MEXICO CITY – Officials said Friday that a crusading small-town Mexican mayor who denounced cartel extortion has been found dead on a roadside, a killing that has drawn national attention.
Former President Felipe Calderon published tweets demanding an explanation of the death of Ygnacio Lopez Mendoza, the mayor of the town of Santa Ana Maya in western Michoacan state. The largely agricultural town has about 12,000 residents.
Calderon is from Michoacan, which has been dominated for years by the Knights Templar drug cartel. Its members routinely extort money from residents, businesses and even local officials.
“The mayor … was on hunger strike in front of the senate complaining of complicity between local police and criminals. Today he’s dead. How did it happen?” Calderon asked on his Twitter account.
Armando Amaro Vallejo, an assistant prosecutor in the neighboring state of Guanajuato where the mayor’s body was found on Thursday, said an autopsy showed he died of “mechanical asphyxiation ensuing from neck trauma,” a phrase normally used to refer to strangulation but which could potentially refer to an accidental injury. Amaro Vallejo said prosecutors were not ruling out homicide in the death.
Ricardo Baptista, the director of the Association of Local Authorities of Mexico, said in a radio interview that Lopez had been abducted, tortured and killed.
Lopez Mendoza, 62, recently held a hunger strike to press demands for more funds for local governments. During that strike, he told local media that Michoacan mayors were being forced to give 10 percent of works budgets to the Knights Templar, a charge also made by residents in other parts of the state.
Baptista said on MVS radio that Lopez Mendoza had told others at an association meeting in Mexico City shortly before his death that he was being subjected to extortion by the drug cartel.