Mexico Enters Election Year With Spate of Political Killings

  • One mayor, two mayoral aspirants murdered in less than a week
  • Twenty one mayors and former mayors killed last year: Alcaldes

Relatives and friends of mayor Arturo Gomez carry his coffin during his funeral in Petatlan, Mexico, on Dec. 29, 2017

Photographer: Francisco Robles/AFP via Getty Images

This year’s election in Mexico is already shaping up to be one of the bloodiest in decades after one mayor and two mayoral aspirants were murdered in less than a week.

Saul Galindo, a local lawmaker and preliminary mayoral candidate from the left-leaning PRD party, was assassinated in the Pacific Coast state of Jalisco on Dec. 28. Shortly afterwards, Arturo Gomez, mayor of Petatlan in Guerrero state, was gunned down, and then a few days later Adolfo Serna, who sought to be mayor of another Guerrero town, was shot dead.

"It’s indignant that these events are happening during an electoral process," Manuel Granados, the head of the PRD, said in a statement. "We call on all three branches of government to find a path to peace and security."

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The murders are no isolated incidents. There were 26,573 killings in the first 11 months of last year in Mexico, the most since at least the start of the century, as drug cartels fought for territory. Twenty-one of them were mayors or former mayors, according to Alcaldes de Mexico, a magazine that tracks the deaths. The violence doesn’t bode well for contentious elections this year to choose the nation’s president, lawmakers and mayors.

"Organized crime has become more politicized because it’s become more local," said Alejandro Hope, a security consultant and a former official for CISEN, Mexico’s intelligence agency. "They’re more concerned about who wins and who loses elections."

The arrests and killings of drug cartel leaders, including Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, have caused criminal groups to splinter and to focus more on extortion and kidnappings, making their connections with local power structures more critical, Hope says.

A total of 111 mayors or former mayors have been killed in the past decade, Alcaldes de Mexico reports.

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