Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Morena mayoral candidate in Celaya murdered at campaign event

A candidate for mayor in Celaya, Guanajuato, was shot and killed on Monday. Three other people including an aspirant to a councilor position were wounded in the same attack.

Gisela Gaytán, the Morena party’s candidate for mayor of the notoriously violent city, came under fire Monday afternoon while campaigning on the street in San Miguel Octopan, a community about 10 kilometers northeast of downtown Celaya.

The assassination occurred in the neighborhood of San Miguel Octopan, Celaya. (Diego Costa/Cuartoscuro)

Among the three people wounded was Adrián Guererro, a Morena party candidate for councilor. Authorities said on Tuesday that he died of gunshot injuries, but the federal Security Ministry (SSPC) subsequently published a statement saying he was in fact missing, “but not deceased as reported this morning.”

“The Security and Citizens Protection Ministry is waiting for the investigations to advance to establish his whereabouts,” the SSPC said.

Given that he is apparently missing after being wounded in a gun attack, Guerrero could indeed be dead. He was reported to have died at a hospital, but it now appears doubtful whether he reached one.

The Guanajuato Attorney General’s Office said in a brief statement on Monday that it was investigating the armed attack on Gaytán, who worked as a lawyer before running for mayor. Six gunshots can be heard in a short video posted to social media that shows Morena party supporters walking through the streets of San Miguel Octopan.

Adrián Guererro (R), a Morena party candidate for councilor, was also wounded in the same attack and is currently missing. (Facebook/VIA “El Canal de Celaya”)

No arrests have been made, but state and federal authorities pledged that the crime wouldn’t go unpunished. Electoral violence in Mexico is most common at the municipal level, at which crime groups often seek to exert pressure on governments and buy off police.

The murder of the mayoral candidate came just one day after the campaign period officially got underway in Guanajuato ahead of elections on June 2.

Just hours before she was killed, Gaytán, 38, said that she had asked for protection during her campaign in Celaya, a city of over half a million people in southeastern Guanajuato, Mexico’s most violent state in terms of total homicides.

“The citizens are with us, they look after us, but of course we’re going to have security protocols. … Let’s see whether they have an answer for us today,” she said, referring to her protection request.

Federal Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez said Tuesday that the National Electoral Institute (INE) arranged protection for candidates running for federal office, but indicated that electoral authorities in Guanajuato failed to organize protection for local candidates.

“We’ve been in contact with the governor [of Guanajuato]; where … the absence of protection for the candidate is part of the investigations,” she said.

Gaytán had visited the city’s central market hours before she was killed by gunshot. (Facebook/Gisela Gaytán)

There were 360 homicides in Celaya during the 12 months to the end of February, according to the crime statistics website elcri.men. That made Celaya the 40th most violent municipality based on per-capita murders over the past year.

“Peace has been taken away from us,” Gaytán said before she was murdered, adding that as mayor she planned to increase salaries for municipal police and renew officers’ focus on crime prevention.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the founder of Morena, acknowledged the candidate’s death at his Tuesday morning press conference and declared that it was a “sad day.”

“These events are very regrettable because there are people who fight to uphold democracy, they’re on the street showing their faces and it hurts a lot that this happens in our country,” he said.

The Associated Press reported that at least 15 candidates have been murdered in Mexico this year, including two mayoral candidates in Maravatío, Michoacán, who were murdered on the same day in February.

López Obrador noted that cartels sometimes seek to determine who will become the next mayor in municipalities where they operate.

“They make an agreement and say, ‘this person is going to be mayor; we don’t want anyone else to register to run,’ and anybody who does, well, they know [what to expect],” he said.

Guanajuato has been Mexico’s most violent state for several years, and recorded more than 3,100 homicides in 2023, according to government data presented by Rodríguez in January. The powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Guanajuato-based Santa Rosa de Lima cartel have been engaged in a turf war in the state for years.

With reports from Reforma, El Universal, El País, The Washington Post and Milenio

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