Masked assailants Sunday blocked access to voter precincts or burned ballot boxes in more than a dozen towns in the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero as voting in tense mid-term elections elsewhere unfolded with only minor disruption.
Thousands of soldiers and federal police patrolled Oaxaca and Guerrero, and the neighboring impoverished states of Chiapas and Michoacan, hotbeds of grievances against the government and Mexico’s electoral system.
Shortly before noon, Lorenzo Córdova, head of the National Electoral Institute, said more than 99 percent of precincts had opened and were operating normally in the elections for the 500-seat lower house of Congress, legislators in assemblies in 16 states, nine governors and hundreds of mayors.
"We are defending the vote as the best way to exercise our democratic rights," Córdova said.
Polling firms say the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party of President Enrique Peña Nieto is likely to retain control of Congress with the support of two allied parties. Vote tallies are not expected until around 11 p.m. local time (midnight EDT). The vote comes six months short of the mid-point of Peña Nieto’s six-year term.
Because of Mexico’s political structure, none of the nation’s three largest political parties have seriously addressed voter irritation with runaway corruption and stagnant economic growth, confident that their legislators can maintain a large presence in Congress and access to federal funding without heeding voter concerns.
The failure of the political system to provide candidates with direct accountability has made the midterm elections fraught with tension.
One tabloid newspaper, El Correo de Oaxaca, carried a full-page photo on its cover Sunday showing pigs feeding at a trough, with a headline that read: "Ready for June 7!" Each pig bore the name of a political party.
In Oaxaca, where a rump teachers’ union known as the CNTE vowed to block voting, public security officials reported violent incidents in the state capital of the same name and in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Tehuantepec, Cuicatlán, Teotitlán, and seven other localities.
El Daily Post, an online news site, said election observers from the Organization of American States abandoned Oaxaca, believing it too dangerous to remain.
Leaders of the CNTE, which is believed to represent some 200,000 teachers, want repeal of a two-year-old education reform that requires periodic evaluations of teachers and allows federal authorities, rather than union bosses, to control hiring, eliminating the selling of teachers’ jobs.
In the town of Tixtla in Guerrero state, grieving parents of 43 student teachers who last Sept. 26 fell into the hands of criminal police officers linked to organized crime, only to vanish and presumably be murdered, burned ballots near the site of the Ayotzinapa teaching university, home to the victims.
Some of the parents wore hoods as they attacked voting precincts in the San Lucas and Campo Santo neighborhoods, photos posted on Twitter showed. Others tossed rocks to keep voters out of the precincts.