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A mayoral candidate and 5 other people killed in gunfire at a campaign rally in southern Mexico

Relatives of a man slain in a mass shooting, attend a burial service in Huitzilac, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. The shooting in the mountain township beset by crime just south of Mexico City resulted in several deaths, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano) Relatives of a man slain in a mass shooting, attend a burial service in Huitzilac, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. The shooting in the mountain township beset by crime just south of Mexico City resulted in several deaths, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
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MEXICO CITY -

A mayoral candidate and five other people were killed when gunmen opened fire at a campaign rally in the violence-wracked southern Mexico state of Chiapas, officials said.

State prosecutors said a young girl was among the six people killed in the gunfire late Thursday, along with mayoral candidate Lucero Lopez Maza. Two others were injured, they said.

"A confrontation broke out between armed civilians during a political campaign event," prosecutors said in a statement.

It was unclear whether Lopez Maza was the intended target of the attack, because shootings have become so common and widespread in the area.

The mass shooting took place at a crossroads in the rural town of La Concordia, Chiapas, about 80 miles (125 km) from the border with Guatemala.

The area near the Guatemalan border is a major smuggling route for drugs and migrants and Mexico's two main drug cartels have been fighting for control of the region.

On Sunday, 11 people were killed inshootings in a village in the township of Chicomuselo, Chiapas, a few dozen miles (kilometres) away from La Concordia. The killers wiped out one entire family and burned their bodies.

On Friday, the Roman Catholic Church said drug gangs had carried out the killings in Chicomuselo because residents there had refused to leave their homes or refused to work for the gangs.

"These men and women refused to leave their homes, despite violence, threats and harassment by criminal gangs to make them join their ranks," according to the statement by the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas.

The church statement said the heavily indigenous state of Chiapas "is awash in violence generated by (fights for) territorial control, and the interest on the part of some criminal groups to continue mining."

It did not specify what mines the cartels were trying to run, but the accusation is not outlandish or unprecedented in cartel-dominated regions of Mexico. In 2013, authorities in the western state of Michoacan acknowledged that the Knights Templar cartel had basically taken over iron ore mining in the state. They said exporting ore to China was one of the cartel's main sources of income.

The surge in violence in Chiapas proved embarrassing for President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as he visited the border state Friday for a meeting with Guatemalan President Bernardo Arevalo.

As usual, Lopez Obrador -- who has refused to confront the drug cartels -- sought to minimize the problem of violence.

"There are those who maintain that Chiapas is on fire, no, as I've explained, the problem is in this region and we are going to solve it," the president said during a news briefing in Tapachula, Chiapas.

Thursday's killings also cast a spotlight on the fact that the runup to Mexico's July 2 elections has been marred by violence, with about 20 candidates killed so far in 2024.

On Friday, the old ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party confirmed that two of the five dismembered bodies found scattered on a street in the resort city of Acapulco on Thursday belonged to a candidate for a town council seat in the nearby town of Coyuca de Benitez and his wife.

"We demand justice for this atrocious crime," the party said of the murder of Anibal Zuniga and his wife, Rubi Bravo.

Again, Lopez Obrador sought to downplay the violence and depicted those who report the killings as "vultures" seeking to smear his administration.

"Fortunately, there have been fewer attacks than in other elections, but nowadays there is a lot of sensationalism, it is very unfortunate, there are a lot of people seeking to profit from the killings and the human suffering," he said. "This is a time of vultures."

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