On Tuesday, Alejandro Aparicio Santiago was shot and killed by a single assailant while on his way to a meeting, less than two hours after being sworn in as Mayor of Tlaxiaco in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Four others were also wounded because Alejandro was surrounded by supporters at the time. The suspect was quickly apprehended by members of the crowd. While the motivation for the attack remains unknown, violence against politicians is common in Mexico and is usually connected to drug cartels that might see certain politicians as threats to their power – either because they promise to get tougher on crime, or because they seem to side with a rival cartel. However, according to the Toronto Sun, the cartels in Oaxaca tend to be weaker than elsewhere, so it is possible that the killing was instead connected with a land dispute.
The state government of Tlaxiaco announced his death on Twitter, expressing its commiserations and writing ‘’Rest In Peace’’. Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador told reporters that he was surprised by the attack because Oaxaca is one of the least violent states in the country. The Governor of Oaxaca, Alejandro Murat, called for an extensive investigation of the murder and tweeted ‘’ I strongly condemn the attack against the Tlaxiaco mayor … I express my condolences to his family and the people of Tlaxiaco’’.
Six other politicians have been killed since elections took place in July. Last Sunday, a councilwoman called Maria Ascension Cruz Torres was also shot, just 48 hours before taking office. During the electoral period beginning in September 2017 and ending in July 2018, an estimated 152 politicians were killed, 48 of which were candidates, according to the consulting firm Etellekt. This was Mexico’s most violent election in history. Mexico has been at war with drug cartels since 2006. According to CNN, this conflict has resulted in 200,000 related deaths and 35,000 disappearances.
For the victims of political murders, and for the people the politicians are trying to represent, condolences are not enough: action and change are needed. Compared to state and federal officials, mayors do not have heavy security teams; this is perhaps why mayors are such common victims of murder in Mexico — Alejandro, for example, only had a small group of unarmed civilians for protection, according to NPR. Political solutions for Mexico’s gang problems cannot be created if political representatives keep getting killed for getting on the wrong side of organised crime. Lower level representatives deserve to be provided with better security to deter attacks. This will enable them to get on with their jobs, and make people less afraid to be candidates and to stand up to organised crime. Once politicians are appropriately protected, they can work more effectively to alleviate poverty and improve citizens’ security. This would help to address two of the core reasons why people turn to organised crime.
There is new hope that solutions to the violence perpetrated by organised crime may be on the horizon: Mexico has recently seen a large shift in its political landscape with the election of left-wing López Obrador as president. According to Reuters, he plans to tackle corruption and diminish the power of cartels with a less confrontational approach, by providing amnesty for low-level criminals, decriminalizing cannabis and seriously combating poverty. However, promises are one thing and actions are another. Only time will tell whether López is able and willing to carry out these proposals; attacks on politicians will likely continue in the meantime.
His main areas of passion and interest are sortition, democracy, and global inequality.
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