Mexico's fearless woman mayor Maria Santos Gorrostieta 'executed' after surviving two assassination attempts
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The body of a woman once called a 'heroine of the 21st century' for fearlessly standing up to Mexico's brutal drug cartels has been found beaten to death at the side of a road.
Maria Santos Gorrostieta, 36, was the former mayor of Tiquicheo, a rural district in Michoacan, west of Mexico City.
She famously survived two assassination attempts by narcotics gangs who have turned the country into a war zone.
Her brave defiance may have cost the mother-of-three her life. The official cause of death was a blow to the head but she had been stabbed, her legs and hands had been bound and her waist and chest were covered in burns, suggesting she had been tortured.
She was discovered by residents of the community of San Juan Tararameo, Cuitzeo Township, who were heading to work in the fields.
Her family had reported her missing on November 14, and the disappearance was being investigated by the Anti-Kidnapping and Extortion Institution.
A murder investigation has now been launched.
The first assassination attempt was while in October 2009 when the car she was travelling in with her husband Jose Sanchez came under fire from gunmen in the town of El Limone.
The attack claimed his life but Gorrostieta lived. An attempt had been made on Sanchez's life earlier that year, but he managed to escape the armed mob who came after him.
Gorrostieta, who had been elected in 2008, bravely battled back from her injuries in the face of overwhelming tragedy, but she was not destined to know peace.
The next attempt on her life was just three months later, when an masked group carrying assault rifles ambushed her on the road between Michoacan and Guerreo state. The van she was traveling in was peppered by 30 bullets. Three hit her.
This time Gorrostieta's injuries were more severe, leaving multiple scars and forcing her to wear a colostomy bag. She was left in constant pain.
A reporter was also wounded in the attack, as well as her press officer and brother.
Grim discovery: Residents of the community of San Juan Tararameo found her body as they went to work in the fields
Sickening: Gorrostieta shows the wounds she sustained from the ambushers' gunfire and the subsequent car crash
Wounds: The ex-mayor was lucky to survive the second attack. She was left in constant pain and was forced to use a colostomy bag
In a famous act of defiance, she posed for pictures showing the extent of her horrifying wounds to draw attention to the brutality the drug gangs routinely mete out to their opponents.
Speaking at the time she said: 'I wanted to show you my wounds because I'm not ashamed that my body is mutilated like this.
'It is the result of shameful acts which have marked my life and the lives of my children. But I am not ashamed.
Murder: The corpse of Dr Gorrostieta, found by farm workers from San Juan Tararameo. She had been burned, beaten and stabbed
'There are some that have said I made these attacks up. But I did not and now I show the physical proof to those who have doubted me.'
She added: 'Every day I fight and battle in my mind to erase the memories of the terrible things I lived through.'
'At a different time in my life, maybe I would have resigned from my post, my responsibilities.
'But it is no longer possible now that I have three children whom I have to teach by example.
'Beside that I have the memories of my husband, the father of my children who knew how to teach the value of things and fight for them.'
Icon: Maria was described by a prominent Mexican journalist as 'a heroine of the 21st century'
Casualty of war: Gorrostieta is the latest official murdered by cartels in Mexico's bloody battle over drugs
She added: 'He is no longer with us but he remains the guiding light for my decisions.'
After her ordeal she ran for a seat in Mexico's Congress of the Union but failed to gain the backing she needed.
Mexico has been torn apart by murderous drug gangs since President Felipe Calderon launched his drug offensive in 2006.
More than 50,000 people have been killed in clashes between rival drug cartels and security forces and about two dozen mayors have been murdered.