Mexico held its midterm elections last week and while the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party regained control of the Congress for the first time since 2000, another story has begun to emerge: the surprise showing of the small Green Party, which garnered 10% of the vote. The reason why this may be significant? The Green Party actively campaigned in favor of the death penalty which was officially abolished in 2005 while the last execution took place in 1961.
The death penalty has been a point of contention between Mexico and the US in the past. For the last thirty years, Mexico has refused to extradite any wanted fugitives to the US unless they receive assurances from the government that the death penalty will not be sought. This has led to a number of American fugitives fleeing to Mexico in order to avoid capital punishment, much to the irritation of state governments in the US. But in recent years, Mexico has seen its own surge in crime, particularly with murders and kidnappings related to the country’s drug trade. The growing violent crime, vulnerability of the public, and inefficacy of the Mexican judicial system has led many in Mexico to question whether the death penalty should be reinstated.
Earlier this year, the Mexican Congress agreed to debate the issue of reinstating capital punishment for some crimes. But leading the campaign in favor of reinstatement has been the Green Party, which plastered their message on billboards stating, “Because we care about your life – death penalty for murderers and kidnappers.”
For a number of legal and political reasons, most commentators believe it is unlikely that Mexico would be able to reinstate capital punishment. Chief among those reasons is the country’s ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights, which states that once the death penalty is abolished, it cannot be revived. But the election results this past week and apparent growing popular support on the issue still has many observers concerned.
While, the neighboring American state of New Mexico became the fifteenth US state to abolish the death penalty on July 1, it seems unlikely that this development will affect Mexican sentiments on the issue. Just days after the election, an anti-crime activist and his brother-in-law were gunned down in northern Mexico. For now, fear is driving the death penalty debate. And unfortunately, fear is one thing that is not lacking in Mexico these days.