The woman mayor who was kidnapped andÂ murdered by a Mexican drug gang pleaded with her attackers for her youngÂ daughter’s life, it emerged today.
Maria Santos Gorrostieta, who had alreadyÂ survived two assassination attempts, was driving the child to school at aroundÂ 8.30am when she was ambushed by a car in the city of Morelia.
The 36-year-old was hauled from her vehicleÂ and physically assaulted as horrified witnesses watched, according to newspaperÂ El Universal. They described how she begged for her child to be left aloneÂ and then appeared to get into her abductors’ car willingly.
The little girl was left wailing as herÂ mother was driven away on Monday November 12.
For the next week, her frantic family waitedÂ by the phone for a ransom call that never came.Â Gorrostieta’s body — stabbed, burned, battered and bound at wrist and ankle — would finally be foundÂ eight days on dumped by a roadside in San Juan Tararameo, CuitzeoÂ Township.
She left behind her daughter and two sons asÂ well as her second husband Nereo Delgado Patinoran.
Hailed as a heroine of the 21st century, herÂ death has prompted much soul-searching in a country ravaged byÂ violence.
The decision to withdraw her security team inÂ November last year — and her police escort in January — has come underÂ particular scrutiny. Gorrostieta was elected as mayor of Tiquicheo, a ruralÂ district in Michoacan, west of Mexico City, in 2008.
Almost immediately, she received threats. TheÂ first assassination attempt came in October 2009 when the car she was travellingÂ in with her first husband Jose Sanchez came under fire from gunmen in the townÂ of El Limone. The attack claimed his life but Gorrostieta lived.
She battled back from her injuries in theÂ face of overwhelming tragedy, but she was not destined to knowÂ peace.
The next attempt on her life was just threeÂ months later, when an masked group carrying assault rifles ambushed her on theÂ road between Michoacan and Guerreo state. The van she was traveling in wasÂ peppered by 30 bullets. Three hit her.
This time her wounds were more severe,Â leaving multiple scars and forcing her to wear a colostomy bag. She was left inÂ constant pain.
But with unimaginable courage — and despiteÂ being a marked woman — she remained defiant to the very end.
When some doubted that she had been shot,Â Gorrostieta bared the scars that riddled her flesh and swore she would neverÂ give in.
In a statement to the public made at theÂ time, the devout Catholic said: ‘At another stage in my life, perhaps I wouldÂ have resigned from what I have, my position, my responsibilities as the leaderÂ of my Tiquicheo.
‘But today, no. It is not possible for me toÂ surrender when I have three children , whom I have to educate by setting anÂ example, and also because of the memory of the man of my life, the father of myÂ three little ones, the one who was able to teach me the value of things and toÂ fight for them.
‘Although he is no longer with us, heÂ continues to be the light that guides my decisions.’
She added: ‘I struggle day to day to eraseÂ from my mind the images of the horror I lived, and that others who did notÂ deserve or expect it also suffered.
‘I wanted to show them my wounded, mutilated,Â humiliated body, because I’m not ashamed of it, because it is the product of theÂ great misfortunes that have scarred my life, that of my children and myÂ family.’
‘Despite my own safety and that of my family,Â what occupies my mind is my responsibility towards my people, the children, theÂ women, the elderly and the men who break their souls every day without rest toÂ find a piece of bread for their children.
‘Freedom brings with it responsibilities andÂ I don’t dare fall behind. My long road is not yet finished – the footprint thatÂ we leave behind in our country depends on the battle that we lose and theÂ loyalty we put into it.’
After her ordeal she remarried and ran for aÂ seat in Mexico’s Congress of the Union, but failed to gain the backing sheÂ needed.
She remarried and dropped out of the publicÂ eye.
But it was still almost inevitable that sheÂ would eventually pay for her bravery with her life
Mexico has been torn apart by murderous drugÂ gangs since President Felipe Calderon launched his drug offensive inÂ 2006.
More than 50,000 people have been killed inÂ clashes between rival drug cartels and security forces and about two dozenÂ mayors have been murdered.
The cartels have ruled the streets with fearÂ for years, enforcing their authority with murders, bribery andÂ torture.
But after decades of using force to combatÂ the gangs, it is U.S. lawmakers who are the criminals’ biggestÂ problem.
Legalisation of marijuana, as recently votedÂ for by Colorado and Washington states, may wipe billions of dollars from theÂ cartels’ annual profits.
And it has left politicians in Mexico with aÂ tough question: How can they continue to justify spending money — and lives — fighting drug distribution to America when it will be legal in some states fromÂ next month?
The U.S. Justice Department considers theÂ cartels as America’s greatest organised crime threat, whileÂ conceding that itÂ is U.S. dollars that fund the crime ravaging Mexico.
In 2009 a military assessmentÂ predicted thatÂ if the drugs war continued for another 25 years, Mexico’s government was atÂ serious risk of collapse and the conflict wouldÂ spread into America.
A year earlier, the U.S. Joint Forces CommandÂ suggested a similar time-scale of collapse in Mexico and warned AmericanÂ intervention may be necessary due to the implications forÂ homelandÂ security.
The problem of strengthening theÂ Mexico/U.S.Â border even prompted President Barack Obama to deploy 1,200Â National GuardÂ troops in 2010.
The two major cartels in Mexico are now theÂ Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas.
The Sinaloa Cartel was formed when severalÂ gangs agreed to join forces in 2006 and is now led by Joaquin ‘El Chapo’Â Guzman.
He is Mexico’s most wanted drugÂ traffickerÂ and is believed to be worth $1billion. Forbes magazing evenÂ declared him theÂ 55th most powerful man in the world in 2009.
Los Zetas were originally a mercenary outfitÂ of former elite members of the Mexican army by the Gulf Cartel.
Consisting of Airmobile SpecialÂ Forces GroupÂ and Amphibian Group of Special Forces members, they helpedÂ control parts ofÂ Mexico for the Gulf Cartel until its leader, OsielÂ Cardenas Guillen, wasÂ arrested.
Los Zetas took the opportunity toÂ seizeÂ power for themselves and are now a 300-strong independent drugsÂ and armsÂ trafficking gang under the leadership of Heriberto Lazcano.
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