Fernando Purón had just finished an election debate with his rival congressional candidates in the Mexican border city of Piedras Negras, when a well-wisher asked to join him for a selfie.
But as he posed for the photograph outside the auditorium in the border city of Piedras Negras, a bearded gunman stepped up behind the pair and shot Purón in the head.
The cold-blooded murder on Friday – captured by a CCTV camera – has cast a harsh light both the stunning levels of violence in Mexico, and the risk taken by those who run for elected office in the country.
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Purón was the 112th political candidate murdered in Mexico since September 2017, according to Etellekt, a risk analysis consultancy.
And the country is bracing for more bloodshed before 1 July elections, when voters will pick a new president, renew congress and fill hundreds of state and local positions.
The motives for the murder remain uncertain, although Purón had received death threats during his stint as mayor of Piedras Negras, where he had 10 bodyguards and was said to have incurred the displeasure of the city’s dominant crime group, the notoriously ruthless Zetas.
During the debate just before his death, Purón had pledged again to defy organised crime, according to the newspaper Vanguardia. “You take on delinquency head-on – you don’t fear it, you call it for what it is,” he said. “Unfortunately, not all those in power do their job – some are even in cahoots with criminals.”
Mexico registered a record number of homicides in 2017 – the 11th year of a militarized crackdown on organized crime.
That the violence is now claiming the lives of candidates and members of the political class is prompting uncomfortable questions in Mexico, where well-paid public servants are often able to protect themselves against crimes such as kidnapping – but have showed a crushing lack of interest in cleaning up corrupt and incompetent police forces.
“[Politicians] can only protect themselves to a certain point,” said Esteban Illades, publisher of the Mexican magazine Nexos. “Violence is so widespread and so vicious that it doesn’t matter how many bodyguards you have.”
Drug cartels are suspected in many political murders, which overwhelmingly take place in regions already plagued with violence. Politicians from all parties – and at all levels of government – have been attacked.
Earlier this month, three female candidates were murdered within 24 hours. Pamela Terán, a PRI candidate in Oaxaca state, was murdered with a photographer and her driver as she left a restaurant on 2 June. Mexican media reported that Terán’s father had links to organised crime.