Mexican Singers In The Crosshairs

The body of Sergio Gomez, the lead singer of K-Paz de la Sierra, was found along a highway in Mexico City December 3rd, two days after another Mexican singer, Zayda Peña, was shot in the heart.

In the past year, at least eight musicians have been killed in Mexico. Other victims seemed to be targeted by drug gangs because, like performers of the northern "Narcocorrido" music, their lyrics focused on drug trafficking and violence. Gomez and Peña only sang about love and loss – causing mainstream Mexican musicians to fear they could be targeted next.

"They’ve just kidnapped and murdered a major international star traveling with his bodyguards," said Elijah Wald, author of the book "Narcocorrido." " That is a very clear message: ‘We can get anybody.’"

After performing a concert in the Michoacan state capital of Moelia December 2nd, Gomez left with two business associates for Puerto Vallarta but 10 Chevrolet Suburbans intercepted him. After being kidnapped, the two businessmen were later released.

Gomez’s tortured body was found with burns on his legs, signs of choking and severe bruising on the thorax and abdomen.

Magdalena Guzman, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said that despite the signs of choking, the cause of death wasn’t clear.

"The blows were so severe that they too could have been fatal," Guzman said.

Gomez’s manager, who is also named Sergio Gomez, told the television network Televisa that although the singer is not associated with drug gangs, he had received threats earlier that day warning him against performing in Morelia.

Band representative Mario Olvera said the group was forced to cancel a performance in Morelia, which has been the site of bloody turf battles between Mexico’s two main cartels, last year over similar threats. Gomez refused to cancel again.

Band member Humberto Duran said at a December 4th news conference: "In Morelia he told me, ‘I’m not afraid to die – I feel happy because I’ve gotten where I wanted to go, and we’ve done so much with this group.’"

The previous day, Peña, who headed the group Zayda y los Culpables ("Zayda and the Guilty Ones"), was killed when a gunman fired an execution-style gunshot into her heart at a hospital in the city of Matamoros. Peña was recovering from surgery after being shot in the neck at a hotel the day before.

Peña’s friend and the hotel manager were also shot and died at the scene, according to the Times.

In November 2006, Valentin Elizalde, his manager and driver were shot to death shortly after Elizalde performed across the border from McAllen, Texas.

Drug gangs routinely "adopt" singers by posting videos online showing members killing rivals to the tune of popular songs by the adopted musicians. Police are investigating if there’s such a connection between Elizalde’s death and a violent video posted online, set to his song "To My Enemies," which is frequently seen as a drug lord’s anthem.

In December of last year, Javier Morales Gomez of Los Implacables was shot to death in a park in Michoacan.

That same city took more victims in February as four members of the musical group Banda Fugaz were shot to death by gunmen in the hotbed of the drug trade.