Mexican Mayor Killed Hours After First Woman Elected President

Alex Sterling
Alex Sterling
4 Min Read

Gunmen have killed the female mayor of a town in Mexico just hours after the country celebrated the election of Claudia Sheinbaum as its first woman president. Yolanda Sánchez, who had governed the town of Cotija since September 2021, was ambushed and shot on Monday in the center of Cotija, Michoacán.

Sánchez, the first woman elected to her mayoral post, was shot 19 times and died in the hospital shortly after the attack. Her bodyguard was also killed in the gun battle. The attack has not yet led to any arrests, but it is widely believed that the gunmen were part of an organized crime group.

Ms. Sánchez had reported receiving death threats since taking office. In 2023, she was kidnapped for three days by armed men during a visit to the neighboring state of Jalisco. She described her kidnappers as having made “demands” and subjected her to “psychological terror” before releasing her. Although she did not know which criminal group was responsible, local media speculated that the Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG) was involved. The CJNG is notorious for drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, and extortion, as well as targeting public officials who oppose them.

Sánchez had stated that the threats she received after taking office included demands to hand over the town’s security to state police officers controlled by organized crime groups. She refused and requested military reinforcement for the town, after which she was provided with armed bodyguards.

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Her murder occurred less than a day after a general election overshadowed by the murder of local candidates. Since September, more than 20 candidates have been killed, according to official figures, though independent surveys suggest the number is closer to 40.

Claudia Sheinbaum won the presidential race and will be sworn in on October 1 as the first woman to hold Mexico’s highest office. Xóchitl Gálvez, Sheinbaum’s rival, has been critical of the violence during the campaign. Gálvez said that when she called Sheinbaum on Monday, she told her, “I saw a Mexico with a lot of pain and violence. I wished that she could solve the severe problems our people have.”

While Gálvez conceded defeat after Sheinbaum’s insurmountable lead in the polls was announced, she described the campaign as an “unequal competition against the entire state apparatus dedicated to favoring its candidate.” She also indicated plans to challenge Sheinbaum’s victory without specifying how.

With more than 95% of the votes tallied in the preliminary count, Sheinbaum held a lead of over 31 percentage points over Gálvez.

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