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Mayoral Candidate Is Beheaded in Guerrero Ahead of Mexico's Local Elections Season

Aide Nava Gonzalez, 42, had been married to a previous mayor of Ahuacuotzingo — who was also killed on the same highway where she disappeared last Sunday. Elections are scheduled for June 7.

by Melissa del Pozo
Mar 14 2015, 3:00pm

Screengrab via YouTube

A candidate for mayor in a rural region of Mexico's Guerrero state was found decapitated this week, just three months before millions of Mexican voters pick mayors, governors, and lawmakers in this year's mid-term elections.

It was the second murder of a declared candidate for office in Mexico leading up to the June 7 vote. In mid-February, Carlos Martinez Villavicencio, an aspiring candidate for Mexico's Congress was ambushed and killed on a mountain highway in neighboring Oaxaca state.

Aidé Nava Gonzalez, a declared pre-candidate for mayor in Ahuacuotzingo, Guerrero, was found decapitated on March 10. She had been kidnapped the previous Sunday on the highway between Ahuacuotzingo and nearby Chilapa, in Guerrero's northern region.

Nava, 42, belonged to the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD in Spanish, the main leftist party in Mexico. The PRD commands a strong voter base in the country's poor southern states. The party has also been linked to corruption cases.

Guerrero — Mexico's second most violent and second-poorest state, will choose a new governor, its state lawmakers, and 81 mayors. Officially, the campaign season doesn't begin until April 5.

Celestino Guzman, Guerrero state leader for the PRD, told VICE News that Nava's body was found near the town of Tecoanapa. "Last Sunday we had received word about her kidnapping by an armed group," Guzman said on Wednesday.

The corpse had an attached note that read: "This will happen to all the fucking politicians who don't get in line."

The spray-painted message was signed by the criminal gang Los Rojos, an organization that operates in the northern and central regions of Guerrero and is involved in heroin production and trafficking.

Related: The Man Responsible For Huge Government Blunders in Mexico Just Got a Seat on His Country's Supreme Court.

Elections in Mexico are frequently contaminated with drug cartel funding or influence, with criminal groups fighting to earn the loyalty of candidates or potential candidates, particularly at the local level. Political assassinations mark each election cycle.

Nava, for example, was married to a previous mayor of Ahuacuotzingo, Francisco Quiñones, who was killed last June in an ambush on the same highway where Aidé Nava was taken. Quiñones served as mayor between 2009 and 2012.

Nava's son, Francisco Quiñones Jr., was abducted by an armed group in October 2012 and remains missing. However, local PRD leaders said that Nava had not reported any recent threats against her.

In spite of her killing, aspiring officeholders in Guerrero told VICE News that they will not be abandoning their campaigns.

Hector Astudillo, candidate for governor for Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, fears for his safety, said a spokesman.

But he also said Astudillo won't be asking for special protection while traveling to the Tierra Caliente region of Guerrero in the coming weeks, emphasizing that all Guerrero residents deserve to feel safe, not just political candidates.

Guzman, the state PRD leader, said that his party's candidate for governor, Beatriz Mojica, "won't back down and will continue in the process." He added that his team will demand a detailed investigation of Nava's death and also request added protection for Mojica.

Related: Young Mexican Governor's Celebrity Reputation Takes a Hit After Web Mishaps

Los Rojos are locked in an ongoing struggle with the Guerreros Unidos, a rival organization that officials say kidnapped and killed the 43 missing students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, also in Guerrero.

According to figures from Mexico's National System of Public Security, Guerrero is the second most dangerous entity in the country after the state of Mexico, which surrounds Mexico City. Acapulco, Guerrero's primary tourist destination, was also named this year the world's third most violent city.

Nava's survivors and friends held a vigil for her on Thursday morning. Afterwards, a caravan formed by members of her party and supporters chanted "Justice for Aidé" as they took her remains from Chilpancingo, the state capital, to Ahuacuotzingo.

Adding up to the uncertain atmosphere in Guerrero, the state's dissident teachers union, known as CETEG, together with the families of the missing Ayotzinapa students and other groups, have declared they'll do whatever it takes to prevent elections from happening there this year.

"No elections will take place in Guerrero, until the missing students are found alive," members of the teacher union declared last week.

Related: Where Mexico's Drug War Was Born: A Timeline of the Security Crisis in Michoacan

Follow Melissa del Pozo on Twitter @Melissadps.