The mayor of a suburb of the Mexican city of Cuernavaca was gunned down Jan. 2, one day after taking office.
Gisela Mota was killed early in the morning inside her home. A former congresswoman, she had vowed to fight crime “frontally and directly,” her party, the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), said. She was 33.
State police in Morelos, where Temixco sits, said they killed two suspects in a gun fight and apprehended three others, including a child. Their investigation is ongoing, though the governor has said drug cartel “Los Rojos,” or “The Reds,” appears to be behind the killing.
Mota, who was elected head of the Temixco municipality last summer, is part of a growing list of murdered Mexican politicians. Since former president Felipe Calderón launched a war against drugs cartels in 2007, attacks against government officials, political candidates and activists have shot up, according to Guillermo Trejo and Sandra Ley, who have researched the issue at University of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies. From 2007 to 2014, nearly 200 (link in Spanish) have been slain, they wrote in February for Mexican political magazine Nexos.
The most common victims are officials at the municipal level, which is roughly equivalent to the American county.
President Enrique Peña Nieto has underscored links between mayors and criminal groups, calling for the elimination of municipal police forces (Spanish) or for municipalities themselves to stamp out corruption.
But commentators point out that the federal government has done little to help municipal leaders fend off criminal infiltration in the first place. Mayors routinely face threats and intimidation by criminal groups, according to the Association of Local Authorities of Mexico. Over the past decade, more than 70 mayors (Spanish) have been killed, including six last year, the group says.
Temixco, with a population of 100,000, lies on a busy drug route linking Mexico City with the resort port of Acapulco. Crime has flourished along the way, with Cuernavaca, a weekend getaway known as “the city of the eternal spring,” becoming a hotbed for cartel activity.
Morelos Mayor Graco Ramírez said on Jan. 3 that the state will take over security in 15 municipalities under a unified command (Spanish.)