Mexico Ex-Governor Killed in Puerto Vallarta as Murders Soar

Aristoteles Sandoval, the former governor of Mexico’s Jalisco state, was killed in an attack in the tourist hotspot of Puerto Vallarta, the latest sign of worsening insecurity shaking Latin America’s second-largest economy.

The assassination was confirmed in a tweet from the state’s current governor Enrique Alfaro in the early hours of Friday. The attack occurred after the politician went for dinner with three other people the night before, local authorities said.

While the cause of the attack is unknown, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that Sandoval’s death will be investigated and that his administration will work closely with Jalisco, Mexico’s fourth most populous state, to bring the guilty parties to justice.

“This is a matter that will be investigated so that the cause, the motive is known and those responsible are punished,” Lopez Obrador said in a Friday press conference. “It’s up to the Jalisco authorities to carry out the investigation, but at all times we are willing to help.”

Rising Insecurity

The killing adds to almost 32,000 homicides this year, the most on record for any January to November period, according to government data.

“Sandoval’s murder is one of several attacks and killings of Mexican government officials in recent years,” said Mareen Meyer, the Mexico Director at the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank. “This rising violence and insecurity speaks to the Mexican government’s ongoing challenge to effectively combat organized criminal organizations that continue to expand their influence in the country.”

In a video, local authorities said Sandoval had been in Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, since Dec. 5 for a vacation with family and to conduct some business. He arrived at a restaurant around 10 p.m. on Thursday and was shot after he went to use the restroom a few hours later.

Sandoval was shot in the back while in the restroom, and his security team dragged him outside where they were met with an ambush, Jalisco Attorney General Gerardo Octavio Solis said in a radio interview with Mexican journalist Ciro Gomez Leyva. One of Sandoval’s bodyguards is in the hospital in critical condition.

In the interview, the attorney general said that restaurant staff had “completely manipulated the scene of the events,” erasing blood and fingerprint evidence.

Sandoval, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, left his post as governor two years ago and was guarded by a team of 15, authorities said. At the time of the attack, only two of the guards awaited for him outside the restaurant. The state is home to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, one of Mexico’s most violent criminal groups. In May 2018, under Sandoval’s tenure, the wife of the head of the cartel was captured in the state.

“All year long, the federal government has been putting pressure on this particular cartel, and they have disproportionately arrested members of this cartel,” said Arantza Alonso, a senior public security analyst at political risk consultancy EMPRA-AIS in Mexico City. “They’re feeling the pressure.”

Alonso added that ahead of midterm elections next year, Mexico may begin to see more high-profile political attacks, a major test for Lopez Obrador’s administration. Last month, a construction businessman was abducted in Puerto Vallarta by an armed group. His body was dumped days later on a road in the neighboring state of Nayarit.

As governor, Sandoval made a name for himself as one of the bright new faces of the party, and pitched the state capital Guadalajara as the Mexican Silicon Valley.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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