This essay studies the social causes of political and electoral homicide in Mexico's democratization in the 1988–2000 period. Three main plausible hypotheses are tested with a qualitative and quantitative data set as potential explanations for these political-electoral homicides: (1) the “peasant-landlord conflict” thesis which explains this violence against peasants as a manifestation of underlying agrarian struggles over land and wages; (2) the “violence as a political strategy” thesis which assumes political-electoral homicide is the unfortunate response of the authorities to the violent party tactics of an opposition political party; and (3) the “rise of a leftist opposition” thesis which explains political-electoral homicide as the result of social disruption caused by the PRI-regime's loss of its traditional populist social base. The results suggest that the rise of an organized leftist opposition was perceived as a threat to certain agrarian interests, and to local PRI political, police and electoral control over the municipalities in question. The relatively high incidence of “paid” political contract killings, and/or killings by anonymous assailants against individuals engaged in everyday social activities at the time of their death points toward the use of homicide as a control mechanism to protect, maintain and to minimize threats and resistance to existing political and economic group interests.
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