Drug gang suspected in Mexico mayor's slaying

David Monroy
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Supporters and family accompany the coffin of Gisela Mota on January 3, 2016

Supporters and family accompany the coffin of Gisela Mota on January 3, 2016 (AFP Photo/Tony Rivera)

Cuernavaca (Mexico) (AFP) - The Mexican drug cartel known as Los Rojos is suspected of being behind the murder of a mayor who was gunned down a day after taking office, authorities said.

The killing of Gisela Mota, 33, has shocked the nation, putting a spotlight on the violence plaguing the central state of Morelos and the dangers mayors have faced across Mexico.

The left-of-center former member of Congress was shot in her house on Saturday, barely 24 hours after taking her oath of office in Temixco, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Mexico City.

Nearly 100 mayors and more than 1,000 municipal workers have been attacked in Mexico in the past decade, mainly by organized crime groups, according to the Association of Local Authorities of Mexico.

"The lines of investigation indicate that the criminal group Los Rojos was responsible for the murder of Gisela Mota," Governor Graco Ramirez wrote on Twitter.

He told local radio that Mota was killed by a Rojos cell because she was "against letting them having a presence" and she backed the installation of a "unified command" between the state and municipal police in her city of 100,000 people.

Ramirez, who like Mota is a member of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, said that Mota's murder was a "clear threat" by the gang for mayors to reject the police reform.

Morelos State Security Commissioner Alberto Capella told Radio Formula that Mota's murder could be linked to the killing of a person whose dismembered body was found on a highway on December 31 and to three other cases.

- Father chased killers -

Two suspects, including the cell's leader, were killed in a shootout with police just minutes after Mota's killing while three others, including a 17-year-old boy and a 32-year-old woman, were detained, authorities said.

Ramirez said the assassins burst into Mota's home and killed her in front of her family, and her father then "courageously ran after them" after them.

Authorities are seeking to arrest more suspects.

Los Rojos (The Reds) and their archrivals, the Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors), have sought to "generate terror through kidnapping or control of certain areas" in Morelos, Capella said.

The Guerreros Unidos became notorious as the prime suspects in the presumed killing of 43 students who disappeared in the neighboring state of Guerrero in 2014.

- Governor vs football legend -

Ramirez ordered state police to place 15 municipalities, including Temixco and the neighboring state capital, Cuernavaca, under the unified command following Mota's murder.

Ramirez has clashed with the new mayor of Cuernavaca, former football star Cuauhtemoc Blanco, over the police scheme and their conflict re-ignited on Monday.

Ramirez said that when he met with Blanco over the issue, the sports legend was "rude" to him.

"There are people behind Cuauhtemoc Blanco who want to take advantage of his inexperience so that criminal groups can settle in #Cuernavaca," he wrote on Twitter.

Blanco strongly denied that people close to him were connected to gangs and reiterated his rejection of the unified command, which he says has failed to curb crime.

The 42-year-old mayor warned Ramirez that he would be responsible for any attack against him.

"If something happens to me, to the people behind me and to my family, it's on you," Blanco told a news conference.