Armed assassins have killed a fourth Mexican mayor in less than six weeks’ time as drug war violence continues to engulf formerly calm parts of the country, authorities said Friday.
Gunmen Thursday night ambushed Prisciliano Rodriguez Salinas at his ranch home near the industrial center of Monterrey in northern Mexico. Rodriguez was mayor of the town of Doctor Gonzalez, just northeast of Monterrey.
Also Friday, Ricardo Solis, who was to be sworn in as mayor of another town in two weeks, was shot by an armed commando in the border state of Chihuahua, news reports from the region said. He was in critical condition.
Rodriguez was killed along with an employee by gunmen who lay in wait for the mayor, said Alejandro Garza, attorney general for the state of Nuevo Leon, where Doctor Gonzalez and Monterrey are located. Garza said the motive for the shootings remained under investigation.
The government of President Felipe Calderon condemned the “cowardly” killings and pledged to continue fighting drug cartels.
Monterrey, Mexico’s third largest and most affluent city, was once deemed relatively safe and tranquil. But for the last year or so, rival drug cartels have been fighting for control of the area, touching off gun battles in the streets and driving residents to flee to Mexico City or the U.S.
Another mayor of a Monterrey suburb was assassinated in mid-August. Edelmiro Cavazos of the popular tourist town of Santiago was found dead Aug. 18 after suspected drug traffickers kidnapped him three days earlier. Six police officers were arrested in connection with his slaying.
In the days since, a mayor was killed in violent Tamaulipas state, and another was shot to death by gunmen who burst into his office in the state of San Luis Potosi.
Also Friday, New York-based Human Rights Watch released a letter addressed to Calderon accusing the president of delivering “contradictory messages” in the face of an “alarming” rise in human rights abuses committed by federal troops.
The group said Calderon speaks of the central importance of human rights protection but then undermines that commitment by belittling cases or failing to push for prosecution of soldiers accused in rapes, torture and unlawful killings.