02/13/13 – Just one day after the assassination of Interim Mayor Wilfrido Flores Villa in Nahuatzén, Michoacán, on February 4, 2013, a mayor and former mayor in Gómez Palacio, Durango, were the target of similar attacks. (For more information on Flores’ assassination, click here). According to Proceso, the attacks on February 5 occurred when a group of armed men shot at the homes of Mayor Rocío Rebollo Mendoza and former Mayor Carlos Herrerra Araluce, both members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI). No injuries were reported as neither Rebollo nor Herrerra were home. Investigations into the attacks continue.
The attacks came just weeks after 158 municipal police from Gómez Palacio and Lerdo, a neighboring municipality, were arrested on January 18, by the Mexican Army (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, Sedena) for alleged ties to organized crime. Following the arrests, the police complained of the military’s intervention in their department, the alleged mistreatment of police during previous trainings, and the seizure of the police force’s weapons the week before, all prompting the police to call on Mayor Rebollo to step in. Rebollo responded that since the order for the weapon’s inspection had come from the state government, there was nothing she could do about it. (To read more about the January incident, click here). No connections or speculations have been made between whether the incidents in January–which effectively left Gómez Palacio without a municipal police force and have led to the city’s security operations being handled by Sedena, and state and federal police–are related. For his part, former Mayor Herrerra, who had served in Gómez Palacio for two terms (1974-1977, 1998-2001), was the target of a previous attack in May 2007, when he and his wife were ambushed while driving their armored vehicle. Herrera suffered serious hand damage and loss of fingers in the attack. He is also the father of Senator Leticia Herrera Ale, of the PRI.
While the levels of violence in Mexico have continued to rise over the years, so, too, have the targeted attacks on mayors. According to the Trans-Border Institute’s new publication, “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2012,” 45 mayors and former mayors were killed from 2006 through 2012, beginning with the murder of Walter Herrera Ramírez, mayor of Huimanguillo, Tabasco, in November 2006. Assassination totals reached their peaks in both 2010 and 2011, with 14 and ten deaths, respectively. In 2012, eight mayors and ex-mayors were killed, with the last such killing in the Calderón administration being the late-November murder of María Santos Gorrostieta, the former mayor of Tiquicheo, Michoacán. Pablo Pintor Hernández, former mayor of Ciudad del Maíz, in the state of San Luis Potosí on December 16, became the first of such killings on the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.