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Mayoral candidate assassinated in latest violence ahead of Mexico’s general election

A mayoral candidate has been assassinated and three others injured in a shooting in the Mexican city of Celaya, in the latest violence to mar the run-up to the country’s looming general election.

Bertha Gisela Gaytán, a mayoral candidate for Celaya, died on Monday after being shot while campaigning in the community of San Miguel Octopan, the Guanajuato state prosecutor’s office said, describing her death as an assassination.

Three other people were also injured in the attack, including a candidate for Celaya’s city council Adrián Guerrero.

Mexico’s Secretariat of Federal Public Security said Tuesday that Guerrero was currently considered missing, correcting its earlier declaration that he had died following injuries sustained in the same attack.

Authorities said investigators and forensic experts were at the scene collecting information to track the killers.

Gaytán’s death is the latest in a spate of killings that have taken place in the run-up to Mexico’s general election, which is expected to be held on June 2.

Bertha Gisela Gaytán - From Bertha Gisela Gaytán
Bertha Gisela Gaytán - From Bertha Gisela Gaytán

Gaytán had been campaigning for Morena, the party of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Lopez Obrador on Tuesday condemned the attack, saying, “These events are very regrettable because they are people who are fighting to assert democracy, who are in the streets, showing their faces, fighting for others and it hurts a lot that this happens in our country.”

Morena said it deeply regretted the “cowardly murder of our colleague.”

“We send our condolences and all solidarity to her family, friends and loved ones. We demand that the Guanajuato prosecutor’s office and the corresponding authorities investigate, arrest those responsible, and bring justice.”

Political violence usually surges around election season in Mexico, and this year is shaping up to be the most violent in Obrador’s six-year term, according to analysts consulted by CNN.

According to the public affairs consultancy Integralia, from September to March, at least 12 candidates were killed and hundreds reported acts of violence against them.

Criminal gangs are known to finance campaigns during election season, intimidating candidates and violently intervening to compel politicians to cooperate with them, according to a report from Integralia Consultants. It added that criminal organizations center their attacks at the municipal level because mayors can offer them impunity in the territory due to their links with law enforcement and the local economy.

Guanajuato, a major manufacturing hub and production site for many of the world’s top carmakers, has been convulsed in recent years by brutal turf wars between rival drug gangs, who value it for the same reason as the carmakers: road and rail networks that lead straight to the US border.

Shortly before Monday’s attack, Gaytán had told a political rally that she had requested security. “Assistance has already been requested through the state legal system in the party. We are looking at 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,” Gaytán said.

Guanajuato Governor Diego Sinhue Rodríguez Vallejo condemned the attack, saying it will not go unpunished.

He also said he would work with state officials to make sure those who participate in electoral processes have all the protection they need.

On June 2, more than 100 million Mexicans will be called to vote in a general election where 20,375 positions will be elected, of which 19,746 are local and 629 are federal, including the presidency.

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