Drug gang kills 20 in attack on city hall in southern Mexico

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MEXICO CITY: A drug gang gunned down 20 people, including a mayor and his father, in the mountains of southern Mexico, authorities said Thursday. A video posted on social media showed men who identified themselves as the Tequileros gang claiming responsibility for the mass shooting in the state of Guerrero.
The Guerrero state security council said gunmen stormed the town hall of the town of San Miguel Totolapan on Wednesday and opened fire on a meeting the mayor was holding with other officials.
Among the dead were Mayor Conrado Mendoza and his father, Juan Mendoza Acosta, a former mayor of the town. Most of the other victims were believed to be local officials.
The walls of the town hall, which at the time were surrounded by children’s games, were riddled with bullets.
Totolapan is a geographically large but sparsely populated mountainous municipality in a region known as Tierra Caliente, one of the most troubled areas in Mexico.
Ricardo Mejía, Mexico’s undersecretary for public security, said that the Tequileros are fighting the Familia Michoacana gang in the region and that the authenticity of the video was being verified.
“This event occurred in the context of a dispute between criminal gangs,” said Mejía. “A group known as the Tequileros dominated the region for some time; it was a group that primarily trafficked and distributed opium, but also engaged in kidnapping, extortion, and various murders in the region.”
Totolapan was controlled for years by drug the boss of the Raybel gang Jacobo de Almonte, known by his nickname as “El Tequilero”, “The Tequila Drinker”.
In his only known public appearance, de Alamonte was caught on video drinking with the elder Mendoza, who was then the city’s elected mayor, in 2015. It was unclear whether the elder Mendoza was there of his own free will or had been forced to. attend the meeting.
In that video, de Alamonte seemed so drunk that he muttered inaudibly and one of his henchmen had to hold him in a sitting position.
In 2016, the locals of Totolapan were so fed up with the tequila kidnappings that they kidnapped the mother of the gang leader to take advantage of the release of others.
While the Tequileros had long relied on opium paste trafficking from local poppy growers, increasing use of the synthetic opioid fentanyl had reduced the demand for opium paste and the level of violence in Guerrero.
Also on Wednesday, in the neighboring state of Morelos, a state deputy was shot dead in the city of Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City.
Two armed men traveling on a motorcycle shot and killed state deputy Gabriela Marín as she was getting out of a vehicle in front of a pharmacy. One person with Marin was reportedly injured in the attack.
“Based on the information we have, we cannot rule out a politically related motive,” Mejia said of the murder.
“The deceased, Gabriela Marín, had just taken office as a legislator in July, after another legislator died, and there were several legal disputes over the seat.”
The Mendoza massacre raised the number of mayors killed during the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to 18, and the number of state deputies to eight, according to data from Etellekt Consultores.
Mexico’s Congress is this week debating the president’s proposal to extend the military’s policing functions until 2028. Last month, lawmakers approved López Obrador’s push to transfer the ostensibly civilian National Guard to military control.
While attacks on public officials are not uncommon in Mexico, they come at a time when López Obrador’s security strategy is being hotly debated.
The president has placed a tremendous responsibility on the armed forces rather than the civilian police to control the persistently high levels of violence in Mexico. He promised to continue and said that “we have to keep doing the same things, because he has given results.”
López Obrador sought to blame previous administrations for Mexico’s persistent problem of violence.
“These are (criminal) organizations that have been there for a long time, that did not emerge in this administration,” López Obrador said. He also blamed locals in the Tierra Caliente region for supporting the gangs and sometimes even electing them to office.
“There are still communities that protect these groups and even vote them as authorities,” the president said.

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