Two candidates were killed and one kidnapped in Mexico ahead of national and local legislative mid-term elections on June 7.
The deaths occurred on May 14; the kidnapping on May 12.
Two other candidates were murdered earlier in May and in March, signs of an election process tainted by violence and outlaw influence.
More than a dozen candidates across Mexico have been killed, kidnapped or threatened since the beginning of 2015, TeleSur TV reports.
Enrique Hernandez Salcedo, a mayoral candidate in Yurecuaro in Michoacan state, was killed in a drive-by shooting on Thursday night which injured 3 others.
Hernandez was a member of National Regeneration Movement (Morena), the leftist opposition party, and an outspoken critic of both the cartels and the government.
He was a leader of autodefensa, a self defense vigilante movement that challenged the Knights Templar cartel in Feb. 2013 after the cartel demanded money and threatened to kill him.
In March 2013, charged along with 19 of his men, Hernandez was sent to a maximum security prison for three months for allegedly killing the mayor of a neighboring town. He was released due to lack of evidence.
In an interview in 2014, Hernandez said “Rising up against organised crime [also means] that we’re rising up against the government, the state, because they’re working together.”
A colleague from Morena, Miguel Angel Sandoval Rodriguez, called Hernandez’s murder a “state crime” and demanded the resignation of Michoacan Governor Salvador Jara.
On the same night that Hernandez was killed, the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Hector Lopez Cruz was assassinated in front of his home.
Lopez Cruz was running for a seat on the municipal council in Huimanguillo in Tabasco state.
His brother was wounded in the attack and was hospitalised. The PRI condemned the incident.
“Today with this cowardly murder, for the first time in recent memory, this act of violence has tainted the electoral process,” the PRI statement read.
“Unfortunately, what happened is not an isolated incident; we constantly hear about these types of incidents through the media - homicides and kidnappings - without any action from the local authorities.”
Silvia Romero, a candidate from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) travelling with a bodyguard and an adviser, was kidnapped by gunmen on May 12. She was later found in good health, but details were not released about her return.
The former education secretary of Guerrero, Romero is currently running for a seat in Congress from the same state.
Ulises Fabian Quiroz, another candidate from Guerrero, was running for mayor of Chilapa, representing the PRI-Green coalition.
He and 15 others were stopped on the highway by cartel members on May 1, who shot him execution style and told the rest to leave “if they didn’t want to die,” the Latin Times reported.
This was soon after the death of Aide Nava, who was running to be mayor of Ahuacuotzingo in Guerrero for the PRD before she was beheaded by members of a cartel in March.
She was not the first gang victim in her family; her husband had been murdered in 2014 and her son had disappeared in 2012.
Cedar Attanasio, a writer for the Latin Times, interprets the number and geographic reach of the killings as being “unprecedented in modern Mexican democracy” but adds that “United at the ballot box or even in the streets, Mexican citizens still have the power to reign [the cartels] in.”