Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why Cartels Are Killing Mexico’s Mayors

By IOAN GRILLO, NYT, JAN. 15, 2016

Mexico City — ON the morning of Jan. 2, a team of hired killers set off for the home of 33-year-old Gisela Mota, who only hours before had been sworn in as the first female mayor of Temixco, a sleepy spa town an hour from Mexico City. Ms. Mota was still in her pajamas as the men approached her parents’ breezeblock house. She was in the bedroom, but most of her family was in the front room, cooing over a newborn baby. As the family prepared a milk bottle, the assassins smashed the door open. Amid the commotion, Ms. Mota came out of her bedroom and said firmly, “I am Gisela.” In front of her terrified family, the men beat Ms. Mota and shot her several times, killing her.

Such violence has plagued areas of Mexico during the decade-long blood bath we know as the Mexican drug war. But Ms. Mota’s killing illuminates some worrying features of how this conflict is changing. While the global media is fascinated by billionaire kingpins like Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo, who was recaptured on Jan. 8 after his second prison escape (and a secret interview with the actor Sean Penn), the war is evolving far beyond the drug trade. Cartels now fight for political power itself. After arresting two of the men suspected of killing Ms. Mota, the police said the murder was part of a regional campaign by Los Rojos to control town halls and rob the towns’ resources.

Five days after the killing, Ms. Mota’s mother, Juana Ocampo, joined a march through Temixco along with hundreds of residents dressed in white. Ms. Ocampo, a veteran community activist, knew her daughter had taken a dangerous job; hired killers, known as sicarios, have killed almost 100 mayors in Mexico in the last decade. But Ms. Mota had been undeterred.

“Since Gisela was a child, she wanted to get into politics, to change things,” Ms. Ocampo told me. Ms. Mota had called for an end to corruption in Temixco and for police reform, which may have made her a target. Still, Ms. Ocampo said, “I had never imagined that something like this could happen.” Ms. Ocampo, her face strong, held back her pain and tears. “I hope there is justice. Or we will have to take actions to demand that justice is done and the case is cleared up.” Marchers held banners proclaiming, “I am Gisela.”

(More here.)

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