Mexican mayor killed, massacre suspects arrested

Prosecutors have announced arrest of 7 suspects in massacre of 72 migrants.

Last Updated: Sep 09, 2010, 09:46 AM IST

Mexico City: Hooded gunmen killed the mayor of a small town in the northern Mexico state of San Luis Potosi on Wednesday, 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 slaying 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 Rodham Clinton said that 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 say drug cartels are not allied with domestic rebel insurgencies, do not have political influence or following and do not exercise formal control of large swaths of the country, as they did in Colombia in the 1980s and 1990s.

But attacks like Wednesday`s shooting death of El Naranjo Mayor Alexander Lopez Garcia suggest cartels are targeting civilian government in Mexico.

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

Two of the attackers burst into 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.

Lopez Garcia was the third Mexican mayor slain in the last month.

Hillary made her statements on Wednesday in Washington at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she said drug cartels are "morphing into, or making common cause with, what we would consider an insurgency in Mexico and in Central America”.

"These drug cartels are now showing more and more indices of insurgency," Hillary said. "All of a sudden, car bombs show up which weren`t there before."

Also on Wednesday, the Mexican government announced that marines had arrested seven gunmen suspected of killing 72 Central and South American migrants last month in the worst drug cartel massacre to date.

Four of the suspects were arrested after a September 03 gunbattle with marines, and the other three were captured days later, spokesman Alejandro Poire said at a news conference.

Poire alleged the seven belong to the Zetas drug gang, but he gave no further details on their identities or what led to their arrests.

Investigators believe the migrants were kidnapped by the Zetas and killed after refusing to work for the cartel.

Bureau Report