Mexican Mayoral Candidate Bertha Gisela Gaytán Gutiérrez Assassinated

The 38-year-old mayoral candidate for the city of Celaya was shot dead during a rally

Bertha Gisela Gaytán Gutiérrez

Photo: Facebook/Gisela Gaytan

The many histories and cultures of Latin America make politics very complicated in the region, along with high levels of corruption and violence. Just this year alone, Mexico has witnessed the violent murders of 15 political candidates who were participating in the upcoming election on June 2, which will determine the new president and other local and state positions. Most recently, Bertha Gisela Gaytán Gutiérrez, who was running for mayor of the city of Celaya in the state of Guanajuato, was murdered in the town of San Miguel Octopan during a rally to celebrate the first day of her political campaign on Monday. No suspects have been arrested, though Mexico’s drug cartels have been known to assassinate or attempt to assassinate candidates to gain control. She had been shot six times and security footage shows armed individuals fleeing the scene, Pulse Mexico reported. On the day of her murder, she shared during a news conference that she had asked for security protection but those running for municipal positions are often the last to see any action steps come out of those requests. She was running as part of Morena, a political party founded by current Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is leaving office in September, CBS reported.

“These events are very regrettable because they are people who are fighting to assert democracy, who are in the streets, showing their faces, fighting for others and it hurts a lot that this happens in our country,” President López Obrador said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Born in Celaya, 38-year-old Gaytán Gutiérrez attended the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where she studied litigation law. After kicking off her official political career in 2018 in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), she later joined the President’s political party known as Morena. There, she decided to run for mayor of her city and became the party’s first-ever female representative. During her first rally to kick off her campaign, she was surrounded by a procession of supporters, who were chanting and waving Morena party flags, as can be seen in several videos of the incident that have been circulating on social media. Suddenly, shots rang out, forcing people to scatter and flee the area. As of now, there have been no moves to increase security for political candidates, though campaign activities for the Morena party have been temporarily suspended.

In general, Guanajuato is a notably dangerous state, with the highest number of homicides compared to every other state in Mexico. However, this politically motivated violence has been seen all across the country. Guillermo Torres, the mayor of Churumuco in Michoacan, was fatally shot while eating in a taco restaurant with his son. Also in Michoacan, two other mayoral candidates, Miguel Angel Zavala Reyes and Armando Perez Luna, were murdered in their cars, while mayoral contender Tomás Morales was shot dead by an unidentified gunman outside his home in Guerrero. While there have yet to be any arrests, there are understandably very real fears that drug cartels are trying to control the outcome of this upcoming election as candidates are promising positive changes that would impact the cartels.

“Together, with determination and commitment, we will achieve the change we so long for. Today, I had the privilege of speaking with the tenants of Mercado Morelos. A meeting full of support and affection listening to their concerns and longings. We want a Celaya where every person has the opportunity to thrive, we want transformation,” Gaytán Gutiérrez said in her last Facebook post before her murder.

Before the attack, CNN reported that she told a political rally that she had requested security: “Assistance has already been requested through the state legal system in the party. We are looking at this issue, to see how it is resolved. The citizens are with us, they take care of us, but of course we are going to have [security] protocols.”

The upcoming election is still projected to take place on June 2, 2024.

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