The mayor of the northern Mexican city of Santiago is missing and was apparently kidnapped by gunmen working for an organized crime group, police said Monday.
Mayor Edelmiro Cavazos Leal has been missing since 10:00 p.m. Sunday, Santiago police chief Antonio Caballero said in a press conference.
“All we know is that he has been missing since last night,” Caballero said, adding that he would not provide any additional information until more evidence had been gathered in the case.
A forensics team from the Nuevo Leon State Investigations Agency is gathering evidence at the mayor’s house.
Santiago is located about 30 kilometers (some 19 miles) south of Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon.
Five police officers have been murdered in the past few months in the city, which has been plagued by a wave of violence blamed on drug traffickers and other organized crime groups.
Nuevo Leon has been rocked by a wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.
The violence has intensified in the border state since the appearance in February in Monterrey of giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia Michoacana drug cartels against Los Zetas, a band of Mexican special forces deserters turned hired guns.
After several years as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.
The cartels arrayed against Los Zetas blame the group’s involvement in kidnappings, armed robbery and extortion for discrediting “true drug traffickers” in the eyes of ordinary Mexicans willing to tolerate the illicit trade as long as the gangs stuck to their own unwritten rule against harming innocents.
The mayor’s disappearance occurred near the end of a violent 72-hour stretch that included a shootout between gunmen and the army in the Monterrey metropolitan area that left four people, including a suspected Los Zetas leader, dead.
A gunfight between rival gangs left three people dead, one wounded and more than 30 streets in downtown Monterrey blocked, causing massive traffic jams.
A grenade was thrown early Sunday at the Televisa office in Monterrey, but no one was injured and the blast only caused some damage, said a spokesman for the media company.
More than 200 people, including 30 police officers, have died in the gang war in Nuevo Leon.