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Fatal Shooting of Mayoral Candidate Gisela Gaytán Amidst Rising Cartel Violence Shakes Mexican Politics Ahead of Elections

By Christina Davie
|
April 4, 2024

In a harrowing incident that underscores the perils faced by political candidates in Mexico, Gisela Gaytán, a mayoral hopeful in Celaya, Guanajuato, was fatally shot by gunmen during her campaign, hours after she had requested security protection. The assassination highlights the increasing threats to political figures in Mexico, especially in the lead-up to the June 2 elections, against a backdrop of drug cartels wielding power through violence and intimidation.

Gisela Gaytán's mayoral campaign in Celaya, one of Mexico's most dangerous cities, tragically ended when gunmen on motorcycles opened fire, causing chaos and tragedy. The attack, occurring on the campaign's second day, also injured bystanders, with footage circulating on social media.

As of Wednesday, no arrests have been made, leaving the community and Gaytán's supporters in shock. The Guanajuato Attorney General's Office is investigating, recovering one of the attackers' motorcycles. Bullet casings found are being analyzed for potential links to other crimes.

A Campaign Cut Short by Violence

Hours before her untimely death, Gaytán shared her vision for transforming Celaya on Facebook, revealing her commitment to creating a safer, more prosperous community.

Gaytán, a candidate of the Morena party, vied for a position in a region where the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel holds significant influence.

Security analyst David Saucedo emphasized that this cartel had previously threatened Gaytán for not aligning with their interests.

Gaytán's murder reflects a disturbing trend of violence against political figures in Mexico, with at least 15 candidates killed since the beginning of 2024. Some candidates have withdrawn from races due to threats and violence, highlighting the cartels' significant influence on local politics.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador lamented the attacks on individuals defending democracy in Mexico.

In response, the government pledged to offer protection to candidates, promising to respond to requests within 72 hours, although municipal candidates often receive attention last.

Struggle for a Safer Celaya

Gaytán's murder prompted swift reactions from her party, Morena, and Federal Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez, both condemning the violence and discussing measures to enhance security for candidates.

This incident has drawn attention to the pervasive danger in Guanajuato, which has Mexico's highest homicide rate. Celaya, particularly problematic for law enforcement and public officials, illustrates the grim reality of the city's struggle with crime and violence.

Violence against politicians in Mexico is widespread, endangering lives and undermining the political process nationwide.

The recent surge in killings and threats before the elections highlights the risks of public service in regions dominated by powerful drug cartels.

As Mexico approaches its June 2 elections, Gaytán's murder serves as a stark reminder of the high stakes in the country's fight for democracy and safety.

The government and security forces are striving to protect candidates and ensure electoral process integrity, aiming for a future free from such political violence.