Mexico City, Dec 18 (efe-epa).- The former governor of the western Mexican state of Jalisco died at the hospital Friday after being shot inside a restaurant in the resort city of Puerto Vallarta, authorities said.
“With profound sadness I wish to inform you that moments ago, the ex-governor of our state, Aristoteles Sandoval, was the victim of a direct attack in Puerto Vallarta. Regrettably, he has died. My solidarity with his family in these very difficult moments,” incumbent Gov. Enrique Alfaro said on Twitter.
He wrote in a subsequent message that Jalisco’s top public safety officials were already in Puerto Vallarta to oversee the investigation.
Sandoval, 46, and another man entered the Distrito 5 establishment shortly after 10.00 pm Thursday and were later joined by a third male and a female, state Attorney General Gerardo Octavio Solis told a press conference.
Around 1.40 am Friday, Sandoval rose from the table to go to the bathroom, where he was ambushed by two assailants.
As many as 10 more assailants were waiting outside the restaurant and they opened fire as Sandoval’s bodyguards tried to evacuate him.
Solis said that “in accord with the law,” the former governor had a 15-person security detail and traveled in an armor-plated vehicle. But some media outlets said that only two bodyguards were with Sandoval at the time of the attack.
When authorities arrived at Distrito 5, they found that restaurant staff “had practically cleaned the crime scene,” the state attorney general said, “This is going to make the investigation a little difficult.”
“It’s something improper, a circumstance that should not ever happen. However, we must make it public knowledge and inasmuch as there was a gunfight outside the restaurant we would also like to request the support of the citizenry,” he said.
“If there was somebody who captured a video, a screen-grab, something that could help us,” Solis pleaded.
A native of Guadalajara, Jalisco’s capital and Mexico’s second-largest city, Sandoval was mayor of his home town before serving as governor from 2013-2018.
After stepping back from politics for nearly two years, Sandoval spoke out in October to fault his party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), for cronyism and an unwillingness to promote younger leaders.
While remaining a PRI member, he resigned from the national executive committee and vowed to remain critical of the party’s current direction.
Sandoval’s tenure saw the emergence of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (known by the Spanish initials CJNG) as Mexico’s most powerful criminal organization.
The CJNG and the Sinaloa cartel – whose chief, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is now behind bars in the United States – have turned Jalisco into a battleground in their contest for control of the drug trade.
In June, authorities blamed the CJNG for a brazen attempt on the life of Mexico City’s top cop.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador began his daily morning press conference Friday by condemning the murder of Sandoval.
“I sent my condolences to his family and friends. And it is a matter that will be investigated to learn the cause, the motive, and to punish those responsible,” the president said, adding that while jurisdiction over the case belongs to authorities in Jalisco, “we would be ready to assist at any time.” EFE mqb/dr