By Jose Cortes
OAXACA CITY, Mexico (Reuters) – Days before Mexico’s July 1 presidential election, five members of the leftist poll-leader’s party were found dead in the southern state of Oaxaca, state prosecutors said, the latest victims in the bloodiest election cycle in recent history.
Emigdio Lopez Avendano, who was running as a state representative, and four other members of leading presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party were found dead with gunshot wounds, the state prosecutor’s office said in a statement late on Monday.
Authorities found Lopez Avendano and his colleagues on a rural road about 40 miles (66 km) from the state capital Oaxaca City.
Family members, some hugging and crying, gathered at the prosecutor’s office on Tuesday to collect the bodies of relatives and demand an investigation.
“Justice is the only thing we ask for,” said Cristobal Vasquez Villegas, brother of Saul Vasquez Villegas, who had coordinated Avendano’s campaign and was among those killed.
“My brother wasn’t doing anything bad. He was just with MORENA. That’s why they assassinated him. I only ask for justice.”
Since campaigns kicked off in September, 113 politicians have been killed across Latin America’s No. 2 economy, according to a tally through June 12 by Etellekt, a security consultancy.
The victims have hailed from various political parties. Although the majority of cases remain unsolved, security experts suspect drug gangs are driving much of the killing.
Despite being less affected than other cartel-riddled states, Oaxaca has suffered 19 politician deaths since September, Etellekt found.
Last year was Mexico’s deadliest since modern records began, and 2018 is on track to suffer even more murders, according to government statistics.
Lopez Obrador, who founded MORENA and is widely expected to win Sunday’s vote after leading polls for months, expressed his condolences on Twitter and called for justice.
“My deeply felt grief to the families,” he wrote.
(Reporting by Jose Cortes in Oaxaca City, and Daina Beth Solomon and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)