A drug gang shot dead 20 people, including a mayor and his father, in the south of the country, officials say.

In a video posted to social media, men who identified themselves as part of the Tequileros gang said they were responsible for Wednesday’s mass shooting in Guerrero state.

The Guerrero state security council said gunmen broke into the town hall in the village of San Miguel Totolapan and opened fire on a mayor’s meeting.

Mayor Conrado Mendoza and his father, Juan Mendoza Acosta, the city’s former mayor, were killed.

Most of the other victims are believed to be local officials.

The walls of City Hall, which was then surrounded by children’s rides, were riddled with bullets during the attack.

Totolapan is a vast but sparsely populated mountainous township in Tierra Caliente, one of Mexico’s most conflicted regions.

two soldiers, one armed, on patrol pass a two-storey building riddled with bullets
Buildings were riddled with bullets when gunmen burst into a meeting between the mayor and local officials.(PA: Eduardo Verdugo)

There were so many casualties that a backhoe was brought into the town cemetery to dig graves on Thursday as residents began burying their loved ones.

By noon, two bodies were already in the ground and 10 more empty pits were waiting.

Ricardo Mejia, Mexico’s assistant secretary for public security, said the Tequileros were fighting the Familia Michoacana gang in the area and the allegation in the social media video was being investigated.

“This act happened in the context of a dispute between criminal gangs,” he said.

“A group known as the Tequileros dominated the area for some time.

“This was a group that primarily smuggled and distributed opium, but also engaged in kidnapping, extortion and several murders in the area.”

Totolapan was controlled for years by drug gang leader Raybel Jacobo de Almonte, known by his nickname El Tequilero, which means the tequila drinker.

In his only known public appearance, de Alamonte was filmed drinking with elder Mr. Mendoza, who was then mayor of the city, in 2015.

It was unclear if the elder Mr. Mendoza was there of his own free will or if he was coerced into attending the meeting.

In this video, de Alamonte appeared so drunk that he mumbled inaudibly and had to be held in a seated position by one of his henchmen.

a procession of hundreds of men behind half a dozen t-shirt bearing pallbearers with a carved wooden coffin
The city began burying the victims of the attack.(PA: Eduardo Verdugo)

In 2016, the residents of Totolapan were so fed up with kidnappings by the Tequileros that they kidnapped the gang leader’s mother to take advantage of the release of others.

The increasing use of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has reduced the demand for opium paste, on which the gang depends, and reduced violence in Guerrero.

Mr. Mendoza is the 18th mayor to be assassinated during the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, according to data from Etellekt Consultores.

Mexico’s congress is this week debating the president’s proposal to extend the police functions of the army until 2028.

Politicians last month endorsed López Obrador’s efforts to transfer the seemingly civilian National Guard to military control.

The president has placed a huge responsibility on the armed forces rather than the civilian police to bring the persistently high levels of violence in Mexico under control, and pledged to continue to do so.

PA



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