When 34-year-old medical doctor Blas Godínez Ortega is sworn in as mayor of one of Chihuahua’s most violent municipalities later this year, life as he currently knows it will inevitably change.
But one constant that has been a part of his day-to-day existence in his home town of Gómez Farías since late last year will probably remain: he will continue to search for his missing father.
In the early hours of November 8, Blas Godínez Loya — whom the mayor-elect followed into the medical profession — was abducted from his home by suspected members of a criminal gang.
The 62-year-old community hospital director hasn’t been seen since.
One line of investigation is that Godínez Loya was kidnapped in order to treat gang members who had been wounded in gun battles at the time as a bloody turf war escalated in the mountains surrounding the municipal seat.
Authorities suspect that to be the case because other doctors have been abducted for that reason in the Sierra region of the northern border state before they were later returned unharmed.
But more than eight months after his disappearance, Godínez Ortega still doesn’t know what happened to his father or whether he will ever see him alive again.
His dad’s disappearance — and continuing violence in the region — provided strong motivation for the doctor to put his name forward as a mayoral candidate in the July 1 elections.
“It was a moral duty to my father, to my family, to the municipality,” Godínez Ortega told the newspaper Milenio.
“What happened to my father marked my life in many ways and one of them was politics. [It made me] take the radical decision to start working with the people, with my municipality . . . to make Gómez Farías a better place to live,” he said.
The doctor was endorsed by the Social Encounter Party (PES) and stood in the election as the mayoral candidate for the same coalition that Andrés Manuel López Obrador represented in his landslide victory in the presidential race.
Godínez Ortega’s triumph was less emphatic — he won less than 2,000 votes in a municipality where there are 6,000 names on the electoral roll — but it was a victory all the same and one that will allow him to start working towards the changes he wants to see.
The doctor told Milenio that while he was on the campaign trail some local residents expressed surprise that he would choose to contest the election while his father was still missing.
But he explained that just like medicine, politics is in his blood: Godínez Loya also stood as a candidate for mayor, representing the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), at elections in 1986.
Godínez Ortega also said he had the opportunity to meet López Obrador at a rally in Chihuahua, where he told the political veteran what had happened to his father and asked for his support to combat insecurity in Gómez Farías.
“His face was full of surprise at what I was telling him and then he gave me a very fraternal hug . . .” he recalled.
“He told me that we wouldn’t be left on our own, that he was going to help us fix the situation that we are living through and help us to govern.”
Godínez Ortega knows that he has a big — and potentially dangerous — job in front of him but taking a leaf out of López Obrador’s book, he said that he will eschew personal security, charging that politicians should live under the same conditions as the citizens they represent.
He also directed a message to criminal organizations, urging them to respect doctors and all local residents “who for the most part have nothing to do with . . . the dispute between cartels.”
The mayor-elect added that he would continue to search for his father and assured local residents that he will do all he can to prevent similar cases from occurring in the future.
“As a son, I will never stop looking [for my father] . . . and as an authority [figure] I will not allow what happened to me to happen to another citizen . . .” Godínez Ortega said.
He also pledged to continue to work as a doctor during his term as mayor, which will commence in September.
“I will allocate time to continue attending to my many patients and as I will not fail the citizens [of Gómez Farías], I will not fail my patients because [I will be] a mayor for three years but a doctor my whole life.”
Source: Milenio (sp)