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Gunmen kill 4, wound top security official in Michoacan

MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

The state public security minister had just left ceremonies launching a state fair in Morelia when her armored SUV and bodyguard escort came under fire.

April 25, 2010|By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Mexico City — Gunmen armed with high-caliber weapons ambushed the top security official in Mexican President Felipe Calderon's home state early Saturday, wounding her and killing at least four other people.

Minerva Bautista Gomez, public security minister for Michoacan state, had just left ceremonies in Morelia launching a state fair, which she attended with the governor and other high-ranking officials.

Within a mile, her armored SUV and bodyguard escort came under fire from assailants who had blocked the highway with a disabled trailer, trapping the minister and her entourage. In the fierce gun battle that followed, two of Bautista's bodyguards and two motorists were killed. At least 10 people, including Bautista, were wounded.

The gunmen escaped.

"We people of Michoacan have seen worse, and we will get past what happened last night," state Gov. Leonel Godoy said later Saturday in a speech opening the fair to the public, an event he insisted go ahead despite the assassination attempt.

Despite Godoy's upbeat efforts, Mexicans are increasingly anxious over the pace of death and violence. More than 22,700 people have been killed in nearly 3 1/2 years.

"It is incredible how armed groups keep attacking our emotional and security stability," a resident identified as Alejandra Galvan said in an Internet chat with the Michoacan news site Quadratin. "We are tired of so many massacres and the inability of our authorities to control this. Please! Do something now!"

Drug-related warfare has intensified in the southwestern state of Michoacan as a relatively new cartel known as La Familia consolidates its power, drives out rival traffickers and takes over parts of local government. Acting in Calderon's home state, it has served as a particularly pointed challenge to the president's authority.

Also Saturday, at least six people were killed in what authorities described as clashes with the army in the northern border state of Nuevo Leon. In Ciudad Juarez, where gunmen ambushed federal police Friday, killing eight people, Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz ordered police to patrol in larger convoys as a safety measure.

Former President Clinton, on speaking engagements in Acapulco and Mexico City on Friday and Saturday, called for more cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico in fighting drug traffickers and better control of the weapons that flow south from the United States and arm the cartels.

wilkinson@latimes.com

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