Political violence in Mexico and Pakistan: from Luis Donaldo Colosio to Benazir Bhutto

Mexico and Pakistan, located on opposite sides of the globe, have been targets of recurrent political violence stemming from its domestic and regional problems

Political violence in Mexico and Pakistan: from Luis Donaldo Colosio to Benazir Bhutto
Blood is seen at a crime scene - Photo:Josué González
English 20/07/2018 20:06 Gabriel Moyssen Mexico City Actualizada 14:57
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Mexico and Pakistan, located on opposite sides of the globe, have been targets of recurrent political violence stemming from its domestic and regional problems, unfortunately, this year’s electoral campaigns in both countries were no exception.

Campaigns for the general election in Mexico closed on June 27 with a record high 120 candidates killed (102 men and 18 women, 66% of them from opposition parties) between September 8, 2017, and June 16, 2018, according to government and press reports.

Another 351 non-elected officials at municipal, state and federal level were slain in the same period due to drug trafficking and organized crime threats, land disputes, local feuds and other causes.

Guerrero, Oaxaca, Mexico State, and Puebla topped the list of aggressions in federative entities, while Nuevo León was the safest.

The unprecedented carnage led the Organization of American States (OAS) special mission sent to the vote to declare the process as one of the most violent in Latin America and the Caribbean in the last years.

Former Dominican President and Head of the OAS Special Mission Leonel Fernández said the killing of political actors, candidates, and pre-candidates has no comparison in the Western hemisphere, in addition to the people intimidated to renounce their nominations.

Fernández urged the Mexican authorities to address this problem, in order to guarantee full and genuine participation in the future electoral process, as well as clarify the murders and avoid impunity.

In this context, it is important to remember the 1994 assassination of Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) Presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, during one of the most serious episodes of political violence in Mexico since the early 20th century.

In spite of the investigations, so far very few people believe in its final verdict -a lonely shooter guided by personal motivations.

The Zapatista uprising

Apart from the Colosio assassination in the northern city of Tijuana, 1994 started with the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas in coincidence with the entry into force of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Also that year, PRI’s Secretary-General José Francisco Ruiz Massieu was murdered in downtown Mexico City. He was due to become the majority leader in the Chamber of Deputies.

The 1994 events had a profound effect in Mexican society and are now considered among the main causes of PRI’s defeat in the 2000 elections, with conservative businessman Vicente Fox ending its 71 years of virtual monopoly on power.

The same can be said about the legacy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who served as President and Prime Minister of Pakistan during the 70s.

Founder of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)—which currently ranks third in the opinion polls towards the July 25 general elections—Bhutto dealt with the secession of Bangladesh and was responsible for the start of the country’s nuclear program.

Facing economic crisis, civil unrest, and accusations of vote rigging, he was deposed by a military coup on 1977 and executed two years later.

The liberal and modernizing projects of Bhutto remained popular; his daughter and political heir, Benazir (1953-2007) returned from exile and was elected as prime minister in 1988.

Once again, the powerful military caste, allied with Islamic militants, hindered the PPP’s reforms combining with the inexperience and corruption problems of Benazir and her entourage.

The first woman to head a democratic government in a Muslim country lost the 1997 election and she went into self-exile in Dubai.

Benazir returned to Pakistan in October 2007 and was attacked with two bombs in the same month in Karachi. The attack resulted in at least 180 dead, yet Bhutto escaped unhurt.

The PPP accused the military junta of General Pervez Musharraf, who ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s second government in 1999.

Musharraf, a key asset of the United States in the so-called “war against terror,” refused to open an external investigation as demanded by Bhutto.

On December 27, 2007, days before the parliamentary elections, she was shot at point blank by a man who also detonated a suicide vest after a rally in Rawalpindi. The following day, Benazir was buried next to her father near Larkana.

While the authorities claimed that the attack was masterminded by the Pakistani Taliban, which denied the version, the PPP accused the government of a cover-up and the vote was postponed from January to February 2008.

A coalition established between the party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of Sharif won the process, followed in September by the election of Benazir’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, as President of Pakistan to replace Musharraf, who resigned and fled to London fearing impeachment.

In 2009, a United Nations investigation concluded that Benazir’s murder was likely carried out by the Pakistani Taliban with the assistance of rogue elements in the intelligence apparatus. Four years later, the state’s main prosecutor in the Bhutto case, Zulfikar Ali, was himself assassinated in Islamabad.

At least since 1979, when the dreaded Inter-Services Intelligence and the US funneled weapons and logistic support to the Islamist rebels in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Pakistani army has been playing a dangerous double game regarding its real commitment with democratic values and the counter-terrorism efforts.

As the terrible attacks against innocent people in the present electoral campaign show, the generals are an obstacle to Pakistan’s progress.

Edited by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen

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