By Flora Charner, CNN
The Mexican congressional candidate had just left a debate hall where he addressed public security in his northern state. He walks over to a person holding a phone and poses for a picture. In a matter of seconds, a man walks up from behind and shoots him in the head, killing him before walking off.
The death Friday night of Coahuila state’s Fernando Puron brought to 112 the number of candidates or politicians killed since the launch of Mexico’s electoral campaign in September, according to the consulting group Etellekt. Puron was the first candidate running on the federal level to be killed.
Puron’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) confirmed his death, which was recorded on black and white surveillance camera footage that soon circulated on social media. While not clear enough to show the killer’s face, the video brought into focus the dangers Mexican candidates face ahead of the July 1 election. Thousands of posts, including the presidency, are up for grabs.
“The Institutional Revolutionary Party condemns the attack suffered by our candidate Fernando Puron in the city of Piedras Negras,” a PRI statement said. “We demand some clarity from the authorities on what happened and an appropriate punishment for those responsible for his death.”
Police have made no arrests in the case.
In its latest report on political violence in Mexico, which includes all registered deaths from September 2017 to June 9, Etellekt includes geographical and party affiliation data on the politicians and candidates who were killed.
At least 39 of the victims were from Puron’s PRI party. Eighteen were from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and 13 were from the National Action Party (PAN) , according to Etellekt.
Puron, a former mayor of Piedras Negras, had been asked during the Friday debate how he would improve public security in the state of Coahuila if elected.
“We have to face crime head on. We cannot be afraid. We must call it by its name,” Puron said, according to the Mexican newspaper Vanguardia.
Fellow PRI member Sonia Villarreal, who is running for reelection as mayor of Piedras Negras, said Saturday she is suspending her campaign indefinitely.
“After the cowardly attack against my friend and colleague Fernando Puron, I have decided to suspend my campaign indefinitely to concentrate on my mayoral duties,” Villareal said in a statement. “We don’t (want) his name to be just one more added to the list of candidates who have been victims of these deplorable acts.”
Candidates have been killed in 22 of Mexico’s 32 states during the campaign. The state with the highest death toll is Guerrero, where 23 have been killed, according to Etellekt.
President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office December 1, 2012, and cannot run for re-election, has been criticized by many Mexicans for his inability to tame drug-related crimes during his time in office.
More than 25,000 homicides were registered in Mexico last year, the highest number since the government started tracking the data two decades ago.
Politicians on the campaign trail have been promising to tackle cartel violence. Current presidential front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has proposed opening dialogue and even offering amnesty to some cartel leaders. He also said he would appeal to US leaders to do more to curb Americans’ drug use.
Mexican drug cartels take in between $19 and $29 billion annually from drug sales in the United States.