April 21, 2012 / 3:47 AM / 8 years ago

Retired Mexican general shot dead in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Retired Mexican General Mario Arturo Acosta, who was once convicted of having ties to drug cartels, died after being shot three times in the head on Friday in Mexico City.

The attorney general’s office in the Mexican capital said Acosta, 70, was shot by an unidentified attacker northwest of the city center. The gunman escaped on an accomplice’s motorbike.

“He died as a consequence of three bullet wounds, although the autopsy will determine the (definitive) causes of death,” Jesus Rodriguez, district attorney for Mexico City, told a televised news conference.

Acosta is one of the highest-ranking Mexican military officials to be assassinated in recent years.

In 2000, Acosta was convicted of ties to the powerful Juarez cartel and sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2002. He was exonerated five years later.

Acosta survived an earlier attack in 2010. Those responsible were never found.

The army, long one of Mexico’s most respected institutions, has been at the center of President Felipe Calderon’s efforts to crack down on drug gangs that have ravaged the country.

Calderon’s decision to send in the army against the gangs shortly after taking office in December 2006 has been one of the defining features of his administration. Since then, the violence has intensified and more than 50,000 people have died in drug-related killings in Mexico in the past five years.

Critics say Calderon’s strategy has undermined the army by exposing it to the corrupting influence of the cartels.

Enrique Pena Nieto, presidential candidate for the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, has pledged to take the army off the streets if he wins the July 1 election.

Polls make Pena Nieto a strong favorite to succeed Calderon, who is barred by law from seeking a second term.

Reporting by Armando Tovar; Additional reporting by Elinor Comlay; Editing by Stacey Joyce

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