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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.
Dr Maria Santos Gorrostieta, 36, was the former mayor of Tiquicheo, a rural district in Michoacan, west of Mexico City. She leaves behind three sons.
Her second husband, Nereo Delgado Patinoran, is alleged to be missing.
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She famously survived two assassination attempts by narcotics gangs who have turned the country into a war zone.
Dr Gorrostieta had seen her government security team withdrawn in November last year, and then her police escort in January.
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 first 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.
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.
In a statement to the public made at the time, the devout Catholic said: 'At another stage in my life, perhaps I would have resigned from what I have, my position, my responsibilities as the leader of my Tiquicheo.
'But today, no. It is not possible for me to surrender when I have three sons, whom I have to educate by setting an example, and also because of the memory of the man of my life, the father of my three little ones, the one who was able to teach me the value of things and to fight for them.
'Although he is no longer with us, he continues to be the light that guides my decisions.'
She added: 'I struggle day to day to erase from my mind the images of the horror I lived, and that others who did not deserve or expect it also suffered.
'I wanted to show them my wounded, mutilated, humiliated body, because I’m not ashamed of it, because it is the product of the great misfortunes that have scarred my life, that of my children and my family.'
'Despite my own safety and that of my family, what occupies my mind is my responsibility towards my people, the children, the women, the elderly and the men who break their souls every day without rest to find a piece of bread for their children.
'Freedom brings with it responsibilities and I don’t dare fall behind. My long road is not yet finished - the footprint that we leave behind in our country depends on the battle that we lose and the loyalty we put into it.'
After her ordeal she remarried and 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.
The cartels have ruled the streets with fear for years, enforcing their authority with murders, bribery and torture.
But after decades of using force to combat the gangs, it is U.S. lawmakers who are the criminals' biggest problem.
Legalisation of marijuana, as recently voted for by Colorado and Washington states, may wipe billions of dollars from the cartels’ annual profits.
And it has left liticians in Mexico with a tough question: How can they continue to justify spending money – and lives – fighting drug distribution to America when it will be legal in some states from next month?
Mexico presidential advisor Luis Videgaray said in a radio interview last week: ‘Obviously, we can’t handle a product that is illegal in Mexico, trying to stop its transfer to the United States, when in the United States, at least in part of the United States, it now has a different status.’
From January to September last year, 12,903 people were killed in the country in drug-related crime, ranging from gang members, Mexican military and innocent victims caught up in gun battles.
The Mexican government claim they are winning the war on drugs, but few outside – or inside – the country believe that.
So corrupt are their police that they are rarely employed in combating the cartels. Instead, the country relies on its army to tackle the gangs while it attempts to rebuild its police forces.
Public support for the drug war continues to fall as the death toll rises and the cartels’ profits rise.
The business of trafficking drugs from Mexico into the U.S. is estimated to be a business worth between $13billion (£8billion) and $49billion (£30billion), with 90 per cent of all cocaine used in America originating from the country, according to a U.S. state report.
The U.S. Justice Department considers the cartels as America’s greatest organised crime threat, while conceding that it is U.S. dollars that funds the crime ravaging Mexico.
In 2009 a military assessment predicted that if the drugs war continued for another 25 years, Mexico’s government was at serious risk of collapse and the conflict would spread into America.
A year earlier, the U.S. Joint Forces Command suggested a similar time-scale of collapse in Mexico and warned American intervention may be necessary due to the implications for homeland security.
The problem of strengthening the Mexico/U.S. border even prompted President Barack Obama to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops in 2010.
Mass grave uncovered in northern Mexico
Authorities in Mexico's northern border state of Chihuahua have found 11 long-dead people in a mass grave and another eight who were apparently tortured and killed in recent days.
The state prosecutor's office for missing people said 11 male bodies were found in Ejido Jesus Carranza, near the US border about 25 miles southeast of Ciudad Juarez
Officials say they were apparently buried two years ago, a time when the area was rife with battles between drug gangs.
Officials said they have also found eight bodies thrown along a road near Rosales, about 120 miles southwest of Ojinaga, Texas. It said the victims had been shot in the head after being tortured.