The campaign for next month’s mid-term elections in Mexico was marred by violence in the southern state of Guerrero on Friday when a ruling party candidate was shot dead by crime gang members.
Ulises Fabián Quiroz, a mayoral candidate in the municipality of Chilapa – located about an hour from state capital Chilpancingo – was dragged from his car, beaten and shot at least 15 times, authorities said.
The murder of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) official drew strong condemnation from all parties vying for mayoral, legislative and gubernatorial posts in Guerrero – one of the poorest and most violent states in the country.
“This deplorable action has forced us into mourning and to think about the climate of insecurity that prevails in Guerrero,” said Héctor Astudillo, the PRI candidate for governor who suspended his campaign and attended Quiroz’s funeral on Sunday.
Chilapa is one of the most violent municipalities in a state that became the focus of world attention last September when 43 teaching students were kidnapped and killed there, reportedly by drug traffickers.
Two drug gangs – Los Ardillos and Los Rojos – are fighting for control of Chilapa, which is a major drug shipment point. Shootouts between police and gang members are frequent.
Since the beginning of the year, Mexican authorities have discovered at least 10 bodies buried in hidden graves in Chilapa.
One mayoral candidate, Laura Patricia Hernández Carrillo of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) withdrew from the race days before Quiroz’s murder for security reasons.
Last week, a hit man team similar to the one that attacked Quiroz intercepted the Citizen Movement party’s candidate for governor, Luis Walton Aburto, and held him at gunpoint in Chilapa. His aides were forced to cancel all campaigning in the area.
The violence in Guerrero affects all parties alike; candidates from all major groups have either been intimidated or received threats.
On Sunday, four officials from the New Alliance Party were killed following a rally in Ixcapuzalco, located in the northern part of the state.
Another candidate withdrew from the race before Quiroz’s murder for security reasons
In March, armed men kidnapped Aidé Nava González, a mayoral contender for the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) in Ahuacotzingo, a municipality near Chilapa. Shortly afterwards, authorities found her decapitated body.
González had lost her husband Francisco Quiñones, who served as Ahuacotzingo mayor, in June 2014 when he was shot dead. One of the couple’s sons has been missing since 2012. None of the crimes has been solved.
Mexicans go to the polls on June 7 in mid-term elections to vote for local and state leaders. The entire 500-member lower house of Congress will also be up for grabs under a new electoral law introduced last year.
Guerrero’s interim governor, Rogelio Ortega, affirmed on Saturday that the elections in his state will be held, saying that only “some municipalities” are suffering from violence.
But the threats and safety concerns have forced many parties to cancel campaigning or change the times and locations of rallies.