On March 29, 2020, during the covid-19 pandemic in the municipality of Badiraguato, Sinaloa, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) broke all health and safety protocols and stopped his tour to greet Consuelo Loera, mother of the bloodthirsty drug trafficker Joaquín Guzmán Loera, one of the main leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Two years later, last Sunday, April 11, in the popular referendum to revoke his mandate, AMLO confirmed his influence in Badiraguato, the homeland of infamous drug traffickers such as Pedro Avilés, Rafael Caro Quintero, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, “El Chapo” and the Beltrán Leyva clan, among others.
Although in general the population in Mexico strongly snubbed the popular consultation in that area dominated by the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Ismael Zambada García “El Mayo” and the sons of Guzmán Loera, better known as “Los Chapitos”, there was a peculiar turnout of voters above the national average. And the vast majority, more than 90%, voted for López Obrador to remain in government.
According to official figures from the National Electoral Institute (INE), on a national scale a turnout of just 17.7% of the electorate was registered and 40% was required for the result to have any legal value. Not even Mexico City, once a political stronghold of AMLO and his National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, was able to exceed 20% participation. On average, in the capital only 19.7% went to the polls, although there were central mayoralties, such as Benito Juárez, in which the turnout was barely 12%.
In contrast, back in the land under the domination of the Sinaloa Cartel, despite the fact that it is a wild area in the Sierra Madre Occidental, participation reached 22% in almost all electoral sections. While the participation in the entire state of Sinaloa was on average 19.7%, the same as in Mexico City.
Friendship and alliances to the test
Badiraguato is located within federal electoral district 3, with the seat in Guamuchil, which encompasses the main marijuana and poppy cultivation area of the entire state and is part of the so-called “Golden Triangle.” Voting levels in Badiraguato strangely exceeded even those of Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, where the participation was 15.8%, on average.
Those who know well what is happening in Badiraguato affirm that AMLO and the governor of Sinaloa, Rubén Rocha Moya, have a particular ambassador as mayor: José Paz López Elenes, who was the candidate of the Morena-Partido de Sinaloa alliance in the elections. state elections in 2021, and who won not only thanks to the voters of the region but also to the direct operation of the Sinaloa Cartel, which kidnapped the brother of Paz Elenes’s strongest contender, the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, Guadalupe Iribe.
It is stated that López Elenes, who is the “political son” of Governor Rocha Moya, is an interlocutor in those lands between the federal government, the state government and the Sinaloa Cartel. Informants from Morena in that region affirm that the evolution and solidity of the sympathies towards AMLO and Morena in the territory of the Sinaloa Cartel are more than symbolic and are not spontaneous: they are with the approval of “El Mayo” and “Los Chapitos”.
And since “friendship” and “alliances” are always under test, the referendum served as an exercise to endorse preferences and that narco territory endorsed its support for AMLO and Morena, to the extent that the same percentage of participation was achieved as in strategic mayorships of that party in Mexico City, such as Iztapalapa and Tláhuac, where the largest number of people living in poverty are concentrated.
In contrast to other areas dominated by drug trafficking and Morena, such as Zacatecas, where there is a bloody dispute over territorial control between the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel, the participation of the population was barely 14.2% in the entire state, and in the Fresnillo area, where the population lives plagued by violence, it barely reached 11%.
profit off the poor
In addition to the peculiar vote in the territory of the Sinaloa Cartel, there are other parts of Mexico where there was an atypical phenomenon of participation. Leaving aside Tabasco (where there was a 35% turnout), AMLO’s homeland and where he has political hegemony, the states where there was more voter mobilization were those that concentrate the poorest municipalities in the country: Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca. . There the vote was 32, 24 and 23%, respectively.
In Chiapas, there is a complaint from residents of the municipality of San Fernando, one of the poorest in the state. They claim to have been intimidated and forced by municipal authorities to cast their vote in favor of AMLO in the revocation of the mandate. They were even transported by a vehicle from the municipality governed by the Green Ecologist Party, an ally of Morena, and on the way the transport fell into a ravine. Three people, including a baby, died in the accident and five others were injured.
The threat, the victims said, was that they were going to take away the federal social programs of the AMLO government. The infamous electoral profit of poverty must be investigated by the electoral authorities and sanctioned, because in addition to the citizen complaints, what is a fact, according to the figures that I analyzed from the INE, is that in the 4th district of Chiapas, with capital in Pichucalco and which includes San Fernando and other very poor municipalities with few communication routes, the participation in the revocation of the mandate was 43.98%, more than double the national average. Nobody could think that it was something spontaneous.
Although the popular referendum for the revocation of the mandate has no validity, the exercise served as training for the electoral muscle of AMLO and his allies towards 2024. For them, it was useful to distinguish their strengths and weaknesses. The training cost the population 1,692 million pesos and the useless erosion of the prestige of the electoral authorities.
But it also exposed a perverse and worrying reality: the bastions where it has hegemony are those controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel, the most powerful criminal organization in Mexico, and by the infamous poverty that the government does not solve, but manages electorally in its favor. . Crime and poverty are two contrasting faces of ungovernability and insecurity that the AMLO government neither wants nor can solve.