AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Now to Mexico, where the run up to midterm elections has been one of the most violent in recent years. As many as six candidates have been murdered and a dozen more threatened and injured. This weekend, Mexicans will be voting to replace the entire lower house of Congress, nine governors and hundreds of mayors and local lawmakers. From Mexico City, NPR's Carrie Kahn has this report.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: It's been a turbulent few months leading up to Sunday's election. Since March, two mayoral candidates have been murdered in the state of Guerrero. In May, another candidate running for mayor was killed in Michoacan. And on Tuesday, gunmen walked into the campaign office of a Congressional candidate just outside Mexico City and shot him dead. The head of Mexico's National Electoral Institute, Lorenzo Cordova, has called on authorities to help maintain order.
LORENZO CORDOVA: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: Cordova says, "federal and state officials are going to have to step in to ensure that everyone in the country will be able to vote, especially in the more conflictive states." All this week, protesters in several of those states blocked roads and highways, burned ballots and ransacked local election headquarters, like this office in Oaxaca that was vandalized by members of a radical teachers union.
LUIS CARLOS UGALDE: Never, never, ever have the elections in Mexico been under such threat.
KAHN: Luis Carlos Ugalde heads the Mexico City consultancy firm Integralia, which has tallied 18 murders, including the six candidates, and a dozen more campaign workers and politicians killed since the beginning of the year. Ugalde says many of those murders may be tied to drug trafficking and organized crime, and not electioneering. He sees a bigger threat to elections this Sunday in the violence threatened by militant teachers and other radical protesters.
UGALDE: They see elections as the best chance to put pressure on the government and to get in exchange what they want.
KAHN: The teachers want to roll back recent reforms that include mandatory testing and performance reviews. Other protesters, including family members of 43 students murdered in Guerrero last year, are angry over insecurity and impunity in the state. They're urging voters to nullify ballots. But Sunday's election may go down as historic for more than just violence. For the first time, independent candidates are allowed to run. And one in the northern border state of Nuevo Leon just might win.
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JAIME RODRIGUEZ CALDERON: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: Jaime Rodriguez Calderon, better known by his nickname, El Bronco, and his plain style of speaking, is leading the polls in the race for governor against well-established parties, including that of President Enrique Pena Nieto. Without public campaign funds, Rodriguez has relied heavily on social media, like this campaign spot on his Facebook page, which has more than half-a-million likes. Rodriguez has tapped into widespread mistrust of politicians. In one poll this year, 75 percent said they have little or no confidence in any political party. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.