More than 80 current and former mayors have reportedly been killed in Mexico over the past ten years, with three of those murders occurring just in the past few weeks — a pattern of violence that underscores the political aims of the criminal groups involved in a significant number of the assassinations.
According to a recent report from Mexico’s National Mayors Association (Asociación Nacional de Alcaldes – ANAC) highlighted by Milenio and Animal Político, a total of 82 mayors, retired mayors and mayors-elect have been assassinated from 2006 to the present. Of those victims, 43 were serving in office at the time of their killing, 32 had retired and seven had been elected but had not yet taken office.
Three of the killings occurred from July 23 to August 1 of this year, a ten-day timeframe that saw sitting mayors murdered in the towns of San Juan Chamala in Chiapas state, Pungarabato in Guerrero, and Huehuetlán El Grande in Puebla.
The slaying of the mayor of San Juan Chamala was the first of its kind in Chiapas since 2006, according to the ANAC report. But Puebla had previously seen a sitting mayor murdered in 2013, and an ex-mayor killed in 2015. And Guerrero ranked among the deadliest states for current and former mayors, with eight murdered from 2006 to the present.
Oaxaca topped the list of states with the most mayors killed since 2006 with 15, followed by Michoacán with ten killings and Veracruz with nine. (See Animal Politico’s map below)
According to the ANAC report, the majority of the slain politicians — 68 out of 82, or about 83 percent — belonged to Mexico’s three major political parties. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional – PRI) counted 37 victims, the Party of Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática -PRD) counted 19, and the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional – PAN) tallied 12.
The statistics, combined with the recent series of killings, spurred ANAC to issue a public call for the federal government to provide greater support to enhance security for municipal officials.
“This is a fundamental theme of governability,” ANAC President Enrique Vargas del Villar told Animal Político. “The fact that a mayor cannot perform his duties represents a risk to the state. This is seen abroad and casts a very negative image, which is why it is something that should be corrected immediately.”
An analysis published in January by El Universal identified more than 120 mayors and ex-mayors who had been murdered from 2005 to 2016, in addition to 44 relatives of sitting mayors who were killed during that time.
InSight Crime Analysis
The killing of dozens of Mexican mayors in recent years illustrates the importance criminal organizations place on asserting influence over local politics. While this is not a new phenomenon, the ongoing fragmentation of Mexico’s organized crime landscape may be causing an uptick in the violence directed at local authorities. As criminal groups grow increasingly reliant on local criminal activities like retail drug distribution, extortion and theft, co-opting or intimidating mayors becomes paramount for these organizations.
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A number of experts have argued that Mexico’s ability to solve its long-term security problems rests heavily on improving the ability of local governments to stand up to corruption and coercion engendered by criminal groups. But, as President Enrique Peña Nieto has found out, doing so is no easy task; crime and politics have been deeply intertwined throughout much of Mexico’s history.