Latest update: 28/06/2010
Candidate for governor assassinated by suspected drug hitmen
Rodolfo Torre, an opposition party member and strong contender to become governor in a July 4 election in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, was assassinated along with four aides by suspected drug hitmen Monday whilst on a campaign trip.
By News Wires (text)
REUTERS - An opposition candidate pegged to win a July 4 gubernatorial election in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas was killed by suspected drug hitmen on Monday in the latest sign drug gangs are trying to influence politics.
Rodolfo Torre of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was killed with four aides in an ambush while he was on a campaign trip, Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont told reporters.
A local police official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters that 16 hooded gunmen ambushed Torre as he was traveling to the town of Valle Hermoso, near the U.S. border.
The murders were the latest sign that Mexico's powerful drug gangs are trying to sway this weekend's elections for governors, mayors and local deputies in a dozen states.
Mexico is in the grip of a deadly and escalating war on drug gangs that has killed more than 25,000 people, mainly traffickers and police, since President Felipe Calderon took power in late 2006 and launched his army crackdown.
The soaring death toll is alarming Washington and worrying tourists and foreign investors.
News of Monday's killing hit Mexico's peso<MEX01> currency, leaving it 0.46 percent weaker at 12.71 per dollar as TV images showed the bodies of Torres and his aides, covered by sheets, on a highway next to PRI campaign trucks.
"This is starting to get worrying," said Daniela Blancas, a currency strategist at Scotia Capital in Mexico City. "We have heard of violence before in lower levels of government, but not directly a (high-level) candidate, which could make the markets more nervous about the news."
Valle Hermosa was the scene of another suspected drug gang attack last month when a mayoral candidate for the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, was killed.
The attacks are seen by drug experts as evidence of traffickers trying to ensure control of smuggling turf in Tamaulipas, across the U.S. border from Texas. The state has been hit by a wave of violence as the powerful Gulf cartel based in eastern Mexico battles its former armed wing known as the "Zetas".