Ana Marìa Salazar. Mexico City.
“It looks like Mexico’s mayors are an endangered species”
Besides being one of one of the most dangerous jobs in Mexico, being mayor seems to have no appreciation or the recognition they deserve for being elected officials. I imagine many of you are thinking that the bad image the country’s mayors have is deserved: corruption and incapacity. But it is also necessary to recognize that the mayors are the most neglected and least attended part of the engine that runs our democracy.
The data are compelling. In 2010, the Calderon administration, 14 mayors were killed nationwide, putting the 2010 as a black year. The entities where most of the mayors were killed was Durango, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Guerrero, Michoacan, Morelos, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Zacatecas.
However, in the last 13 months of the administration of Peña Nieto-between February 2013 and March of this year, 10 mayors have been killed, and the entities where most were murdered was just Michoacan and Oaxaca. This administration started poorly in regard to the protection of mayors.
A few days ago, Gustavo Garibay García, PAN mayor of Tunhuato, Michoacán, was executed when leaving home. Note that there was a previous attempt of murder against him. This was not the first time he was attacked, the first attack occurred en Octuber 31st, 2012 and he was injured in the face and arms by gunfire. The months that followed this incident the mayor had federal protection which was granted by former president Calderón. But, for some reason, the protection was withdrawn.
How is it possible that the mayors are being slaughtered in the most militarized region of the country? Why the “Rescate de Michoacan” strategy did not include special operations to protect all the mayors of that entity?
I can not forget another mayor killed in 2012 in Michoacan, and it seems we’ve all forgotten. But her death was known worldwide. The body of Tiquicheo’s Mayor, Maria Santos Gorrostieta Salazar, was found with signs of torture and killed by a blow to the head. It was the third attack against her. In the first attack her husband was killed. She was 36 years old and mother of three children when she was murdered.
How did we forgot the death of Maria Santos?
A foreign journalist asked me, days after the death of Maria Santos, why it had received little mention in the national media. And, I explained, the murder of local authorities in Michoacan is a routine note, unfortunately.
Worst of all is that we only talk about these mayors after their assassination. It’s odd to talk about the threats that they and their families have.
Being mayor currently in some areas of the country is an almost impossible task because I even commented that the families of some border states municipal presidents had to live in the U.S..
Some years ago, I interviewed Mr. Sergio Arredondo Olvera, Secretary General of the National Federation of Municipalities of Mexico (FENAMM), which is the body representing the largest and most important towns of Mexico, it gather up more than 510 thousand municipalities, their mayors, trustees, councilors and officials. According to the analysis carried out by FENAMM about crimes and attacks against municipal authorities, 29 mayors have been killed by the organizad crime in five years, as well as more than 800 municipal officials responsible for security areas or aldermen, including local officials who have sadly lost their lives in this battle that is taking over our country.
Is it difficult to protect mayors? No, but it does require resources, coordination and willingness to do everything aside political considerations to protect elected officials. A national preventive program that is accompanied by a national strategy, the collaboration between the three levels of government and improved municipal budgets are part of the requirement that the mayors are currently demand. We must fight to get support for all the mayors, to demand the federation better security for municipal presidents and officials, but also to local authorities requiring more professionalization.
Can a democracy survive if their local authorities and their families are death threatened? How many municipal officials have to die so that federal authorities consider the physical integrity of the mayors as a priority? These questions are awaiting for response.