mexican DTOs take it to an extreme. It's no secret that DTOs want certain people in office because they need an ally - whether forced or voluntary - who will allow their trafficking activities to continue in that state or municipality unfettered. Torre Cantú was probably not willing to play the DTOs' game, and he summarily paid the price for his intransigence. Either that, or because his opponent was and was less likely to win, assassinating Torre Cantú would clear the way for his opponent to be easily voted into office. Such political manipulation goes beyond the traditional definitions of organized crime, and governments on both sides of the border would be wise to regard it as such.
The second message - and perhaps the more dangerous and insidious one - is the message sent to the Mexican people. Rising drug violence, especially when it involves a lot of collateral damage, is highly discouraging to the electoral process. Not only do people stay away from the polls on election day, but they lose all faith in the candidates' ability to protect them or do anything to curb the violence where they live. It erodes the fundamental nature of democracy when a populace loses all faith in the system. Not that Americans are all that fond of our own politicians, and voter turnout during major elections usually hovers around 40-50 percent. But still, we don't fear for our lives when we go to the polls, and I think most Americans still believe their representatives have at least some concern for their constituents.
Keep this in mind when you see news stories of Mexican candidates for office being assassinated over the next week. It's not just a case of drug-related violence as usual. This is a basic erosion of democratic norms by powerful organized crime groups, and the ultimate effect on Mexico's government and society will be dire indeed.