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Unlike Arizona shooting, violence against politicians rarely has Mexico mourning

Three Mexican mayors have been assassinated this year, but such killings draw little attention as they are increasingly common and many Mexicans believe slain politicians often have drug ties.

By Nacha CattanCorrespondent / January 14, 2011

Soldiers patrol a crime scene where they killed three gunmen during a gunfight in Monterrey, Mexico, on Jan. 13. Drug gangs fighting over Mexico's richest city have launched a wave of attacks against police and rivals since New Year's Eve, crushing hopes of a fall in violence and alarming business leaders.

Tomas Bravo/Reuters

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Mexico City

Three mayors have been assassinated in Mexico since the New Year, with hardly a blip on the media screen here.

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Contrast that with the nationwide mourning that took place in the United States after the Arizona shooting left six dead and a lawmaker critically injured and some wonder whether Mexico has lost its ability to be shocked.

Unlike the shooting that targeted US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D) from Arizona, the mayoral assassinations did not dominate national headlines in Mexico. The victims were not memorialized by the president, and candlelight vigils were not held at state capitals in their honor. For most people, their deaths passed unnoticed as police blotter.

IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war

“I can’t help but notice the difference in the response to the attack on the congresswoman in Arizona – which brought the US government to a standstill – and the lack of [government] response in Mexico when a journalist, mayor, or civic leader is killed,” says Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. “Killing them is not only silencing an individual, but is silencing society.”

On pace to see 72 mayors killed this year

The Mexican mayors murdered were Luis Jimenez Mata of Santiago Amoltepec, Oaxaca; Abraham Ortiz of Temoac, Morelos; and Saul Vara Rivera of Zaragoza, Coahuila.

Three assassinations in two weeks represents a stark rise in mayoral killings from 2010, when as many as 14 mayors were murdered in the entire year, most of them by suspected criminal organizations. The killings come as the four-year death toll from the drug war recently hit 34,612, with a record-high 15,273 deaths alone in 2010.

BACKGROUND BRIEFING: Mexico drug war death toll up 60 percent in 2010. Why?

The beheading of 15 people in Acapulco last week underscored that horrific acts will likely continue as the drug war drags on. And yet, on occasion, people do fight the complacency that has grown with the death toll.

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