Mexican state's tourism minister shot to death in ambush

MEXICO CITY Sun Mar 10, 2013 1:19am GMT

Investigators and members of a forensic team gather around a car where the new tourism minister of Jalisco state Jose de Jesus Gallegos was shot dead at a crime scene between Guadalajara and Zapopan limits March 9, 2013. REUTERS/Alejandro Acosta

Investigators and members of a forensic team gather around a car where the new tourism minister of Jalisco state Jose de Jesus Gallegos was shot dead at a crime scene between Guadalajara and Zapopan limits March 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Alejandro Acosta

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The new minister of tourism in one of Mexico's biggest states was shot and killed on Saturday afternoon in an upscale neighbourhood of Guadalajara, the country's second most populous city, local officials said.

Jose de Jesus Gallegos, tourism minister for Jalisco, the home of tequila and Mexico's mariachi music, was stopped in his vehicle by armed men and gunned down with a pistol, state Interior Minister Arturo Zamora told reporters.

Gallegos had been in office only a week in the state, which President Enrique Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party recaptured in a 2012 election after 18 years in opposition. The new state government took office on March 1.

Zamora said the initial investigation suggested the killing was related to Gallegos' business activities and had nothing to do with his government post.

Gallegos was the founder of Jegal Project and Construction Management, which developed expensive resorts and luxury towers across Mexico, according to the company website.

Home to 7.5 million people and dominated by Guadalajara, Jalisco is Mexico's fourth most populous state, accounting for roughly 6.5 percent of gross domestic product.

Jalisco's government has not named any suspects in the killing of Gallegos, which Pena Nieto condemned in a statement from his Twitter account, pledging to investigate the crime.

Gang-related killings rose during the 2006-2012 rule of Pena Nieto's predecessor, Felipe Calderon, who staked his reputation on crushing Mexico's violent drug cartels.

But instead, gang violence worsened, and the number of homicides in Jalisco rose to about 1,200 in each of the past two years, from less than 400 in 2007, according to police data.

On taking office last December, Pena Nieto vowed to quell the lawlessness and killing that have stained Mexico's image as a tourist destination and rattled investors.

Guadalajara has seen deepening violence since soldiers killed drug boss Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel in 2010 in the same neighbourhood of mansions where Gallegos was ambushed. Coronel's death fuelled turf wars among drug traffickers in the area.

(Reporting by Michael O'Boyle and Dave Graham; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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