Gisela Gaytán, candidate for mayor of violence-plagued town in Mexico, is shot dead

The politician was attacked at a campaign event in Celaya right after she presented her strategy to tackle violence in a municipality that is in the grips of a security crisis

Gisela Gaytán  en Celaya (Estado de Guanajuato), este lunes.
Gisela Gaytán at a campaign event at the Morelos Market, in Celaya (State of Guanajuato), on Monday.Antonio Marant (Campaña G. G.)
Beatriz Guillén

Gisela Gaytán, a candidate for mayor of the Mexican city of Celaya, in the state of Guanajuato, was shot dead on Monday. The attack took place in the middle of the street during a campaign event by the candidate for the leftist Morena, which has been the ruling party of Mexico since 2018. Gaytán was killed in San Miguel Octopan — a community that has been especially hard hit by organized crime — just after she presented her security strategy. The Morena party has not yet commented on the attack.

In a six-second video shared on social media, Gaytán is seen at a rally with her supporters, who are waving Morena flags. At first, shouts of support are heard: “Morena, Morena!” Seconds later, seven gunshots are heard. The next images are of the supporters running away in terror. The Mexican newspaper Milenio reported that two other people were also injured.

Gisela Gaytán
Soldiers from the Army and the National Guard at the site where Gaytán was killed on April 1. Luis Ramírez (EFE)

Monday was the second day of the campaign in Guanajuato. In the morning, the candidate had been asked if she planned to bring security to her press events and rallies. She responded: “Assistance has already been requested through the party’s state legal department. We are looking into this issue to see how it is resolved. The citizens are with us, they take care of us, but of course we are going to have security protocols, which are already being reviewed by the party’s legal department, with the INE [the National Electoral Institute]. Let’s see if they have any answers today.” That same Monday, Gaytán thanked the Secretariat of Citizen Security for “taking care” of her inside Morelos Market, where she had been visiting vendors.

Violence is a major issue in the election. Guanajuato is in the grips of a security crisis that continues to escalate. Last December, six medical students were murdered in Celaya, and two weeks later, 11 young people at a Christmas party in Salvatierra were also killed. Security forces have also been targeted. In the last year alone, 22 officers have been killed in Celaya, one of the biggest cities in Guanajuato, with almost 380,000 inhabitants.

Gaytán had focused part of her campaign on tackling violence. On Sunday, the day before she was murdered, she addressed the issue in a video. “We, the people of Celaya, feel like survivors. Together with you, I want us to be the change of our present, with our eyes set on the future, for us to find the courage to face fear, reinvent things and transform our city together.” The campaign slogan ended: “If our daily life is difficult, what are we waiting for? A new chapter, for all of us, united, for a better future.”

Gaytán was the only female candidate in the mayoral race for Celaya. She was chosen as Morena’s candidate in February after winning against two pre-candidates, who were both men. She was a trial lawyer and was a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) before joining the party founded by Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2018.

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