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Mayor Yolanda Sánchez shot dead in broad daylight

The female mayor of Cotija is the latest victim of Mexico’s deadly gang violence

Mayor Yolanda Sanchez

June 2024: Only one day after Mexico celebrated the election of Claudia Sheinbaum as the country’s first female president, a newly re-elected woman mayor was brutally killed in the southwestern state of Michoacan. Yolanda Sánchez Figueroa, who had been mayor of the municipality of Cotija since 2021, was gunned down along with her bodyguard as they left a local gym. According to local media reports, the mayor was shot dead from an SUV-type vehicle by gunmen in broad daylight. Police said 19 bullets hit the mayor and her bodyguard.


Sánchez became mayor in the 2021 elections under the banner of the conservative PAN party. A lawyer and legal consultant in civil law, with experience in the agricultural sector, Sánchez was the first woman to assume the municipal presidency of Cotija. After taking office on 1 September 2021, she expressed her joy at being the first female mayor of the municipality, which she described as a land of saints, a cradle of globetrotters, of people of work, of struggle and goodwill’.


Yolanda Sánchez had already been the victim of a kidnapping on 23 September 2023 in a suburb of the city of Guadalajara (Jalisco) as she was leaving a shopping centre in the company of two women. The mayor was released three days later. The police later arrested three men. According to local media reports at the time, the kidnappers belonged to the powerful Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG), who allegedly threatened the mayor for opposing the criminal group's takeover of her municipality's police force.


Michoacán, a state renowned for its tourist destinations and a thriving agro-export industry, is also one of the most violent in the country, due to the activity of criminal groups engaged in extortion and drug trafficking.


Throughout the 2024 election season, political candidates faced relentless attacks from criminal organisations, resulting in numerous casualties. The unprecedented levels of violence underscored the challenges ahead for Sheinbaum as she prepares to assume office on 1 October 2024, succeeding President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. While Lopez Obrador's administration made strides in alleviating poverty through progressive social welfare programmes, the incoming president inherits a nation plagued by rampant gang-led violence and a pervasive culture of impunity.

During the election campaign, at least 25 politicians were killed, including one mayoral candidate whose murder was captured on camera just days before the 2 June 2024 presidential and municipal elections. His death came just one day after another mayoral candidate in the central Mexican state of Morelos was murdered. The week before nine people in two attacks against mayoral candidates in the southern state of Chiapas. Two candidates survived. In May 2024, six political candidates were killed in an ambush after a campaign rally in the municipality of La Concordia. In a separate incident, a female mayoral candidate was shot dead as she began campaigning.


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