Supporters of the candidate for Governor of Tamaulipas state for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Rodolfo Torre, mourn next to his coffin during his funeral at the Polyforum in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state, Mexico, on Tuesday. Torre was killed along with five other people when coming back from a closing rally of his campaign. Elections for Governor will take place next July 4 in Tamaulipas.
Gunmen ambushed Rodolfo Torre’s campaign caravan Monday less than a week before he was expected to win the governor’s race in Tamaulipas, a state torn by a turf battle between two rival drug cartels. Four other people were killed: three of the candidate’s bodyguards and a state lawmaker.
President Felipe Calderon called the attack an attempt by drug gangs to sway Sunday’s elections for governors and mayors in 12 states. He warned that cartels want “to interfere in the decisions of citizens and in electoral processes.”
“Organized crime will never meet its objectives. It will not succeed in shaking our faith in democracy or undermine our confidence in the future of Mexico,” Calderon said in a televised speech.
But the attack emptied streets in Ciudad Victoria, the Tamaulipas state capital where Torre was killed. Heavily armed federal and state police patrolled in caravans. Some parents rushed to pick up their children from schools.
“I am not going to vote because there is a lot of fear. The tension is very strong,” said Maria Pilar Villegas, a convenience store clerk who said she was on the phone with her sister when she saw the news of the assassination on television. “I got chills when I saw the TV.”
Torre, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, is the first gubernatorial candidate assassinated in Mexico in recent memory. He is the highest-ranking candidate killed since Luis Donaldo Colosio, also for the PRI, was gunned down while running for president in 1994.
Torre, a doctor who served as the state’s health secretary, had mostly campaigned on fighting poverty, even as turf wars escalated following a split between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas gang of hit men. Local politicians often avoid discussing drug trafficking, insisting it is the federal government’s responsibility to fight organized crime.
But on Sunday before his assassination, Torre announced that security would be a priority in his government. The next day, armed men ambushed his campaign caravan, killing him and four others, including his assistant and a state legislator
Torre’s death was the biggest setback yet for the elections. Corruption scandals, threats and attacks
on politicians have raised fears for months that Mexico’s powerful drug cartels are buying off candidates they support and intimidating those they oppose.
Calderon’s government did not say which gang was suspected in Torre’s assassination or why he would be targeted.
Tamaulipas, which borders Texas, has become a battleground between the Gulf cartel and its former ally, the Zetas gang of hit men.
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