enrique hernandez
Enrique Hernández Salcedo's mayoral campaign poster. Salcedo was murdered ahead of the June 7 elections in a drive-by shooting. Morena

Enrique Hernández Salcedo was giving an election speech to local residents in Yurécuaro, Michoacán as a part of his mayoral campaign when assailants killed him in a hail of bullets fired from a moving car. Three other people were injured in the incident. Salcedo was a leader of the autodefensa or self-defense movement, a group of vigilantes that took on the Knights Templar cartel in 2013. Campaigning both against the cartels and against the government, Salcedo was a member of Morena, a left-leaning breakaway of the PRD (Revolutionary Democratic Party) founded by Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

As other self-defense had begun to do as early as 2012, Salcedo and his comrades took up arms against the Knights Templar in February of 2013. Salcedo later told reporters that he felt he had no alternative after cartel representative demanded protection money. Local authorities refused to help and reportedly told him to pay the cartel. Federal police recorded his case, but didn’t do much about it. "I was followed for months. [The Knights Templar tried to assassinate me."

The fight against the Knights Templar earned him respect among residents of Michoacán, and enemies inside the local government, including the police. In March of 2013, Salcedo and 19 of his men were detained and charged with the murder of the mayor of a neighboring town. At the time, he accused officials of torturing him and trying to force him to confess. After being locked up in a maximum security prison for 3 months, a judge released him citing lack of evidence.

"Rising up against organized crime [also means] that we're rising up against the government, the state, because they're working together," Salcedo said in an interview a year before his death.

The death of mayoral candidate Enrique Hernández Salcedo is not an isolated incident and the threat against political actors by the cartels are not partisan. Héctor López Cruz, mayoral candidate for the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) was also murdered on Thursday in the state of Tabasco. On Wednesday, congressional candidate for the PRD Silvia Romero Suárez was kidnapped by armed men in the state of Guerrero. In an interview following Salcedo’s death, fellow Michoacán autodefensa organizer and current congressional candidate Hipólito Mora acknowledged the danger.

“I think I’m the person who runs the most risk [of being killed] in all of Mexico. I dare to put it at that level because I know my situation,” Mora told Milenio Televisión. "We are affecting the interests of powerful people [....] However, we’re still going, here where we were born and where we’ve always lived even though we know that at any moment we're going to get news like we just got today.”

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