The killing of a leading candidate for governor in a northern Mexican state just days before an election has rattled political institutions in the country, adding to the challenges faced by President Felipe Calderon as his administration tries to crack down on drug trafficking cartels, The Times reports.
Gunmen ambushed and killed Rodolfo Torre and four members of his campaign Monday as they traveled on a road outside Ciudad Victoria, capital of Tamaulipas state, on the way to a campaign event. The attack drew widespread condemnation from the political parties and Calderon, who blamed "organized crime" without naming a specific group.
Tamaulipas was once the exclusive domain of the Gulf cartel before the gang's enforcement arm, a group known as the Zetas, broke off and began challenging its hold on the region. Officials say the election will continue as planned (link in Spanish) Sunday. Torre was leading in polls; his party has not named a replacement candidate.
Torre, a physician who campaigned on a promise of tougher security in his state and more integration with neighboring Texas, belonged to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. His death was the most high-profile political assassination in Mexico since the 1994 killing of presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, also of the PRI.
In a televised message Tuesday, Calderon called on citizens to stand with the government in its efforts against the cartels. Several top business groups in Mexico asked the government to ensure security and calm in the country, El Universal reports. The Mexican stock exchange dropped 39 points as news of the Tamaulipas attack spread.
“The cartels don't seek a failed state. Rather, they want ‘dual sovereignty,’ that is, to pay off public officials in return for their closing their eyes to criminality," said George W. Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary in Virginia.
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City
Photo: A body lies beside a Rodolfo Torre campaign van in Tamaulipas on Monday. Credit: El Universal