Suspected drug cartel hit men gunned down a mayor of a town in central Mexico, the third such killing in less than a month, officials said.
The San Luis Potosi state government said in a statement, citing witness testimony, that four hooded assailants burst into the town hall in the municipality of El Naranjo at around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Two of the gunmen made their way to the offices of Alexander Lopez Garcia, the 35-year-old mayor, and opened fire, the statement said.
The slain mayor had been in office since October 2009, while the area where El Naranjo is located – a highland town of some 20,000 inhabitants – has seen much of the violence affecting San Luis Potosi, blamed on turf battles between rival drug gangs.
The Mexican president’s office issued a statement condemning the attack and expressing its condolences to the victim’s family.
A spokesperson for the main opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, to which Lopez Garcia belonged, called the murder “regrettable” and denounced the growing number of attacks of this type “at city halls nationwide.”
Lopez Garcia was the third mayor slain in less than a month. The body of the mayor of the northern town of Santiago, conservative Edelmiro Cavazos, was found in the state of Nuevo Leon on Aug. 18, while the PRI mayor of the northeastern town of Hidalgo, Marco Antonio Leal Garcia, was killed 11 days later.
Shootouts among rival drug cartels and the security forces’ operations against the gangs have claimed more than 28,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office.
Vowing to crush the cartels, Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of army soldiers and federal police officers to the country’s most crime-plagued areas, yet the pace of drug-related killings has only accelerated, surging from 2,700 people in 2007 to 7,724 fatalities last year.
The 2010 death toll, according to officials, already stands at more than 7,000.