The northern Mexican state of Sonora borders on the US states of Arizona and California, with a western coastline on the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California). It also borders the Mexican states of Chihuahua to the east, Baja California to the northwest, and Sinaloa to the south. The capital is Hermosillo and the population is just shy of three million.
The state is well-known for the eponymous Sonoran desert, with significant reserves of copper, silver, and gold, which supports a large mining industry. Sadly, it also has a reputation for corrupt political practices.
Politically, the state is mostly represented by politicians from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the same party as President Enrique Peña Nieto, and the right-of-center National Action Party (PAN).
The governor of the Sonora, Claudia Pavlovich Arellano, is from the PRI. Pavlovich, who assumed office in September 2015, is suitably corrupt: there is a recording of her during her campaign brokering deals with entrepreneurs. She was further accused by respected Mexican news magazine Proceso of "misuse of functions, conflict of interest and influence peddling."
After his term in office the previous PAN governor Guillermo Padrés Elías (2009-2015) was wanted by the Mexican government and Interpol on multiple charges of corruption, embezzlement, and extortion. The manhunt lasted until 10 November, 2016, when he surrendered to federal authorities. Padrés is accused of transferring US$ 8.9 million in public funds from Mexico to bank accounts he controlled in the United States. He remains in jail.
The Sonoran government has begun the arduous task of cleaning up after Padrés. On May 1st of this year Sonora’s Attorney General announced that the state was initiating legal action to expropriate 13 properties owned by Padrés and other officials who served in his administration, including ex-PAN deputy Mónica Paola Robles Manzanedo, ex-finance secretary Carlos Manuel Villalobos and former party state president Juan Bautista Durazo. The total property value – which includes three ranches owned by the imprisoned ex-governor – exceeds 561 million pesos (US $29.4 million).
|PRI governor Claudia Pavlovich Arellano|
Former government secretary Roberto Romero López was also wanted but had escaped to the United States. However, at the beginning of this year Romero López was extradited to Mexico, with the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office of Sonora charging him with influence peddling and abuse of power. Soon after, on February 23, Padrés' chief of security was also returned from the United States to Mexico, where he faces charges of robbery, false imprisonment, and torture.
Mining in Sonora continues to be a big – and sometimes controversial – economic driver. It's relevance ensures a base of support for the PAN – despite corruption scandals. To a lesser extent, this is true also of the PRI. The media in Sonora, which is tied to business interests, tends to maintain a suspicious view of left-of center parties like Morena, the Workers Party, and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).
Business interests and specifically mining was the top of the agenda during the Arizona-Mexico Commission Summit, held in Tucson in the middle of June. This is understandable given that mining represents a significant chunk of the $15 billion in trade between Arizona and Mexico.
During the Summit there was much talk of “new” mining, which is to say mining that is cognizant of social and environmental impacts, but the truth of the matter is that mining companies operating in Mexico – no matter if they are Mexican, Canadian, or American – operate to lower standards than in the United States and Canada.
This was made evident early in May when Baskut Tuncak, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, said that Grupo México’s failure to remediate the damage caused by a toxic spill in Sonora was a “shameless and flagrant example of impunity.”
Some background: in 2014 Grupo Mexico spilled 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate and other toxic substances into the Sonora and Bacanuchi rivers from its Buenavista copper mine. An estimated 22,000 people in seven municipalities were affected by the spill. Medical problems have been linked to the accumulation of heavy metals in the blood of more than 1,000 residents, including skin conditions, neurological damage, and various kinds of cancer.
|Former governor Guillermo Padrés Elías soon after his arrest|
In 2015, Grupo México — the country’s largest mining corporation — in conjunction with the federal Health Secretariat, promised to build a medical clinic and 36 water purification plants. To date, none of these promises have been fulfilled.
One challenge is that reporting on bad actors in Sinaloa can get journalists into trouble. In the 20th century, eight journalists were killed in Sonora, and in the early 21st century three more lost their lives. Since the start of the drug war in December, 2006, four more have been killed.
This election cycle three federal senate seats in Sonora are up for grabs. A poll in central Sonora taken by Consulta Mitofsky in May indicated that support for the PAN-PRD was at 33.6%, support for the PRI-led coalition with the Greens and New Alliance at 25.9%, with the Morena and Workers Party coalition bringing up the rear at 21.8%. A total of 18.7% were undecided.
The poll is perhaps surprising given Sonora’s experience with the notoriously corrupt PAN governor Guillermo Padrés Elías, but voters in Sonora tend to feel that they have only two choices: PAN or PRI. This was evident in the the June 2015 election for governor, with the winning PRI candidate Claudia Pavlovich Arellano taking an impressive 486,944 votes, or 47.58% of the total.
Morena has another problem in Sonora in that support the traditional leftist PRD is low. Consulta Mitofsky has PRD party identification in central Sonora at only 2.8%. This means that Morena leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who resigned as leader of the PRD to form Morena, doesn’t have much residual PRD support to count on.
When it comes to choosing a president, therefore, Ricardo Anaya of the PAN should do well here. And Antonio Meade of the PRI? He might do better in Sonora than in other states, but there’s little evidence that he’s inspiring the electorate.
Below are the links to the posts for each state:
Below are the links to the posts for each state: