Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico mayors demand more security after weekend murders

Indigenous women pass police officers standing guard in San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico, 23 July 2016 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Police were on patrol in San Juan Chamula after the mayor there was shot on Saturday

Mayors in Mexico have demanded they be given extra protection after two of their number were killed in separate incidents on Saturday.

The National Association of Mayors asked the federal government to offer added security to mayors "at risk".

On Saturday, the mayor of the town of Pungabarato in southern Guerrero state was shot dead only hours after a mayor in southern Chiapas had been killed.

Local officials are often targeted by criminal gangs in Mexico.

The association asked the government "to prepare and put in place security protocols for mayors" and to investigate the killings.

Ambushed

An armed gang ambushed the mayor of Pungabarato, Ambrosio Soto, on Saturday evening as he was travelling along the main motorway.

The men blocked the motorway with lorries and opened fire on Mr Soto's car, killing him and his driver.

Two weeks previously, Mr Soto had said on Twitter that he had been threatened "by organised crime" and that his cousin had been killed.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Mr Soto published a tweet on 9 July saying he had been threatened

"It's time to act, Mr President @EPN," he said addressing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

"#TierraCaliente needs you." Tierra Caliente is the name given to the an area of Mexico State, Guerrero and Michoacan characterised by its hot temperatures.

The area has seen a sharp increase in violence over the past years with drug gangs and vigilantes battling for control of the region.

Mr Pena Nieto has said the area is "one of the greatest challenges" in terms of security.

Extortion

Local press reported that Mr Soto had received threats after he had refused to hand over part of his budget to a local drugs gang.

Extortion is common in the region and many businesses are forced to hand money to gangs or self-styled vigilantes for "protection".

Mr Soto had a police escort of two officers in a patrol car at the time of his killing. They were both wounded in the attack.

The state governor of Guerrero said Mr Soto was also given protection by Guerrero state police, but that he had asked them to watch over his family while he travelled to a neighbouring town to attend to some personal business.

His killing came just hours after that of the mayor of the town of San Juan Chamula, Domingo Lopez, and his deputy, Narciso Lunes, in southern Chiapas state.

The two officials were holding a meeting with protesting residents in the main square of San Juan Chamula when unidentified gunmen opened fire.

A total of four people were killed and a dozen injured.

The motive behind the killing is not clear.

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