Convicted drug trafficker Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix was shot to death Friday in the Baja beach resort of Los Cabos by a gunman wearing a clown costume, including a wig and a rubber nose. The dead man was the eldest brother of Mexico's once-feared Arellano Felix clan.
Clown leader Tomas Morales, a 21-year veteran of the trade who goes by the stage name "Payaso Llantom," said he was certain the killer was not a professional clown. He said clowns in Mexico, especially in outlying states, know each other and their costumes and makeup are individualized and recognizable.
"The people who do that, they're not clowns. I can swear on my mother's grave it wasn't a clown," said Morales, whose costume includes frizzy blue hair and a tiny top hat. "We are not like that ... we are nonviolent."
"Bufon Marley," the stage name of 49-year-old Alberto Villanueva, who dresses a bit like a medieval jester, said of the killer, "It's sad that it has fallen to that level."
"I don't think it has anything to do with us; we do the complete opposite," Villanueva said. "I don't think it will hurt our profession, because in our communities, people know us.
Morales said there have been past cases of thieves stealing clown costumes to commit crimes.
"We clowns suffer robberies," Morales said. "The criminals have stolen our vehicles, our costumes, our sound equipment, our makeup, and with these same tools we use to work, they use them to commit robberies."
An estimated 500 clowns from around Mexico and the rest of Latin America gathered Wednesday at the International Clown Meeting and held a 15-minute laugh-a-thon "to demonstrate their opposition to the generalized violence that prevails in our country."
As hard as it might sound to be a clown in a country so riven by crime and violence, the laughing came naturally, Villanueva said.
"We laugh at the very things that hurt us," he said. "It is a very special, very Mexican humor."