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Slaying of PAN mayor in Michoacan throws elections into turmoil

November 5, 2011

Just 11 days before elections in the state of Michoacan, the mayor of La Piedad has been slain while campaigning on behalf of National Action Party (PAN) candidate for governor Luisa Maria Calderon, the sister of President Felipe Calderon.

The president immediately ordered extra security for his sibling, who leads the polls going into the election.

La Piedad Mayor Ricardo Guzman Romero was shot while driving home around 7 p.m. Wednesday. An ambulance rushed him to La Piedad Regional Hospital to undergo emergency surgery but he died from a gunshot wound to the lung.

Guzman, 32, was due to complete his term in office at the end of this year. The attack occurred after he attended a rally to support Luisa Calderon in her bid to win the Michoacan governorship.

“It was his day off and he was campaigning with young people,” said Calderon. The tragedy has thrown her campaign into turmoil, although it remains unclear whether the killing was politically motivated.

State prosecutor Jesus Montejano said three or four armed men in a black Jeep were responsible for the attack. He quickly maintained that the murder had nothing to do with political issues.

President Calderon instructed his security cabinet to use all the tools at its disposal to assist the murder investigation. The president’s office condemned the crime, stressing they will work to clarify the facts, identify and locate those responsible and bring them to justice.

The president described Guzman as “a man who always displayed a deep commitment to building a better Michoacan.”

With less than two weeks to go before the Michoacan elections, Luisa Calderon has built up a sizeable lead in the race for governor. Polls give the PAN candidate a lead of between six and 11 points ahead of the November 13 election.

Based on daily press stories, voter behavior patterns and telephone surveys of 1,500 Michoacan residents, the Office of Strategic Communications (GCE) found Calderon to be preferred by 40.6 percent of voters, followed by Fausto Vallejo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) with 29.6 percent, and Silvano Aureoles of the leftist Party of the Democractic Revolution (PRD) with just 17.2 percent.

Meanwhile the Strategic Decisions Investigation (Indes) poll of 1,026 Michoacan citizens attributes Calderon with 35 percent, Vallejo with 26 percent and Aureoles with 12 percent.

Felipe Calderon was born and raised in Michoacan and it seems his sister has benefitted from this association, despite the president’s waning popularity and the spectacular rise in drug-related homicides throughout his term in office.

The murder of Guzman may well benefit Calderon by generating greater sympathy for her and convincing voters that a tough response to crime is what Mexico needs to combat insecurity.

If Calderon were to win in Michoacan it would put a dent in the narrative that the PAN is a spent force in national politics ahead of next year’s presidential elections. This would cause some concern among the PRI, which as national frontrunner has the most to lose before the July elections.

The current dismal ratings of Aureoles will have come as a huge blow to Mexico’s third-biggest party, as Michoacan has historically been regarded a PRD stronghold.

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