10/15/2012 12:01 pm ET Updated Dec 15, 2012

The Risks and Gains of Being a Politician's Child

The children of Mexican politicians have become the targets of organized crime. Criminal groups retaliate against politicians' family members because authorities also target their families.

By Fundación Mepi

Mexico City -- "They have killed my son, an honest young man", said Humberto Moreira Valdés, former governor of the northern state of Coahuila. Moreira had just learned that his 25-year old son José Eduardo Moreira had been murdered, in the conflictive city of Ciudad Acuña, an area that has been overran by drug traffickers.

Around the world people in their twenties face difficult decisions -- graduate from school, find a job, make money, begin a life away from your parents, get married. In Mexico, especially in areas where organized crime is strong, being young requires strategies to keep you alive. In 2000-2009 more than 36,000 young people ages 10 to 29 were murdered in Mexico, according to a study by the Colegio de Mexico. The murders affect all social classes. If you think that an estimated 60,000 people have died violently in the last six years since the Mexican government began an all out push against organized crime groups, a large share of those victims were children or young people.

But the murder of José Eduardo Moreira brought up an interesting twist. The children of Mexican politicians have become the targets of organized crime. Criminal groups retaliate against politicians' family members because authorities also target their families. The day Moreira was killed, the Mexican criminal group Los Zetas hung banners in Ciudad Acuña, saying "Family for Family". According to press accounts, a nephew of Zeta leader Miguel Angel Treviño also had been killed in a Mexican military ambush the same day. José Eduardo Moreira was a young man who worked in social services for the local Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI. But he was vulnerable because he was part of a local dynasty, not because of his own doing. His father had been governor and his uncle is the current governor of Coahuila.

In Mexico politics is a family affair. The children of politicians find it easier to enter politics. Nepotism is not a forbidden word. The PRI was known for this practice, and now that the former ruling party is coming back to power with new President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, who will take office in December, his transition team has more than a handful of children or relatives of well known PRI politicians.

The attack against José Eduardo Moreira is troubling for the fact that he was targeted. But a number of other children of politicians also have been hit in the last two years.

Jorge Torres McGregor, 21, and the nephew of the mayor of Saltillo, an important industrial city in Coahuila, was murdered in November 2011. McGregor was intercepted as he drove a car with the state's Ministry of Finances logo. He was shot 40 times with an AK-47 rifle. According to theinvestigation, his killing was apparently in revenge for his father´s police actions against organized crime groups in the city.

The ten year old daughter of Marco Antonio Leal García, a local politician in the northern state of Taumalipas, survived an ambushed against the vehicle they rode, but only to witness how her father was cut down by armed men. The eight year old son of José Manuel Melo Añorve, a local politician in the municipality of Martires de Tacubaya, in Oaxaca was not so lucky. He and his father were killed in an attack. A special site created by Infancia Sin Violencia has chronicled the deaths of 1500 Mexican children from just a few months old to 17 years of age, as victims of violence in Mexico from 2006 to 2010. Most of these deaths occurred in the northern Mexican states, according to an interactive map.

The threats against families of politicians have led Mexico's National Association of Mayors to insure their family members against attacks. The minimum premium is set at $50 thousand dollars per relative, according to the association. Most of the politicians who seek the services come from northern Mexican states such as Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Chihuahua and Durango, among others, all affected by organized crime violence.

The killing of José Eduardo Moreira was swiftly investigated. In two days, Mexican police found out that the murder was carried out by local policemen at the service of the Zetas. The swift investigation brought out angry reactions in Mexico, where only 1 percent of all crimes are solved.

The murder of José Eduardo Moreira was senseless. And solving one murder helps Mexico, as it eliminates the shadow of impunity and opens windows to understand unbridled violence. But a sour taste lingers, when one realizes that the politically connected get more attention than the other 36 thousand anonymous young people murdered in Mexican streets in the last six years. Those murders remain unsolved.