Gunmen murder election candidate and family

Gunmen murdered a Mexican state congressional candidate and his wife and two sons at their home.

Jose Francisco Fuentes Esperon, 43, was found dead along with his wife, 38, and two sons aged nine and 13, in Villahermosa, the Gulf Coast state capital of Tabasco in southern Mexico yesterday, state attorney general Rafael Gonzalez Lastra said.

Mr Fuentes Esperon was a former university rector and was widely known in the state capital.

The state government immediately offered to provide protection for any candidate before the election on October 18.

Mr Gonzalez Lastra said President Felipe Calderon called Tabasco governor Andres Granier “to express his support and stress his decision to help in investigating the case to the end”.

“There are no words to express these events. We are deeply moved and at the same time indignant,” Mr Gonzalez Lastra said.

The statement offered no information on the method or possible motive in the killings, but said they were carried out “with cruelty and viciousness”.

Local and state politicians have increasingly become victims of violence that has cost more than 13,500 lives since Mexico launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006.

Meanwhile the army said five gunmen and a bystander were killed in a shootout at a lake that began when assailants opened fire on a patrol on the outskirts of Monterrey on Friday night. One gunman and a bystander were wounded.

The army accused local police of protecting the gang and said it seized seven rifles, two grenades, and 10 notebooks naming “police personnel who offered information and protection”. A kidnapping victim who spent a month in captivity was also freed.

The army said the gang – identified as members of the Zetas, a group of drug enforcers tied to the Gulf cartel – carried out kidnappings, extortions and drug sales.

“The military personnel exercised legitimate self-defence,” an army statement said. “During the confrontation, a civilian who was in the recreation area with their family was killed ... and another was wounded.”

More than 45,000 troops have been dispatched to aid in the fight against drug cartels and have sometimes been accused of using their weapons indiscriminately.

In the northern state of Chihuahua, a severed head was found on a car bonnet in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, along with a message relating to drug cartels, state prosecutors said.

And Ciudad Juarez police said one of their officers was shot dead outside his home on Friday.

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