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Wave of electoral violence in southern Mexico claims 14 lives in matter of days

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TAPACHULA, Mexico (AP) — Attacks on political candidates in Mexico’s violence-torn southern state of Chiapas have left at least 14 people dead in recent days, local authorities and candidates said Sunday.

The latest attack early Sunday targeted the car driving Nicolás Noriega, who is running to lead the municipal government of the town of Mapastepec. Noriega confirmed the attack to The Associated Press and said he was wounded and at least five people from his campaign were fatally shot.

Running under the country’s ruling party, Morena didn’t add more details and was noticeably shaken after the attack. The Chiapas Prosecutor’s Office also confirmed that five attack. Photos shared by local media showed a red truck dotted by bullet holes, and bloodied bodies laying in the trunk and on the ground.

“I deeply mourn the deaths of my friends, whose lives were taken in a cowardly manner. Evil is never going to reign in our hearts, because there are more of us who love life, who think of doing good,” Noriega posted on Facebook Sunday. “I’m asking all of society to unite to honor life.”

Chiapas has recently descended into bloodshed as Mexico’s two main cartels have warred for control of the neighboring Guatemala border and of an increasingly lucrative migrant and drug smuggling route. Violence has been in the uptick in Mexico in the lead-up to June 2 elections, as armed groups make territorial power grabs, picking off candidates and terrorizing civilians.

At least 134 people have been slain in politically motivated attacks this year, according to Data Civica, 24 of whom were political candidates.

On Thursday, a gunman opened fired at a campaign rally in a small town about 80 miles (125 kilometers) from the Guatemalan border, killing six people including a young girl and mayoral candidate Lucero López Maza. Two others were wounded, officials said.

On Saturday, the Chiapas Prosecutor’s Office also confirmed an attack against another Morena candidate, Robertony Orozco, running for mayor in the town of Villa Corzo. He was attacked driving on a highway near the town, resulting in three dead and two wounded, including Orozco. Prosecutors said they were investigating the attack and that they’ve provided Orozco with security.

That shooting took place near Chicomuselo, where 11 civilians were killed May 13. It is also the same area where in April the Morena presidential candidate, Claudia Sheinbaum, was intercepted by masked men during a tour of the Guatemalan border.

Because of its strategic location, Chiapas is one of the three Mexican states with the highest levels of electoral violence, with 55 victims so far, according to the Mexican consulting firm Integralia. It trails only Guerrero and Michoacán, two states at the heart of the Mexican cartel warfare.

The surge in violence in Chiapas proved embarrassing for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador as he visited the border state Friday for a meeting with Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo. López Obrador.

Obrador has refused to confront the drug cartels and has largely minimized the problem of violence.

“There are those who maintain that Chiapas is on fire, no, as I’ve explained, the problem is in this region and we are going to solve it,” Obrador said during a news briefing in Tapachula, Chiapas on Friday.

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This story has been corrected to show that the attack occurred early Sunday.

By EDGAR H. CLEMENTE
Associated Press

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