The former governor of western Mexico, Jalisco, was violently shot in a restaurant bathroom in the popular beach resort of Puerto Vallarta.
Aristóteles Sandoval was eating with four other people when he got up from the table at around 1.40 and went to the toilet, where the murderer shot him in the back, said state attorney general Gerardo Octavio Solís.
Sandoval did not die immediately, but when his bodyguards tried to evacuate him from the restaurant, their escape was blocked by several armed men from the street, who opened fire, seriously injuring one of the bodyguards. The former governor died shortly afterwards at a local hospital.
Sandoval was assigned 15 police guards, but only two were with him during the attack.
According to Solis, the restaurant staff cleaned up the crime scene, removed the blood and bullet casing and deleted the video of the attack. “There are no clues – they practically cleaned the place,” Solis told Televisa. He said eight to 10 suspects were involved in the attack, but did not say who was responsible.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican president, offered his condolences and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
But López Obrador, known as Amlo, said the investigation was the responsibility of state prosecutors. Normally, high-profile crimes involving a drug cartel are taken over by federal prosecutors.
Sandoval was a rising star of the institutional revolutionary party, PRI, whose term as governor was overshadowed by the rise of the ultra-violent Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) cartel.
He recently resigned from the party’s executive committee, saying that the PRI – which lost a landslide to Amlo in 2018 – did not admit its mistakes and was guilty of clientelism. Analysts say the assassination predicted more violence ahead of next year’s regional elections.
Enrique Alfaro, the current governor of Jalisco, called it a “direct attack”, suggesting that the killer knew who he was targeting and was only interested in killing the former governor.
In just a few years, the CJNG has established its reputation as one of the fastest growing and most aggressive criminal groups in the country, willing to confront both rivals in the underworld and federal forces.
Jalisco and neighboring Colima have become the scene of a fierce battle between the CNJG and rival Sinaloa cartel, once led by the closed cap Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
One of the most amazing episodes of that conflict took place in Puerto Vallarta, in 2016, when Guzmán’s son Jesús Alfredo Guzmán and five other men were abducted from a restaurant in the city. Their abductors, believed to be from the CNJG, were released shortly afterwards.
In Sandoval’s first week in office, armed CJNG suspects killed their tourism minister in the capital of Jalisco, Guadalajara.
The same group was also held responsible for attempting to assassinate a former state prosecutor in 2018, in a daylight attack on a Japanese restaurant in the city, triggering a gun battle that left 15 people injured.