Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why So Many Mayors Are Now Targets in Mexican Drug War

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why So Many Mayors Are Now Targets in Mexican Drug War

Article excerpt

At least 11 Mexican mayors have been killed this year in assassinations blamed on drug traffickers.

It used to be that working as top cop was one of the most dangerous jobs in Mexico when it comes to drug-trafficking targets. These days, however, it seems that mayors are facing the most danger.

The latest attack came Monday, when a mayor and his aide from the small town of Tancitaro in the state of Michoacan were found mutilated, apparently stoned to death. Their bodies were found in a pickup truck outside of the town of Uruapan.

The attack marks the fifth targeted attack of a mayor in Mexico in more than five weeks and the 11th assassination of the year.

Grisly violence is nothing new in Mexico, where more than 28,000 have been killed in drug-related violence in four years. But targeting the political class has become a disturbing new problem in the country.

IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war

Ties between traffickers and local officials

Raul Benitez, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, says that the spate of recent deaths may be no coincidence: It comes as the federal government is increasing intelligence capabilities and taking a harder look at collusion between traffickers and local police and authorities, as it looks to centralize the police force.

Therefore, many mayors who once may have turned a blind eye to trafficking exploits in their towns might now be refusing to cooperate.

"If the mayor is an obstacle, that is when the problem starts," says Mr. Benitez.

Tancitaro Mayor Gustavo Sanchez became mayor after the previous one, along with city officials and police, resigned in the face of death threats. Sanchez's death was the third attack in five days. In the northern state of Chihuahua, the mayor-elect of Gran Morelos was shot Friday. The mayor of Doctor Gonzalez in Nuevo Leon was killed a day earlier on his ranch near the industrial city of Monterrey. …

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