Mayor’s Murder Could Impact Mexico Security Reforms

A mayor in central Mexico has been murdered just one day after taking office in political violence that could cause shock waves for one of the government’s flagship security policies.

On January 2, gunmen shot and killed Mayor Gisela Mota, who just the day before had been sworn in as mayor of Temixco, a city to the south of Mexico City in the troubled state of Morelos.

Local police chased down the alleged gunmen then engaged in a shootout that claimed the lives of two of the supposed attackers, reported Proceso. Police arrested two more people on the scene and one later that day.

An unnamed source in the Mexican prosecutors’ office told Proceso the hitmen said they had been paid approximately $27,000 for the murder, and that local organized crime group Los Rojos were the main suspects.

The following day Morelos Governor Graco Ramírez gave a press conference in which he claimed the killing was related to Mota’s public backing for the “mando único” or “single command.” The mando único is a security policy of the national government that aims to bring the distinct municipal and state police forces under one coordinated, central command at the state level.

The killing, Ramírez said, “is a message and a clear threat so that the recently elected municipal mayors don’t accept the coordination scheme and policing model we have been implementing.”

Ramírez then declared the Morelos government, which has pioneered use of the model, would “not take a single step back” and announced the mando único model would absorb police from another 15 more municipalities around the state.

InSight Crime Analysis

The murder of local politicians in Mexico is nothing new, as organized crime networks habitually look to co-opt or intimidate local authorities in order to secure protection and access to resources. And at first glance, relating such a murder to a model for policing command structures seems a strange response from Governor Ramírez.

But in fact the killing could be related, and, what’s more, it could have serious implications for a policy for which Ramírez has been one of the principal cheerleaders.

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One of the touted benefits of the mando único is that municipal governments should be less vulnerable to organized crime intimidation or the temptations of corruption as they will no longer have any power over the local police or the deployment of security forces, who are instead appointed and coordinated from the outside.

The murder of Mota undermines this theory, and other local officials currently contemplating signing up for the mando único may now think twice about ceding a power that gives them significant leverage with local criminal actors.