02 November 2011

PAN mayor shot dead

Cherán protest banner
A sign in the Cherán, Michoacán, town plaza strikes a rebellious note. The town rebelled against illegal loggers clear-cutting the local hills with the help of armed criminal groups earlier this year – and ran off the local mayor, too. Michoacán electoral officials want there to be a vote in Cherán, but locals say they won't allow political parties to participate.

The PAN mayor of La Piedad was shot dead while campaigning Nov. 2, casting doubt on the ability to hold general elections across the oft-violent state of Michoacán in 10 days time – and also casting doubt on the ability to hold federal electoral races next year in the pockets of Mexico where organized crime violence has been rife.

Ricardo Guzmán Romero was fatally shot while campaigning for the PAN candidate in the pork-processing town of La Piedad, PAN officials said via Twitter. The circumstances of the assassination remain uncertain, but PAN youth president Jhonathan García, who was witness to the shooting, said via Twitter that the mayor was shot in the abdomen. Press reports say Guzmán was passing out pamphlets when attacked.

Michoacán Gov. Leonel Godoy scheduled a press conference for 9 p.m. local time. Guzmán became the fourth Michoacán mayor to be assassinated since Godoy took office in early 2008, Michoacán news agency Quadratín reported.

Voters in Michoacán go to the polls Nov. 13 in an election Luisa María Calderón, sister of President Felipe Calderón, hopes to win for the PAN. Public opinion polls vary. An Agencia Mendoza Blanco y Asociados survey shows a tight, three-way PAN-PRI-PRD contest, while Gabinete de Comunicación Estratégica gave Calderón 39-36 lead over PRI candidate Fausto Vallejo. PRD candidate Silvano Aureoles Conejo trailed with 25 percent support, setting up a potential embarrassment for the PRD, which had dominated Michoacán politics for the past decade.

The assassination marked the latest difficulty for Michoacán's electoral process, which will renew the governor's office, local congress and 113 municipal governments. The state electoral institute reports the withdrawal of 51 candidates, according to the newspaper El Universal. The PAN-New Alliance coalition, meanwhile, was unable to find candidates in at least 10 municipalities.

Residents of Cherán, where locals ran off illegal loggers, organized crime, the police and the mayor, refuse to allow political parties to run candidates, even though the electoral institute insists on there being a vote.

Violence, of course, predates the election in Michoacán, where La Familia Michoacana and a splinter group, the quasi-religious Knights Templar, are disputing the state. Michoacán native Felipe Calderón sent troops to Michoacán shortly after taking office – the first such deployment of his administration.

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