MEXICO CITY —
The governor of Mexico's Morelos state blames a vicious drug gang for assassinating the mayor of a small city over the weekend, less than 24 hours after she took office.
Gov. Graco Ramirez said Monday the murder of Gisela Mota, mayor of Temixco, south of Mexico City, was a message from the drug gang known as Los Rojos to other officials not to support police reform.
The gang shot the mayor in her home in front of her horrified family, Ramirez said.
Three suspects were arrested — a 32-year-old woman, an 18-year-old man and a minor. Two others were killed in a clash with police.
Mota, of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party, was a former member of the Mexican congress. She backed the governor's plan to put all police forces in Morelos — state and city — under a single unified command to combat corruption, including efforts by drug gangs to pay off and cajole police.
Mota's killing "is a message and clear threat to the mayors who have recently taken office not to accept the coordination plan and police framework we have been promoting," Ramirez said.
Ramirez said the state police plan has led to a decrease in the wave of kidnappings, extortion and drug gang killings that swept the state in recent years.
Many critics have questioned whether the unified command will be cleaner or more efficient than the local forces, and the state government has struggled to persuade mayors to give up control of officers who are a source of influence, protection and often income from bribes.
A local newspaper, La Union de Morelos, cast doubt on Ramirez's motives in an editorial Monday that accused him of opportunistically using Mota's killing “to get around the growing opposition to a model of security whose effectiveness is belied by figures and facts.''
Temixco, with about 100,000 people, is a suburb of Cuernavaca, long a tourist haven famed for its colonial architecture, gardens and streets lined with bougainvilleas and jacarandas.
But the rise of drug and extortion gangs has driven away some tourists and residents.
Los Rojos and another drug gang, Guerreros Unidos, have been carrying out a deadly battle for control of the Morelos drug trade.
Guerreros Unidos is suspected in the disappearances and likely murders of 43 students from neighboring Guerrero state in 2014.
The Association of Local Mexican Authorities said on Twitter that more than 1,000 public municipal servants have been killed since 2006, mainly by organized crime.
Some information for this report came from AP.