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Mayoral candidate shot dead in street just as she began campaigning in Mexico

Inside Mexican/American gunrunning networks
Inside Mexican/American gunrunning networks 03:12

A candidate for mayor of a violence-wracked city in Mexico has been killed just as she began campaigning, marking yet another politician to be shot dead in the country in recent weeks.

Authorities in the north-central state of Guanajuato said candidate Bertha Gisela Gaytán Gutiérrez was shot to death on a street in a town just outside the city of Celaya. Mayorships in Mexico often included smaller surrounding communities. 

Mayoral candidate Gisela Gaytán Facebook

Video of the scene posted on social media showed a small procession of people shouting "Morena!" - the name of Gaytán's party. At that moment, several shots can be heard and people are seen running and falling down.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the killing of his own party's candidates "hurts a lot," but he did not announce any increase in security for politicians.  

"They have just murdered our candidate from Celaya... This is something that has us angry, shocked, in mourning. We are going to suspend campaign activities," said Alma Alcaraz, another candidate with the ruling Morena party.

Gaytan, 38, was killed while preparing for an electoral rally, and had said earlier on Monday at a press conference that she had asked for protection for her campaign.

The governor of the state of Guanajuato, where the killing took place, Diego Sinhue, wrote on X that the attack would "not go unpunished."

Just hours before she died, Gaytán posted a message on Facebook, showing her meeting with local residents.

"Together, with determination and commitment, we will achieve the change we so long for," she wrote. "We want a Celaya where every person has the opportunity to thrive, we want transformation."

It was the latest killing in the increasingly bloody runup to Mexico's June 2 elections. At least 14 candidates have been killed since the start of 2024.

Morena is the party of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who leaves office in September. The June 2 elections will decide his successor, as well as many state and municipal posts.

Guanajuato has for some time had the highest number of homicides of any state in Mexico, and Celaya is arguably the most dangerous place, per capita, to be a police officer in North America. At least 34 police officers have been killed in this city of 500,000 people in the last three years.

In Guanajuato state, with its population just over 6 million, more police were shot to death in 2023 - about 60 - than in all of the United States.

In December, 11 people were killed and another dozen were wounded in an attack on a pre-Christmas party in Guanajuato. Just days before that, the bodies of five university students were found stuffed in a vehicle on a dirt road in Celaya.

For years, the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel has fought a bloody turf war with the Jalisco cartel for control of Guanajuato.

Violence against politicians is widespread in Mexico. Over the weekend, the mayor of Churumuco, a town in the neighboring state of Michoacan, was shot to death at a taco restaurant in the state capital, Morelia. Guillermo Torres, 39, and his 14-year-old son were both attacked at the restaurant. His son survived.

Two mayoral candidates were murdered in another town in Michoacan on February 26: Miguel Angel Zavala Reyes and Armando Perez Luna of the Morena and National Action Party, respectively.

Last month, prosecutors in southern Mexico said that mayoral candidate Tomás Morales was killed in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero. Also in March, Alfredo González, a mayoral contender in the town of Atoyac, Guerrero, was shot to death.

AFP contrubuted to this report.

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