- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico | Drug cartels fund a tenth of Mexico’s economy. They have infiltrated many local and state police forces and staged assaults on army bases.

Now they’re violently inserting themselves into politics, killing the leading candidate for governor of a northern state only days before Sunday’s elections in 12 states.

The assassination of Rodolfo Torre in the border state of Tamaulipas on Monday capped the deadliest month yet in President Felipe Calderon’s military-led offensive against drug traffickers.

Carefully planned attacks — including an ambush that killed 12 federal police officers — have served as chilling reminders that Mexico’s drug cartels can get to anyone, anywhere, armed with sophisticated weaponry and billions of dollars to pay off informants.

Mexican officials said Sunday’s voting would go forward as planned, including in Tamaulipas, where Mr. Torre’s replacement as candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party had not even been named.

But even as Mr. Calderon’s government urged citizens to stand up to the cartels by turning out to vote, Mexicans increasingly see the cartels — not Mr. Calderon — as having the upper hand.

“Organized crime has voted,” the national newspaper Reforma wrote in a front-page editorial Tuesday. “What’s the point of having elections when a de-facto power is imposing its will over the will of citizens?”

Throughout Mexico, the cartels have had a strong impact on this year’s campaigning. The mayor of Cancun, who was running for governor of Quintana Roo state, was arrested last month on charges of protecting two cartels. In Sinaloa and other states, assailants have lobbed grenades at party offices.

And rumors abound about candidates who just might be on the take from one or another of the powerful drug organizations.

The assault on Mr. Torre’s campaign caravan was typical of a cartel hit. Gunmen intercepted his convoy as it headed to the airport, indicating they knew exactly when he would be passing by. The body of the candidate and four others in the caravan lay strewn on the street, suggesting they had tried to flee.

Mexicans took the hit to be part of a feud between the Gulf cartel and a gang of hit men who split from it known as the Zetas, who have been battling in Tamaulipas this year.

The Zetas have grown into a formidable drug-trafficking organization in their own right, with operations reaching deep into Central America, and the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels have teamed up to fight their new, common enemy.

The Zetas, former members of a military intelligence battalion sent to fight the cartels, joined forces with the Gulf cartel in the 1990s and increasingly began controlling life in Tamaulipas.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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