Mexican candidate's 'cut off their hands' finds grisly echo

Independent presidential candidate Jaime Rodriguez, known as "El Bronco," arrives for the first of three debates among Mexico's presidential candidates in Mexico City, Sunday, April 22, 2018. Mexico will hold general elections on July 1. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — When maverick presidential candidate Jaime Rodriguez proposed cutting off the hands of politicians who steal, the comment at this week's presidential debate was greeted with derision.

But in a country wracked by both vigilante movements and drug-gang turf battles, the proposal by the candidate known as "El Bronco" had a grisly echo late Monday when killers left a dismembered boy on a street in the Pacific Coast resort city of Acapulco.

Guerrero state officials said a hand-written sign found beside the body referred to Rodriguez's proposal.

The sign read: "El Bronco said it, cut the hands off the scum that steals." It was signed "yours, the Grave Diggers."

The debate moderator appeared stunned when Rodriguez declared, "We have to cut off the hand of a public servant who steals," and insisted he meant it literally.

Video of the sign-language translation of that comment — the interpreter makes a slashing motion at his wrist — was widely shared on social media in Mexico, as sort of a joke.

Another candidate, Margarita Zavala, urged the other candidates to raise the level of the debate.

"I call on everyone to not make banal comments in campaigns and debates, at a moment when a significant part of Mexico is living through Hell," Zavala wrote in her Twitter account .

Rodriguez, the governor of the northern state of Nuevo Leon, has made controversial comments before. Speaking about teen pregnancy, he said in 2016, "Nobody wants fat girls."

Drug gangs in Mexico have long hacked up bodies in Mexico, but seldom have they referred to politicians' statements.