Guardain News and Media/Mexico City
Fernando Puron had just finished an election debate with his rival congressional candidates in the Mexican border city of Piedras Negras, when a well-wisher asked to join him for a selfie.
But as he posed for the photograph outside the auditorium in the border city of Piedras Negras, a bearded gunman stepped up behind the pair and shot Puron in the head.
The cold-blooded murder on Friday – captured by a CCTV camera – has cast a harsh light both the stunning levels of violence in Mexico, and the risk taken by those who run for elected office in the country.
Puron was the 112th political candidate murdered in Mexico since September 2017, according to Etellekt, a risk analysis consultancy.
And the country is bracing for more bloodshed before July 1 elections, when voters will pick a new president, renew congress and fill hundreds of state and local positions.
The motives for the murder remain uncertain, although Puron had received death threats during his stint as mayor of Piedras Negras, where he had 10 bodyguards and was said to have incurred the displeasure of the city’s dominant crime group, the notoriously ruthless Zetas.
During the debate just before his death, Puron had pledged again to defy organised crime, according to the newspaper Vanguardia. “You take on delinquency head-on – you don’t fear it, you call it for what it is,” he said. “Unfortunately, not all those in power do their job – some are even in cahoots with criminals.”
Mexico registered a record number of homicides in 2017 – the 11th year of a militarised crackdown on organised crime.
That the violence is now claiming the lives of candidates and members of the political class is prompting uncomfortable questions in Mexico, where well-paid public servants are often able to protect themselves against crimes such as kidnapping – but have showed a crushing lack of interest in cleaning up corrupt and incompetent police forces.
“(Politicians) can only protect themselves to a certain point,” said Esteban Illades, publisher of the Mexican magazine Nexos. “Violence is so widespread and so vicious that it doesn’t matter how many bodyguards you have.”
Drug cartels are suspected in many political murders, which overwhelmingly take place in regions already plagued with violence. Politicians from all parties – and at all levels of government – have been attacked.
Earlier this month, three female candidates were murdered within 24 hours. Pamela Teran, a PRI candidate in Oaxaca state, was murdered with a photographer and her driver as she left a restaurant on June 2. Mexican media reported that Teran’s father had links to organised crime.
That same day, a Green party candidate in Puebla, Irais Maldonado, and the city councillor Erika Cazares were found dead in their car after a campaign rally. Authorities ruled out theft as a motive.
Candidates have also been targeted in regions that have previously escaped the violence. On Sunday, Rosely Magana, a PRI candidate for town council in Isla Mujeres, near Cancun, was shot and wounded when assailants on motorcycles opened fire on her home as she met another party activist.
Analysts offer varying theories to explain the growing number of attacks on politicians, including efforts by organised crime to infiltrate local institutions and the growing amount of cash in local government.
Federico Estevez, political science professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, said such attacks reflected the Mexico’s inability to uphold the rule of law.
The murder of candidates “creates enormous insecurity, which is felt and bemoaned by the public – and it’s held up in the faces of the politicians for their incapacity to do anything about it.
“There’s no bigger example of failure out there today than that.”
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