Mexican President’s Power Slips During the Country’s Bloodiest Election Season in Recent History
Reports of increased political violence this midterm season include the killings of nearly 80 candidates, as well as the harassment of voters at booths across the country.
Backtrack for AMLO
Mexico’s ruling coalition suffered an electoral defeat in the midterm elections on Sunday after losing upwards of 60 seats in the lower house of Congress. The loss marked a rebuke of legislative goals set by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is better known as AMLO.
The results aren’t a complete defeat as early tallies indicate that the ruling coalition is still expected to maintain a simple majority in Congress, holding between upwards of 292 out of 500 seats.
The loss of up to 60 seats means that AMLO will lose his super majority and thus won’t be able to pass major legislative and constitutional reforms without convincing some opposition parties. Among the biggest changes AMLO wanted to enact were plans to return Mexico’s energy sector to state control. That now seems like an unlikely prospect.
A possible silver lining for AMLO’s Morena party is that it’s expected to win major local elections all across Mexico, further cementing its role in politics — something it has sought to do as a relatively new party that lacked local power structures and was only formed 10 years ago.
Aside from its results, Mexico’s election has caught international attention because it was among the bloodiest in recent history. During voting on Sunday, a severed head was thrown at a voting station in Tijuana. Plastic bags with other body parts were also found nearby, presumably from the same victim. Authorities are unclear what message the head was supposed to send, as no slogans or anything else was said when the act was done.
That is just one incident of many during election day itself. In the state of Mexico, not to be confused with the entire country, someone threw an inert grenade into a voting center to scare voters. People dispersed but then returned. One voter, who wished to remain anonymous, told Reuters, “People said that they would vote, and that they would not be intimidated.”
In the state of Sinaloa, the Sinaloa Cartel robbed an election center of its voting materials, although it’s clear why they did so. Overall, violence hasn’t been contained to election day and has been going on for months. According to data released late in May by the security firm Etellekt, 79 politicians have been killed and were 443 attacked in this election season alone.
In total, Etellekt claims that 198 have died during the election season, including public workers and those associated with politicians. Small-town politicians are the most targeted, likely because they lack large protection details. Additionally, controlling local politics is less likely to make national news and often turns out better for organized crime in the long run. Etellekt’s data shows that these groups don’t seem to have a preference for a party, as nearly half of those killed have been from either the ruling coalition or the opposition.
The violence may indicate a rebuke of AMLO’s policy of not engaging cartels in the hope that violence would die down.
Despite the rise in politically motivated deaths, the overall homicide rate in Mexico went down in 2020, and for the first time in five years, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, more Mexican states improved rather than deteriorated in peacefulness.
See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)
U.S. Intel Suggests Pro-Ukraine Group Sabotaged Nord Stream Pipeline
There is no evidence that the culprits behind the attack were acting under the direction of the Ukrainian government.
Europe Braces for Shocking Revelations
A pro-Ukraine group blew up the Nord Stream pipelines last September, intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials suggests.
The New York Times reported the news Tuesday, citing officials who said there was no evidence of involvement by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, any of his top lieutenants, or any government officials.
The strength of the evidence, however, is not clear, and U.S. officials declined to inform The Times on the nature of the intelligence or how it was obtained. They reportedly added that the intelligence indicates neither who the group’s members are nor who funded and directed the operation.
The Times’ sources said they believe the saboteurs were most likely Russian or Ukrainian nationals and that they possibly received specialized government training in the past.
It’s also possible that the group behind the attack was a proxy with covert ties to Kyiv, the report added.
When three of four Nord Stream pipelines were found to be severely damaged last year, the revelation shook markets and sent European gas prices soaring. Nord Stream 1, which was completed in 2011, and Nord Stream 2, which had been laid down but wasn’t yet operational, supplied Germany and by extension the rest of Western Europe with cheap Russian natural gas.
Following the explosions, Poland and Ukraine blamed Russia, and Russia blamed Britain. Other observers speculated that Ukraine might be behind it too.
More Ongoing Investigations
Last month, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh claimed in a Substack article that the United States military carried out the attack and that President Biden authorized it himself. However, Hersh’s report cited only one anonymous source in support of its central claim, so it was largely dismissed as not credible.
Western governments expressed caution on Wednesday in response to The Times report.
“There are ongoing national investigations and I think it’s right to wait until those are finalized before we say anything more about who was behind it,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
Russia, by contrast, pounced on the opportunity to renew its demand for inclusion in a proposed international probe into the pipeline explosion.
The Ukrainian government denied any involvement in the Nord Stream explosions.
On Wednesday, multiple German media outlets reported that investigators have largely reconstructed how the attack happened, pinning the blame on six people who allegedly used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland.
German officials reportedly searched a vessel suspected of carrying the explosives in January, but the investigation is ongoing.
The country’s defense minister suggested the explosions may have been a “false flag” attack to smear Ukraine.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
Turkey, Syria Earthquake Death Toll Rises to 41,000 as Survivors Pulled from Rubble
A pair of brothers spent around 200 hours trapped under debris, living off of protein powder and their own urine.
A Humanitarian Crisis Explodes
The number of confirmed dead from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last week has surpassed 41,000.
Millions more people have been left stranded without adequate shelter, food, clean water, or medical supplies.
At night, the region has dropped to below-freezing temperatures.
Now health authorities are worried that the lack of sanitation infrastructure, which was damaged by the quakes, will lead to a disease outbreak.
“We haven’t been able to rinse off since the earthquake,” 21-year-old Mohammad Emin, whose home was destroyed, told Reuters.
He was helping out at a clinic serving displaced people in an open-air stadium, but with no showers and only six toilets, the resource shortage was poignant.
“They are offering tetanus shots to residents who request them, and distributing hygiene kits with shampoo, deodorant, pads and wipes,” added Akin Hacioglu, a doctor at the clinic.
The World Health Organization monitors the population for waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid, as well as seasonal influenza and COVID-19.
Rescuers Race Against the Clock
After more than a week of searching, hopes that more living victims will be found amid the collapsed buildings are fading, but rescuers continue to pull out the final few survivors.
Abdulbaki Yeninar, 21, and his brother Muhammed Enes Yeninar, 17, spent about 200 hours under rubble in the city of Kahramanmaras before they were extracted Tuesday. They told reporters they held on by eating protein powder, drinking their own urine, and swallowing gulps of air.
In the same city, teams dug a 16-foot tunnel through debris to rescue a woman, and to the south, a volunteer mining crew joined the efforts to save another.
With no homes to go back to, some survivors have joined the ranks of volunteers themselves.
In the past week, more than 35,000 Turkish search-and-rescue teams worked alongside thousands of international workers in the effort, according to Turkey’s emergency management agency.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called the earthquakes the “disaster of the century” and said in a statement that at least 13,000 people were being treated in hospitals.
The death toll is expected to rise even further in the coming weeks.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Reuters) (Al Jazeera)
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Resigns
“In my head and in my heart I know that time is now,” she said to reporters
Sturgeon Steps Down
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation on Wednesday.
Sturgeon has been Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister and she is also the first woman to ever hold the position. She has been in politics since 1999, leading the charge for Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom. Sturgeon also guided the country through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sturgeon made sure to mention that her decision was not in response to the latest round of political pressure she is facing after her recent controversies regarding gender reform. Rather, her reasons are rooted in her own personal struggle with whether she can continue to do the job well.
“To be clear, I am not expecting violins here. But I am a human being as well as a politician,” she said during a press conference on Wednesday. “My point is this – giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it. The country deserves nothing less. But, in truth, that can only be done by anyone for so long.
“For me, it is now in danger of becoming too long,” Sturgeon continued. “A First Minister is never off-duty. Particularly in this day and age, there is virtually no privacy. Even ordinary stuff that most people take for granted like going for a coffee with friends or going for a walk on your own becomes very difficult.”
Sturgeon’s Political Future
Sturgeon’s approval ratings are reportedly the lowest they’ve been since she’s been in office. Regardless, many political figures in Scotland, as well as the U.K., have applauded her and her historic service as First Minister.
There are still several unknowns moving forward. There is still no confirmation on who will take over the position. However, Sturgeon did say that she will serve until someone else is elected.
The push for Scotland’s independence is hanging in limbo as well, and no one knows what it’ll look like without Sturgeon’s leadership. She did mention, however, that she does not intend to leave politics fully and will still fight for the cause as a lawmaker in Parliament.
Sturgeon said the support for Scottish independence needs to be solidified and grow.
“To achieve that we need to reach across the divide in Scottish politics,” she said. “And my judgment now is that this needs a new leader.”