Mexican Gunmen Kill Third Mayor in a Month as Drug War Escalates

Gunmen killed the mayor of a town in northern Mexico as he sat at his desk, the third politician slain in the past month as drug-related violence escalates.

President Felipe Calderon, in a statement yesterday, “energetically condemned” the murder of Alexander Lopez, mayor of El Naranjo in San Luis Potosi state. Officials didn’t offer a motive or arrest any suspects, though Lopez was murdered in a part of the country disputed by rival drug gangs.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that Mexican cartels are starting to deploy “insurgency” tactics like car bombings that were once a hallmark of the war of terror used against Colombia’s government.

“It’s looking more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago, where the narcotraffickers controlled certain parts of the country,” Clinton said in Washington at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Mexico’s national security spokesman Alejandro Poire disputed Clinton’s comments and said the country was not at risk of losing control of its territory as happened in Colombia.

The U.S. has pledged $1.3 billion in anti-narcotics aid to Mexico under the Merida Initiative and Clinton said she gave Calderon “very high marks” for his courage in taking on the cartels.

Caught in Crossfire

Still, politicians are increasingly being caught in the crossfire of drug violence, which has killed more than 28,000 people since Calderon took office in December 2006.

Lopez, who governed a town of 20,000, was the third mayor killed in the past month. Gunmen kidnapped Edelmiro Cavazos, the mayor of Santiago in Nuevo Leon state on Aug. 15 and Marco Antonio Leal, the mayor of Hidalgo in the border state of Tamaulipas, was assassinated while driving on Aug. 29. A gubernatorial candidate was killed in Tamaulipas in June.

Also in the past month, 72 murdered migrants were discovered at a ranch in Tamaulipas and a car bomb was exploded outside the offices of Grupo Televisa SA, the world’s largest Spanish-language broadcaster.

Seven gunmen were arrested in connection with the murder of the migrants, Poire said yesterday.

Violence is the biggest threat to the Mexican economy, according to 57 percent of business executives, up from 49 percent in March and 22 percent in December 2009, a July survey published by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu showed. Its impact is shaving 1.2 percentage points off economic output a year, Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero said Sept. 1.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan J. Levin in Mexico City at Jlevin20@bloomberg.net

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