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Masked men stop vehicle carrying leading Mexican presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum

Tapachula, Mexico — Masked men stopped a vehicle carrying Mexico’s leading presidential candidate Sunday as she traveled between campaign stops to urge her to fight violence in the southern state of Chiapas , if she wins the June 2 elections.

Former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, a candidate for the ruling Morena party, remained in the front passenger seat of the vehicle, listening calmly with the window rolled down. Masked men filmed the interaction on their cellphones and one of them shook her hand before letting her go.

The men, who identified themselves as local residents, said they felt “helpless” because the government had not done enough to provide security. They asked her to act as president so that their commune, Motozintla, located along Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, would not become a “disaster” like other communities in the region.

Mexican presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum speaks at a banking convention in Acapulco, Mexico, in this handout distributed April 19, 2024. Broadcast Fuente Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALE. NO ARCHIVES.

Broadcast Fuente Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo / Document via REUTERS

During her election campaign through Chiapas, Sheinbaum was escorted by the army and national guard.

The Chiapas border area is gripped by violence as rival Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels fight for territory. Thousands of people have been displaced as cartels work to control migrant, drug and arms smuggling routes and forcibly recruit the local population.

Later Sunday, Sheinbaum confirmed the incident had taken place, but downplayed it and said she did not believe the men were part of an organized crime group. She described the meeting as “very strange” because, according to her, a media critical of outgoing president Andrés Manuel López ObradorThe state administration published it for the first time. Sheinbaum maintained a comfortable lead in the presidential race, according to polls.

A federal deputy from López Obrador’s party who was traveling with Sheinbaum had already described the meeting on the social platform zone control, but she later I deleted it.

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