Mayor murdered in Mexico drug war flashpoint

Gunmen on Thursday killed the mayor of a town in western Mexico shaken by a deadly turf war between rival drug cartels, authorities said.

Cesar Valencia was shot dead by unknown attackers while traveling in a city hall vehicle near a soccer field in Aguililla, military personnel who were dispatched to the scene told AFP.

He suffered at least two gunshot wounds to the chest and neck, according to the military.

“We strongly condemn the murder,” tweeted Alfredo Ramirez Bedolla, governor of the western state of Michoacan, where cartels are at war for control of drug smuggling routes.

“I have issued instructions to thoroughly investigate the events… and to punish those responsible,” he added.

Mexican mayors and other local-level politicians frequently fall victim to violence connected to corruption and the multibillion-dollar narcotics trade.

Aguililla is the birthplace of Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera, head of the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

Oseguera, 55, is one of the United States’ most-wanted fugitives with a $10 million bounty on his head.

His hometown of around 14,000 inhabitants is one of the hardest hit by Mexican criminal violence, although the deployment of the military there in February brought some calm.

Before that Aguililla had lived under a state of near siege due to blockades by cartels aimed at preventing their enemies from getting supplies.

The criminals also left behind makeshift landmines, a new tactic reflecting an escalation in the drug-fueled violence blamed for most of the roughly 2,700 murders in Michoacan in 2021.

Michoacan is the world’s biggest avocado-producing region and threats against a US inspector working there last month prompted the United States to suspend Mexican exports of the fruit for about a week.

Organized crime groups fight for a slice of the region’s agricultural riches through robbery, kidnapping and extortion.

Mexico has recorded more than 340,000 murders since launching a controversial anti-drug military operation in 2006, most of them blamed on fighting between criminals, according to official figures.

Last month, an armed attack believed to be the result of a gang dispute was reported to have killed up to 17 people at a wake in Michoacan.

The government said it was unable to confirm the death toll because no bodies were found, although DNA samples of 11 possible victims were collected at the site.