International Law

Given Choice of 'Silver or Lead,' Lawyer Serving as Mayor of Mexican City, Like Many Others, Is Dead


A successful, idealistic Mexican lawyer who was elected to serve as mayor of Santiago in November 2009 didn’t last a year in office before he was kidnapped and killed, allegedly with the help of the town’s police force.

Like many other politicians caught in the country’s violent drug war, Edelmiro Cavazos had to choose, implicitly or explicitly, between “silver or lead”—taking a bribe or taking a bullet, reports 60 Minutes. Six Santiago police officers, including one assigned to protect Cavazos at home, have been charged in his killing.

Counting Cavazos, 14 mayors have been murdered throughout the country during the past year alone. Some 30,000 people have been killed, to date, since President Felipe Calderon began a war on drugs in 2006, according to Mexican officials.

Among them was the brother of Alejandro Garza y Garza, attorney general for the state of Nuevo Leon, who is in charge of the Cavazos investigation. Before he was murdered, his brother was a top criminal investigator.

Able to pay police double their legitimate salary, drug cartels also are daunting because they are far better armed than the police, says Jorge Domene, the public security director for Nuevo Leon. “You’re like Tarzan against Rambo.”

Domene is leading an effort to eliminate local police and consolidate law enforcement into a better-funded, better-armed state police for Nuevo Leon.

A 60 Minutes video that aired yesterday gives additional details.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com (Aug. 2009): “Lawyer for Suspected Drug Kingpins Is Murdered; 2nd Such Killing in 1 Month”

ABAJournal.com (Jan. 2010): “US Helped Mexico Nab High-Profile Suspect in 100s of Grisly Drug Slayings”

Associated Press: “Portugal’s drug policy pays off; US eyes lessons”

Associated Press: “Clarification: Drug war story”

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