Violence, corruption alleged as Mexicans go to the polls

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by ANGELA KOCHERGA

WFAA

Posted on July 6, 2013 at 10:43 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 7 at 2:00 AM

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Voters in Mexico head to the polls Sunday to elect mayors and other local leaders in 14 states, ending a campaign season marred by mudslinging, threats and — in some regions — murder.

“We don’t want more promises,” sang a trio of musicians strumming guitars on a street corner in Ciudad Juarez. “We want actions.”

The young musicians captured the mood of voters in Mexico as a hotly contested election for mayor concludes.

“We need more books, not guns,” said Jay Hernandez, a student and one of the musicians. He said he was studying the candidate’s proposals before casting a ballot.

Voters in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, could elect the city's first woman mayor. Maria Antonieta Perez of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) is running against the Enrique Serrano of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

“A woman would be best," said Rosa Martinez, the mother of two girls aged 14 and 16 years. “We need more security for our daughters."

“We need more jobs," Hilario Gallegos added. He is a father of five who drives a bus. He was leaning toward Perez, the PAN candidate.

In the polls, Perez is trailing Serrano, who has a well organized and financed campaign.

She accused his campaign of promising gifts to supporters and offered a cash reward for proof of vote-buying. Serrano’s campaign doubled the reward money for proof.

Elsewhere in Mexico, the campaign trail has been marred by threats and violence. Candidates in Oaxaca, Chihuahua and Durango have been murdered. Other candidates have reported being threatened.

In Nuevo Laredo, a stronghold for the Zeta drug cartel, the PRI could lose its tight grip on power. Carlos Canturosas Villareal could be the first PAN candidate elected mayor in the border city since 1974.

He’s running against the the PRI’s Carlos Montiel Saeb.

After El Manana, the leading Nuevo Laredo newspaper, reported on ties between Montiel and a money launderer behind bars in Texas, hackers attacked the news organization's website.

The Zocalo newspaper in Coahuila also suffered a cyber-attack just days before voters in that border state cast ballots.

Turnout may be the deciding factor in many elections. Low turnout could favor the PRI, which has a proven track record in getting out the vote.

“A lot of people don’t vote because they’re disillusioned,” said Abraham Arizmendi, a street vendor who sells churros.

But the father of five said he hopes people vote. “It’s our civic duty,” Arizmendi said.

E-mail akocherga@belo.com

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