MEXICO CITY (AP) — A candidate for mayor was shot to death in western Mexico and another man running for city council was gunned downed in southern Mexico, bringing to at least three the number of candidates killed in the run-up to the June 7 midterm elections.
All three killings occurred in areas heavily hit by drug cartel violence, but there was no immediate information on the motives in the deaths.
On Thursday, gunmen in a truck opened fire on a campaign rally being held by Enrique Hernandez, a mayoral candidate in Yurecuaro, in the western state of Michoacan.
The state prosecutors' office said the gunfire killed Hernandez on the spot, and wounded three other people.
Hernandez was a leader of the town's "self-defense force," one of the vigilante groups that sprang up in 2013 to break the power of the Knights Templar drug cartel in Michoacan.
State prosecutor Jose Martin Godoy said Hernandez had been accused by some of illegal activity. The self-defense forces often detained people or searched properties without warrants.
"He is a person who was loved by many, but there were also people who accused him of illegal activities," Godoy told the Milenio television network. Hernandez was running on the ticket of the leftist Morena party.
Yurecuaro is located near the border with Jalisco state, an area where the violent Jalisco New Generation cartel has been expanding its influence, fighting both authorities and rival gangs.
Also Thursday, gunmen shot to death Hector Lopez Cruz, who was running for the city council of Huimanguillo, in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco, on the ticket of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
Lopez Cruz was gunned down "by an armed commando" as he returned to his home after a day of campaigning, said Erubiel Alonso, the head of the PRI in Tabasco.
Alonso described Huimanguillo as "one of the most violent, most dangerous townships in Tabasco," suffering drug gang violence, immigrant trafficking and assaults, robberies and other crimes.
Alonso said the killing did not threaten the elections, but that PRI candidates would campaign only in daylight between now and June 7.
Earlier this month, another PRI mayoral candidate, Ulises Fabian Quiroz was fatally shot in Chilapa in the southern state of Guerrero. Chilapa has been the scene of bloody turf battles between two local drug gangs, including one case in which a pile of 11 decapitated bodies were dumped by a roadside in November. Burned, decapitated or dismembered bodies have been turning up since then, and initially the PRI had troubled getting someone to replace Quiroz as candidate.
A woman who had planned to run for mayor in another Guerrero town, but had not yet been named as a candidate, was murdered in March. Aide Nava Gonzalez had announced plans to run as the Democratic Revolution Party's candidate for mayor of the town of Ahuacuotzingo, Guerrero. She was kidnapped and later found dead, reportedly decapitated.
As in past elections, the violence does not seem to have focused on any one political party.
Earlier this week, a congressional candidate for the leftist Democratic Revolution Party was kidnapped by armed men and held for about a day along with three of her assistants in another part of Guerrero state. State prosecutors said they were later freed unharmed.
Candidates also have been killed in earlier Mexican elections. In 2010, gunmen believed to be working for a drug cartel assassinated Rodolfo Torre, the leading candidate for governor in the northern border state of Tamaulipas.
Jose Antonio Crespo, a political analyst at Mexico's Center for Economic Research and Instruction, said "this is all very regrettable, but it is not unusual. That's the way Mexican elections are nowadays."
"In the majority of cases it is connected to drug cartels, organized crime," Crespo said. "That just reveals what we already knew, that this problem has gotten beyond the control of the Mexican government."