Ex-governor of gang-ravaged Mexican state shot dead in beach resort

Police officers guard a crime scene where an unidentified assailant shot dead Aristoteles Sandoval, ex-governor of the Mexican state of Jalisco, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

An ex-governor of the Mexican state of Jalisco was shot dead early on Friday in the bathroom of a restaurant in the beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, the latest violence to wrack a region plagued by one of the country’s most dangerous drug gangs.

Jalisco state officials said former governor Aristoteles Sandoval was shot in the back by an unidentified assailant while his security detail were outside. A shootout erupted as his bodyguards began moving Sandoval to hospital.

Sandoval’s 2013-18 term as governor was overshadowed by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), a local outfit which rose from obscurity to become one of the most powerful in Mexico, leaving a trail of death and defiance behind it.

Today the CJNG competes with the Sinaloa Cartel of imprisoned kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman for control of much of the drug trade inside Mexico as well as to the United States.

Jalisco state attorney general Gerardo Octavio Solis said the 46-year-old Sandoval had been with three other people at the restaurant in central Puerto Vallarta, and was gunned down at around 1.40 a.m after getting up to go the bathroom.

One of Sandoval’s 15 bodyguards was seriously wounded in the gunfight, Solis told Mexican radio.

The attorney general said the restaurant had “manipulated” the crime scene, cleaning up fingerprints and taking security cameras in an apparent attempt “to evade justice.”

He said investigators believed 8 to 10 suspects were part of the attack, but did not indicate who was responsible. A federal official said authorities suspected CJNG involvement.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador offered his condolences and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Sandoval’s term in Jalisco got off to a bloody start, with his minister for tourism shot dead in state capital Guadalajara by suspected CJNG gunmen just a week after he took office.

More murders and clashes with security forces followed. Authorities said the gang bought off thousands of police as it gradually extended its reach across Mexico.

In May 2015, authorities launched an abortive attempt to capture CJNG boss Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera, which ended with the shooting down of a military helicopter by cartel henchmen in western Jalisco.

Oseguera remains at large. Earlier this year, his gang was blamed for an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Mexico City’s police chief Omar Garcia Harfuch.

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