A candidate for mayor in Cajeme, Sonora, was murdered on Thursday in yet another incident of violence during what is already the second most violent electoral season in Mexico in this century.
Abel Murrieta Gutiérrez, a former Sonora attorney general and mayoral candidate for the Citizens Movement (MC) party, was shot multiple times at approximately 5:00 p.m. while campaigning on the streets of Ciudad Obregón, the Cajeme municipal seat.
A young woman who was part of the candidate’s campaign team was wounded in the attack. Murrieta was taken to hospital but died shortly after he arrived, the newspaper Milenio reported.
The Sonora Attorney General’s Office (FGJE) said that police launched an operation to locate the aggressors but no arrests were reported. Governor Claudia Pavlovich condemned the murder ,describing Murrieta as a person with “deep love for Sonora.”
Citizens Movement party president Clemente Castañeda Hoeflich blamed organized crime for the attack, saying Murrieta was targeted for his campaign message that he would confront narco crime in Cajeme.
“Abel paid [the price] for having said now and again in his campaign that he had the bravery to confront narcos and that he would deal with them once he became mayor,” Castañeda said. “It’s clear that organized crime governs Sonora.”
President López Obrador said Friday that the federal government will collaborate with Sonora authorities on the investigation.
“… It really is sad that these things happen, and we send our condolences to the family,” he said at his regular news conference. “We are also committed to doing the investigation and punishing those responsible.”
Murrieta, who served as attorney general of Sonora between 2004 and 2012, was a lawyer for the LeBaron family, who lost nine members of their extended family in a 2019 massacre near the Sonora-Chihuahua border.
Adrian LeBaron, an antiviolence activist, condemned Murrieta’s murder and asked, “Who will defend us now?”
Violence in the lead-up to elections has become commonplace in Mexico, but this electoral season, which officially began last September, has been particularly bad.
According to the risk analysis firm Etellekt, the current electoral period leading up to municipal, state and federal elections on June 6 is the second most violent since 2000. It published a report last week that stated that there were 476 acts of aggression against politicians, candidates, their collaborators and their families between September 7, 2020 and April 30, 2021.
Among the acts of aggression, which occurred in 31 of Mexico’s 32 states, were 174 threats, 79 homicides of politicians and candidates, 29 murders of family members and collaborators, 25 abductions and 14 attempted murders.
There were 443 victims, 35% of whom were women, Etellekt said. The number of victims is a 64% increase compared to the 2017–2018 electoral season.
Veracruz has recorded the highest number of murders of politicians or candidates with 14 occurring up to April 30. Oaxaca ranks second with 10, followed by Guerrero with eight and Guanajuato with six.
In Michoacán, where three politicians or candidates had been murdered as of April 30, a candidate for mayor in the state capital, Morelia, said earlier this week that he would have to modify his campaign after he was targeted in an attack that wounded two members of his team.
The personal assistant of Guillermo Valencia Reyes and another collaborator were wounded last Saturday after three gunmen opened fire on a vehicle in which they apparently believed the Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate was traveling.
“They had studied my movements [but] fortunately I wasn’t in that [vehicle],” he told the newspaper Reforma.
“… We have to reconsider a lot of things, we can’t campaign in the same way because my life is threatened; I was used to being among the people at events … there were a large number of people because of the social support we have. We have to reconsider the way we do our campaign but [we will] continue,” he said.
“… If I were to quit that would please those who tried to kill me. We can’t allow fear to lead us to pleasing people who do harm, who do evil. I hope the authorities do their job and arrest those responsible.”
Citizens Movement party candidates in Ixcapuzalco, Guerrero, took a different view, deciding to pull out of the elections after receiving threats from an organized crime group.
MC candidates for mayor, municipal trustee and councilor abandoned their campaigns last week because they don’t want to run the risk of being the targets of an attack, the news website Net Noticias reported.