October 23, 2014 / 1:13 PM / 4 years ago

Popular Mexican musician shot dead in cartel-riddled northwest

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A member of Banda el Recodo, a traditional Mexican band also popular in the United States, was found dead from a gunshot to the neck on Wednesday in the northwestern Mexican resort city of Mazatlan, the group and local authorities said.

Banda el Recodo performs during the 2011 Billboard Latin Music Awards in Coral Gables, Florida April 28, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk

Aldo Sarabia, who played the tuba in the group, was reported missing last week.

It was the latest in a string of killings and suspected massacres in Mexico in recent weeks and months that have cast a shadow over President Enrique Pena Nieto’s drive to focus public attention on economic reforms rather than grisly violence.

The case is being investigated as a homicide, a source from the prosecutor’s office of Sinaloa state told Reuters, without giving any more information. Sarabia’s body also showed signs of a beating, local media reported.

“Aldo, although we’re devastated by your loss, life forces us to be strong, and to find refuge in the beautiful moments we lived with you,” the band said in a statement posted on its Twitter feed.

Sinaloa is the cradle of Mexican drug trafficking culture and the home state of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the world’s most-wanted drug lord until his capture in February, also in Mazatlan.

Musicians, many of whom make money writing ballads, or “narcocorridos,” extolling the power and prowess of local drug lords, are often killed in northern Mexico.

About 100,000 people have died in drug-related killings in Mexico since 2007, when former President Felipe Calderon launched a military assault on the warring cartels.

Pena Nieto took office in 2012 vowing to curb the drug violence that has dented Mexico’s international image. Government data shows the homicide rate has fallen under his watch, but crimes like kidnapping and extortion have risen.

A number of recent scandals, including last month’s disappearance of 43 students, who federal officials say were abducted by corrupt local police, have further dented Pena Nieto’s record on security.

Banda el Recodo de Don Cruz Lizarraga, the group’s full name, is popular among the Mexican immigrant communities of the United States, playing banda music, a brass-based genre of northern Mexican music that traces its roots to German polka.

Reporting by Anahi Rama and Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Simon Gardner

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