Mexico's high-stakes presidential vote: 4 questions answered

Oil-rich Mexico offers some of the best tourist destinations on the planet, strong trade relations with the United States, and a young and increasingly educated population. But it is mired in a deadly drug war that threatens its citizens, its democracy, and its ability to promote a safe climate for international investors. Citizen inequality remains high as growth has lagged, and institutions are weak. Mexicans head to the polls July 1 to elect a new president, and their next leader will have to tackle these complex questions if the country is to reach its potential.

Henry Romero/REUTERS
Thousands of supporters of leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gather at Zocalo Square for his last campaign rally in Mexico City June 27. Lopez Obrador, a former mayor of Mexico City who narrowly lost the 2006 election to Felipe Calderon, is the closest rival to frontrunner Enrique Pena Nieto.

Can the violence be curbed?

Security is the nation’s most visible problem and will be the next president’s greatest challenge. Violence not only threatens the safety of Mexican citizens, but also government effectiveness, the way the world perceives Mexico, and how much investors are willing to invest there. Despite a military-led effort by President Felipe Calderón, heartily backed in morale and muscle by the United States, drug violence has surged, resulting in 50,000 deaths under Mr. Calderón’s administration.

Mexico needs to put more resources into revamping its judicial system and creating a trustworthy police apparatus that is not only more effective at investigating crimes but is one that society trusts. “As long as prosecutions are ineffective, slow, and corrupt, it affects so many areas of life in Mexico,” says Eric Olson, a Mexico expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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