Mayor of northern Mexican town found dead days after kidnapping by armed men at his home

By Mark Walsh, AP
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mexican mayor found dead 3 days after kidnapping

MONTERREY, Mexico — The kidnapped mayor of a northern Mexican town was found dead Wednesday, extending a rash of deadly attacks on political figures in an area besieged by drug gang battles.

Santiago Mayor Edelmiro Cavazos’ body was found near a waterfall outside his town, a popular weekend getaway for residents of the industrial city of Monterrey, said Nuevo Leon state attorney general Alejandro Garza y Garza.

Interior Secretary Francisco Blake Mora traveled to Monterrey and pledged that the army would begin joint patrols with police in “conflictive neighborhoods” in the area.

Police have not determined a motive in the killing, but it bore the hallmarks of drug cartels waging vicious turf battles in northeastern Mexico: Cavazos’ hands were bound and his head was wrapped in tape.

Garza y Garza suggested it was a drug gang hit, saying Cavazos participated in state security meetings and was “showing his face in the fight against organized crime.”

However, Cavazos had not made any dramatic security decisions since taking office in November 2009, said Jorge Santiago Flores, the local president of the mayor’s National Action Party. He said it remains a mystery why anyone would want to kill Cavazos.

“He was a very kind person. He was a man who worked a lot in the community and always helped those in need, donating medicine and helping people who asked,” Flores said.

Gov. Rodrigo Medina appealed to the federal government to send reinforcements to the state and in a full-page newspaper ad Wednesday, Nuevo Leon business leaders called on authorities to act together to reduce insecurity in the region.

The ad by the CAINTRA chamber of commerce called for three army divisions and a division of the marines to be sent to the state. Blake Mora said there would be reinforcements, but did not set a specific number.

Cavazos, 38, was kidnapped from his home Sunday night by 15 armed men wearing uniforms from a defunct federal police force, a tactic frequently used by Mexico’s drug gangs.

Garza y Garza said the gunmen arrived in seven vehicles with police patrol lights. When Cavazos and his security guard went to see what was going on, the assailants forced them into the cars.

The security guard was driven around for about 15 minutes and released unharmed by the side of a road, Garza y Garza said. The guard then reported the kidnapping to police.

President Felipe Calderon, who belongs to the National Action Party, sent Blake Mora to Monterrey to meet with Medina and draw up security plans.

The region been besieged by drug gang fighting, including a new war between the Gulf cartel and its former ally, the Zetas gang of hit men.

Mexico’s drug gang violence has surged since Calderon intensified the fight against traffickers in late 2006, deploying thousands of troops and federal police to root out cartels from their strongholds.

More than 28,000 people have since been killed in the country’s drug war. The government says most are victims of cartel infighting. But assassinations of police, government officials and politicians have also increased.

In June, gunmen ambushed and killed the leading gubernatorial candidate for Tamaulipas state, which neighbors Nuevo Leon, a week before the elections. A mayoral candidate in Tamaulipas was killed in May.

A total of 191 soldiers have been killed fighting drug gangs between December 2006 and Aug. 1, 2010, according to a list of names on a wall of a Defense Department anti-narcotics museum. Reporters saw the list Wednesday during a tour of the museum — the first time the government has made the number public. Forty-three of the soldiers killed were officers.

The list also includes 503 military personnel killed in thirty years between 2006 and 1976, when the army formally started taking part in anti-drug efforts.

Last week, the government said 2,076 police have been killed since December 2006.

The army also allowed journalists to tour the armed forces’ anti-drug museum, in which artifacts seized from drug traffickers are displayed. They include a gold-plated, diamond-encrusted cellular telephone that allegedly belonged to Zetas drug gang member Daniel Perez Rojas, currently imprisoned in Guatemala. A saddle embroidered with the words “The King,” the army said belonged to deceased Sinaloa cartel leader Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel is also on display.

Associated Press Writer E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this story from Mexico City.

will not be displayed