Mayor's death linked to drug cartels

Hooded gunmen killed the mayor of a small town in the northern Mexico state of San Luis Potosi, and prosecutors announced the arrest of seven suspects in the massacre of 72 migrants in August.

President Felipe Calderon’s office issued a statement saying he “energetically condemned” the killing of the mayor of El Naranjo – the third mayor to be killed in Mexico in less than a month.

Amid the violence, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Mexico is “looking more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago, where the narco-traffickers control certain parts of the country, not significant parts.”

Her comments raised hackles in Mexico.

“Of course we do not agree with the statement in this regard, given that there are very important differences between what Colombia faced then and what Mexico faces today,” Mexican government security spokesman Alejandro Poire said.

Mexican officials said drug cartels are not allied with domestic rebel insurgencies, do not have political influence or following and do not control large swaths of the country.

In Colombia in the 1980s and 1990s, the Medellin drug cartel waged a full frontal assault on the state, endangering its very integrity. It used bullets and bribes against police, politicians and judges and turned to terror attacks against civilians.

Attacks like the shooting death of El Naranjo Mayor Alexander Lopez Garcia suggest Mexico’s cartels are indeed targeting civilian government, using both violence and corruption.

The San Luis Potosi state prosecutors’ office said Mr Lopez Garcia was killed by a squad of four hitmen who pulled up in a vehicle.

Two of the attackers burst into Mr Lopez Garcia’s office and killed him before fleeing. The rural township of about 20,000 people borders the violent-wracked state of Tamaulipas, where 72 migrants were massacred by drug gunmen in August.

There was no immediate information on the motive in the attack, but the style of the slaying resembles methods used by Mexico’s drug cartels.

Mr Lopez Garcia was the third Mexican mayor killed in the last month. On August 29, the mayor of a town just across the state line in Tamaulipas was shot to death and his daughter wounded.

The mayor of Santiago, a town in the neighbouring state of Nuevo Leon, was found murdered on August 18, a crime for which local police officers allied with a drug gang are suspected.

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