Pubdate: Sat, 27 Jun 2009
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Los Angeles Times
Author: Ken Ellingwood, Reporting from Mexico City
Bookmark:  (Mexico Under Siege (Series))

Mexico Under Siege


The deadly clash in the state of Guanajuato is said to have occurred 
when security forces sought to search a home. Elsewhere, in the state 
of Sonora, a congressional candidate escapes assassination.

A shootout between authorities and gunmen in central Mexico left at 
least 12 people dead Friday, hours after a congressional candidate 
survived an apparent assassination attempt in the northern part of the country.

The incidents underscored the broad reach of violence plaguing Mexico 
amid a government crackdown on drug traffickers and signs that gangs 
have sought to infiltrate local politics.

Friday's gunfight pitted Mexican soldiers and state and federal 
police against heavily armed gunmen in Guanajuato state, a farming 
belt in the nation's midsection not known as a drug hot spot.

Gov. Juan Manuel Oliva told reporters that all 12 who died were 
gunmen. He said three state police officers were wounded.

Authorities said police came under fire when they attempted to search 
a home in a community of rural Apaseo el Alto municipality. The 
municipality was the scene of a shootout two days earlier during 
which gunmen hurled a grenade at police, an increasingly common 
tactic in Mexico's drug war.

Even tiny rural towns have been scenes of shootouts since President 
Felipe Calderon launched an army-led government offensive against 
organized crime in December 2006. About 11,000 people have died in 
drug-related violence, largely due to clashes between rival drug 
gangs over control of smuggling routes and street sales.

In the northern state of Sonora, Ernesto Cornejo Valenzuela, a mayor 
on leave to run for Congress under the banner of Calderon's National 
Action Party, escaped unhurt after attackers opened fire Thursday night.

Two of Cornejo's aides died and three others were wounded during the 
shooting, which took place after a campaign event in southern Sonora. 
Mexicans vote July 5 for congressional representatives, as well as 
hundreds of state and local positions.

Authorities did not disclose a possible motive for the attack, which 
was under investigation by federal prosecutors. Sonora, which sits 
across the border from Arizona, has a long history of drug- and 

The drug war has put a spotlight on drug traffickers' infiltration of 
the political system, particularly at the local level, where they 
offer bribes or make threats to get officials to cooperate.

More than a dozen mayors or other City Hall officials have been 
killed nationwide during the last year and a half. Federal 
authorities rounded up 30 local and state officials in the state of 
Michoacan last month for suspected ties to a crime group known as La 
Familia. All but three have been imprisoned while awaiting trial. 
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