Local Mexican politician killed with machete in troubled state

MEXICO CITY Thu Sep 12, 2013 4:04pm EDT

1 of 2. Family members, friends and colleagues of Mexican congressman Osbaldo Esquivel Lucatero surround his coffin in Morelia September 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Alan Ortega

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Armed men in a Mexican state that is struggling to contain gang violence hacked a local congressman to death with a machete while he was being interviewed by a journalist, authorities said on Thursday.

State prosecutors in the western state of Michoacan said the politician, Osbaldo Esquivel Lucatero, was giving the interview in his car Wednesday afternoon when a group of unidentified men forced him and the other man out and attacked them. The reporter survived.

According to a statement issued by state prosecutors, the attack occurred near Apatzingan, a city that has become notorious as a hotbed of activity by drug gangs in Michoacan.

The state congressman was a member of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which governed Michoacan for a decade until last year. The motive for the attack was unclear. Prosecutors said they had not ruled out any line of inquiry.

Media freedom in parts of Mexico has been hindered by the threat of retribution from violent drug gangs.

The journalist interviewing Lucatero at the time of the attack, Pablo Madriz, posted on his Facebook page early Thursday morning that "thanks to God, I'm doing very well." l

Michoacan has been the site of some of the worst gang violence afflicting Mexico since President Enrique Pena Nieto took power in December pledging to restore law and order after a surge in violence under his predecessor, Felipe Calderon.

Calderon had vowed to bring the gangs to heel after he took office in December 2006, but his military offensive against organized crime led to more deaths.

Turf wars intensified under Calderon and about 70,000 people were killed in gang violence during his administration. Under Pena Nieto, gang-related homicides have fallen somewhat, but close to 1,000 lives are still being claimed by the violence every month.

Following a day of gang-related clashes in Michoacan in July that killed 22 people, Pena Nieto admitted that organized crime had taken control in parts of the region.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Dave Graham and Eric Walsh)

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