The 3 am air is chilly and bitter as Pamela Terán leaves Bar Jardin, a restaurant and bar in the middle of town, then steps out into the empty plaza. The sun won't begin rising for about three hours, and Pamela is enjoying a festive night before the elections bring higher tensions. She's running for the town council as a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. She feels at home here in Juchitán, Mexico an indigenous town on the southwest corner of the country, a brief car ride from the ocean.
Pamela has black hair and a kindhearted smile. Bracelets adorn her arm and she wears a modest, hand-stitched dress with an elaborate and colorful design — a design you could only find right here. She's with her friend, photojournalist Maria del Sol, and a man, her bodyguard, who's also her driver.
The world around her is mostly quiet. Tree frogs whistle, croak, ribbit and grunt. In the distance, a spider monkey wails out its strange call. In the daylight, this place is paradise. Cornfields weave into forest. Ancestral homes sprawl to the railroad, past farms with cows and pigs and goats and chickens.
Last year, the region was struck by the worst earthquakes in Mexico for the last century. Pamela appeared on television, asking for volunteers. The video is eerie, with her standing in the dark, as floodlights shine onto rubble, people frantically searching for life or bodies, and she looks into the camera. "We need more people to help us," she said. "Please."
She was a doctor by profession, and an activist who ran two organizations for the dispossessed. Two years ago, she was a candidate for Mayor. Maybe she's thinking about all of it as she crosses the plaza to the car, unaware of the cloaked figures waiting in the darkness.
Inside the car, they pause, stung by a strange feeling, something ominous and sudden, but before they can react, the gunfire begins. The killers empty their clips, then shove in another. They make sure no one is left alive, then they vanish.
On Monday, military helicopters watched over the funeral. At least 1,000 people attended.
The details of Pamela's death are spare. Officials admit it "may have been gang-related, as her father, Juan Teran, has a criminal record and alleged relations with the Juchitán Cartel."
Presidential elections begin July 1st, and the drug gangs have been murdering their way into the race, from city halls upward.
But either way, her death is part of a far more ominous trend overtaking the country. Since last September, over 110 electoral candidates have been murdered throughout Mexico. In the 24 hours before Pamela's death alone, "armed civilians" murdered two women politicians a few hours northwest. The two women had been rammed into a ditch late at night and summarily executed. In the morning, police uncovered their bodies. The vehicle had been abandoned and nothing had been stolen from the women or the car, so police quickly realized that it wasn't robbery.
Presidential elections begin July 1st, and the drug gangs have been murdering their way into the race, from city halls upward. Crime bosses have implanted their own batch of politicians, people who can be paid enough to stay out of the way. Criminal gangs rove the country, eliminating any reformers or dissenters.
Journalists are dying at an alarming rate, a historical high, so it's often hard to know for sure what happens. People just vanish, in the dark, at night, but the warring drug cartels are getting bolder by the day, bringing their culture of death to every corner of the country.