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Former Governor Shot in Mexican State Where Politicians Keep Dying

Fernando Moreno recovering from six bullet wounds, five years after another former governor was assassinated, and a decade since a sitting governor died in a mysterious plane crash.
October 13, 2015, 9:40pm
Imagen vía EPA

A former governor of the small western Mexican state of Colima has survived an assassination attempt that fits into a series of violent incidents touching local politicians, including the death of two other former governors in the last decade.

Fernando Moreno, 52, was having breakfast in a well-known restaurant on Monday morning when two armed men shot him six times in the neck, chest and arms.

"The government of Colima expresses its total rejection of these kinds of violent acts that cast a shadow over life in the state," current governor Mario Anguiano told reporters. "We will spare no effort or resource to capture those responsible. There will be no impunity."

Photographs posted on Twitter show Moreno lying on the floor with blood staining his shirt. He was immediately taken to a nearby hospital, where he underwent surgery and is now said to be in a serious but stable condition.

A member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, Moreno held office from 1997 to 2003. He had previously served as a federal congressman and rector of the state university, and maintained significant political influence in Colima after he left the governorship.

Monday's attack on Moreno fits into a pattern of violence involving top ranking Colima politicians and their families either as victims or as the alleged masterminds.

Moreno's first successor as governor, Gustavo Vázquez Montes, died when the private jet he was travelling in crashed in 2005. The governor's wife and several cabinet ministers also died in the crash, the cause of which was never determined.

Vázquez's brother had been murdered back in 2001, his body reportedly found in the boot of a car. His sister and niece were stabbed to death last year.

Silverio Cavazos, Vázquez's replacement as governor, served out his term but was shot dead outside his home in 2010, 13 months after leaving office.

One of former governor Moreno's nephews was later implicated in Vázquez's death by Colima's top prosecutor who said he worked as a lawyer for a top leader of the Familia drug cartel and had ordered the assassination. Moreno was back in the news this February when another of his nephews was shot dead on the outskirts of the state capital.

With Moreno now himself a survivor of an attack, many are asking why so many high level politicians and their relatives are targeted in Colima.

Organized crime expert Jesús Pérez Caballero believes the answer lies partly in the stranglehold over local politics maintained by the PRI that, while it lost control of Mexico's federal government between 2000 and 2012, has held power in Colima without a break since 1929.

Pérez told VICE News that the PRI's unbroken rule has led to the entrenchment of local political clans headed by strongmen at the same time as influence of organized crime in the state has risen.

"The lack of democratic alternation is important because this is necessary to combat corruption and identify networks of impunity and pacts with organized crime," he said.

Pérez noted that Colima is strategically important to traffickers thanks to the major Pacific port of Manzanillo, a primary entry point for the chemical precursors used in the production of methamphetamines produced by the cartels based in the neighboring states of Jalisco and Michoacán.

Opposition politicians in Colima immediately denounced the attack on Moreno as evidence of corruption.

"Our state is experiencing the consequence of the relationship between the political class and organized crime," said Vladimir Parra Barragán, the president of the leftist National Regeneration Movement in Colima. "It is the settling of scores."

Related: How the Jalisco New Generation Cartel Is Terrorizing the People of Western Mexico

Follow Duncan Tucker on Twitter: @DuncanTucker