5th Mex­i­can mayor killed in 6 weeks

The of­fi­cial led a town in Mi­choa­can state threat­ened by drug traf­fick­ers.

Los Angeles Times - - The World - Tracy Wilkin­son re­port­ing from MEX­ICO city wilkin­son@latimes.com

A mayor who took the job when ev­ery other of­fi­cial in his town quit out of fear of drug traf­fick­ers was re­ported slain Mon­day, the fifth Mex­i­can mayor killed in six weeks.

Au­thor­i­ties said Gus­tavo Sanchez, mayor of the town of Tanci­taro in Mi­choa­can state, had ap­par­ently been beaten to death with rocks. He had been missing since Satur­day and his body was dis­cov­ered Mon­day along with that of an aide on the side of a ru­ral road. Large blood­ied rocks were found nearby, wit­nesses said.

“We’ve had ex­e­cu­tions of peo­ple, a town of­fi­cial, a coun­cil­man, but al­ways shot to death … never any­thing like this,” Mi­choa­can state pros­e­cu­tor Je­sus Mon­te­jano said in a ra­dio in­ter­view. “We are wor­ried be­cause this sit­u­a­tion is very dif­fer­ent from what or­ga­nized crime usu­ally does.”

Sanchez was a 27-yearold school­teacher who took charge of the mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment in De­cem­ber af­ter the town’s mayor, city coun­cil and po­lice depart­ment re­signed en masse, say­ing they were be­ing threat­ened by drug traf­fick­ers. The for­mer mayor’s fam­ily had been kid­napped to pres­sure him to step down.

“We made this dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion be­cause the con­di­tions do not ex­ist that would al­low us to do our jobs,” the of­fi­cials said at the time in a state­ment. “There have been in­ci­dents that threaten our phys­i­cal in­tegrity.”

Sanchez, who did not be­long to a po­lit­i­cal party, was sworn in as mayor a short time later af­ter a com­mit­tee from the Mi­choa­can state congress promised that any new of­fi­cials would be safe.

Sanchez “was sure he could be a good mayor be­cause he did not have en­e­mies in the re­gion nor had he ever of­fended any­one,” the on­line Mi­choa­can news­pa­per Quadratin said in an ed­i­to­rial ti­tled “Dy­ing in good faith.”

Tanci­taro sits amid rich avo­cado or­chards and mar­i­juana fields in the moun­tains of western Mi­choa­can, on the edge of wild ter­ri­tory known as the Tierra Caliente (“hot land”). It is an im­por­tant cross­ing for drug ship­ments.

Sanchez was the 11th mayor killed this year. Many in dan­ger­ous north­ern border towns like Ciudad Juarez have be­gun to live in the U.S., or have moved their fam­i­lies there, and re­turn to Mex­ico to work and for brief pe­ri­ods.

Also in Mi­choa­can on Mon­day, navy spe­cial forces bat­tled pre­sumed traf­fick­ers through much of the day, killing four. A ma­rine was also slain. Mi­choa­can, the home state of Pres­i­dent Felipe Calderon, is the turf of a vi­cious drug gang known as La Fa­milia, which con­trols much of the trade in metham­phetamine and mar­i­juana.

Else­where in Mex­ico, gun­men burst into the cen­tral po­lice ar­mory in the state of Chi­huahua be­fore dawn. The well-armed team of about six men over­pow­ered guards and seized about 40 as­sault ri­fles and other mil­i­tary-style weaponry, said pub­lic se­cu­rity spokesman Fidel Banue­los.

Fed­eral po­lice on Mon­day an­nounced the ar­rest of Jose Ivan Con­tr­eras Lum­br­eras, a sus­pect in the July 15 car bomb­ing that killed four peo­ple in Ciudad Juarez, an in­ci­dent that marked a sharp es­ca­la­tion in car­tel tac­tics. Con­tr­eras is re­put­edly an en­forcer for the La Linea gang, the armed branch of the Juarez car­tel, po­lice said.

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