Mexican mayor found dead three days after kidnapping

Assassination bears the hallmarks of drug cartels operating in the area

Published August 18, 2010 7:47PM (EDT)

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.

Police have not determined a motive, but the assassination 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.

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 his interior secretary, Francisco Blake Mora, to Nuevo Leon for a security meeting with the state government.

Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina said he would press for more federal soldiers and police in the state.

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-narctotics 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.

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


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

By Mark Walsh

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Drugs Latin America Mexico