23 June [AFP] MEXICO CITY - Mexico's drug war is creeping into the mid-term elections here amid apprehensions that the country's drug cartels will use their money and clout to influence the outcome.
The fear that drug gangs are influencing politicians is widespread as Mexicans prepare to vote on July 5 for 500 lawmakers, six governors and 565 mayors
, against a backdrop of brutal shootings, beheadings and torture.
More than 10,000 people have died in suspected drug violence since President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown on organized crime two and a half years ago.
Calderon's right-wing PAN party directly links the issue to its campaign, in the first such move in a country where drug gangs have been active for decades. ....
Some critics have also accused Calderon of engaging in a publicity stunt ahead of the elections with arrests of officials in the opposition-governed state of Michoacan for suspected cartel links.
After the crackdown last month, authorities charged seven mayors and 20 other officials for suspected links to the powerful La Familia drug cartel. ....
In the July vote, Calderon is seeking a renewed public mandate to continue his tough US-backed campaign during the second half of his presidency.
For now, the biggest opposition - the left-wing PRI which ruled Mexico for 71 years before losing to the PAN in 2000 - is slightly ahead in polls.
But the public, fed up with corrupt politicians and a battered economy as well as drug violence, is showing growing interest in a campaign calling for a protest vote against all the candidates.
If the PAN loses significantly to the PRI, Calderon will face greater opposition in congress, including against measures taken in his controversial drug war which has seen the deployment of 36,000 troops nationwide.
As attacks are once again on the rise, particularly in and around the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez - a key trafficking hub for the United States - fears are also rising about drug gang influence. ...