Two local officials in Mexico's Jalisco state have been arrested following the murder of a mayor who was allegedly targeted by the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation, in a case highlighting the vulnerability of municipal governments to organized crime.
Manuel Gomez Torres, the mayor of the Ayutla municipality, was killed on August 3 together with his bodyguard on a ranch he owned outside the town.
Days later, authorities arrested Jose Alfredo Sanchez Dueñas, the mayor's former political advisor, and Luis Alberto Zepeda Grajeda, the assistant director of the Ayutla municipal police, for their suspected involvement in the murder. Zepeda allegedly ordered municipal police agents to remain in their barracks on the day of the murder, which prosecutors said indicated his intention to leave the mayor unguarded, reported Milenio. He is also believed to have links to the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG), reported Proceso. Sanchez was the person who recommended Zepeda for the post.
In their testimonies, both men pinned the murder on a former police chief from the Jalisco town of El Grullo who is an alleged CJNG leader, named Sergio Hernandez Gonzalez, alias "El Comandante," reported El Universal. Authorities are now searching for Hernandez.
Furthermore, they claimed the mayor himself had ties to the CJNG, reported El Universal. The mayor's political party refuted these claims, saying it was Torres' refusal to work with the cartel that led to his death.
InSight Crime Analysis
Mexico's mayors have for several years been heavily targeted by organized crime groups, who look to exercise control over municipal affairs and take a cut of the budget. Sixteen mayors were murdered between January 2013 and July 2014.
In the current case, it is plausible that both the mayor and the police official had CJNG ties. Poorly paid and poorly equipped municipal security forces in Mexico are highly susceptible to the influence of organized crime. Faced with death threats, many mayors also choose to collaborate with criminal groups.
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As InSight Crime has noted, the desire to influence local government is partly linked to the changing focus of many criminal groups, which now derive much of their profits from localized crimes like extortion.
The CJNG is a group with a regional reach that appears to thrive on public relations campaigns and relationships with local officials: police in at least three Jalisco towns have been accused this year of ties to the cartel. The cartel is known for using violent tactics and, despite the arrests of two top leaders, appears to retain significant power in Jalisco.