A doctor and mother of three, Maria Santos Gorrostieta served as mayor from 2008 to 2011. Over that time she survived at least two assassination attempts, including one that killed her husband Jose and another that left her body peppered with bullet holes and scars .
Although Mexico has been a producer of, and transit route for, illegal drugs for decades, in recent years the country has found itself caught up in violent turf wars between powerful and well-financed cartels. In 2006 Mexico’s newly-elected President Felipe Calderon launched a military assault on the gangs. But although some key players have been killed or captured, the carnage has continued. Indeed some claim it has got worse, due to splits between formerly allied cartels. Official estimates say 50,000 people have been killed since the crackdown began, but others put the toll at twice that.
Michoacan, known for growing illegal marijuana and poppy crops, has become a key battleground due to the shipments of cocaine which arrive on its Pacific coast from South America as well as chemicals from Asia for making synthetic methamphetamines. The main player is a group known as La Familia Michoacana, a cartel notorious for its grisly killings and beheadings.
In a country known for its machismo, it has often fallen to Mexican women to take on “los narcos”. Without weapons or financial resources, and often with no help from the police, women have come to the fore in an effort to improve the quality of life for their families and communities.
Like many others Maria Santos Gorrostieta focused on improving social services for her small town and left Mexico’s drug cartels to the federal police, explaining that “I have a responsibility toward my people, the children, women, elderly and men who each day rip apart their souls just to bring home a loaf of bread”. But that made no difference to the drug barons, who came for her anyway.
In October 2009 a group of gunmen shot her at least seven times in an ambush in which her husband was killed. Three months later, another armed gang opened fire on her brother’s car while she was in the passenger seat. Shortly afterwards she made the front pages after she went public with photographs of her wounds in Tiquicheo’s municipal newsletter. “I wanted to show you my wounded, mutilated body,” she wrote, “because I’m not ashamed of it. It’s living testimony that I am a strong and righteous woman, and despite my wounds, I’m still on my feet.”
The Mexico City Daily has also said that there were at least two other assassination attempts that she never reported.
Maria Santos Gorrostieta was born in 1976 and qualified in Medicine at a university in the city of Morelia. She never knew what she had done to upset the drug cartels, though she clearly incurred the animosity of La Familia Michoacana.
On November 12, according to the newspaper El Universal, Maria Santos Gorrostieta was driving her young daughter to school in the city of Morelia when she was ambushed by a gang of armed men who pulled her from her car and beat her up in full view of passers-by. Witnessess described how she begged the men to leave her child alone and then got into her abductors’ car, leaving her daughter, screaming but unharmed, in the road.
Five days later the badly mutilated body of a woman, who had evidently been tortured before she was killed, was found dumped by a roadside. It was later identified as Maria Santos Gorrostieta.
She is survived by her daughter and two sons as well as by her second husband, Nereo Delgado Patinoran.
*Maria Santos Gorrostieta, born 1976, found dead November 17 2012.
(I thought I posted this story a couple of weeks ago, my apologies for the delay.)
Related: Cartels Assassinate Outspoken Mexican Mayor | TYT (Video)