Governor of Mexico’s Chihuhua state downplays attack

The governor of Mexico’s most violent state said he was not the target of gunmen who opened fire on his convoy late Sunday night.

Jose Reyes Baeza Terrazas, governor of the northern state of Chihuahua, was uninjured when gunmen in a car fired at guards who were trailing him at some distance.

A bodyguard died in the shootout, which occurred after Baeza’s three-car convoy stopped at a signal in the state capital, also called Chihuahua. Two other bodyguards and an assailant were wounded.

Baeza, who was in the lead car, said shots were fired “many meters” behind him and aimed only at the trailing vehicle. He said “four or five” gunmen in a compact car never got close to him or gave chase when he drove off.

“There was never direct aggression against the governor,” Baeza told reporters. He declined to suggest a possible motive.


Chihuahua’s state attorney general, Patricia Gonzalez, said Monday that the wounded gunman, a 36-year-old ex-soldier, was in custody.

The shooting added to the air of lawlessness in Chihuahua, where heavily armed drug gangs challenge authorities even while they fight one another for control of smuggling routes to the United States.

More than 1,600 people died statewide last year in drug-related violence, the highest toll in 2008 among Mexico’s states. This year the number already exceeds 300, according to unofficial Mexican media tallies.

In Ciudad Juarez, the state’s deadliest spot, officials said they were taking seriously banners posted Sunday that threatened Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz. They stepped up security but said the threats would not alter Reyes’ plans to clean up the corruption-laden police department.

The city’s police chief, Roberto Orduna Cruz, quit Friday -- two days after signs threatened that a police officer would be killed every 48 hours if the chief stayed on the job. In the hours before he stepped down, a municipal officer and jail guard were shot dead.

Orduna said he wanted to prevent more attacks against the city’s 1,600 officers.

Chihuahua, across the border from Texas and New Mexico, has been hit hardest by violence spiraling nationwide as President Felipe Calderon presses a 2-year-old offensive against drug smugglers.

The country saw more than 6,000 slayings in 2008. The toll so far this year is above 800, according to media tallies.

Ciudad Juarez is the site of a war between a local drug cartel and traffickers from the northwestern state of Sinaloa seeking to move in. The violence has been brutal, including numerous beheadings.

Calderon has sent 3,000 troops to the city as part of a 45,000-soldier deployment to the drug war nationwide.