Politicians and law enforcement officials in Mexico are increasingly being forced to make a choice between 'silver' or 'lead' - bribe or bullet - in the state's growing battle against powerful drug cartels.

Last August, Santiago's mayor Edelmiro Cavazos, 38, was kidnapped and was forced to make a choice between 'silver' or 'lead.' Cavazos, who was a successful and idealistic lawyer, chose the latter and his body was found near a waterfall outside his town, a popular weekend getaway for residents of the industrial city of Monterrey.

According to Edelmiro's wife Veronica Cavazos, her husband was a dreamer and despite being successful as a lawyer and hailing from an affluent family which ran a real estate business, he wanted to do something for the people of Santiago and develop the town as a perfect place for his kids.

Not surprisingly, Cavazos ran for the office of the mayor and was elected in November 2009.

However, his task was not an easy one as Santiago, besides being a popular tourist destination, was also a haven for drug traffickers as it straddled a major highway from the drug producing regions of southern Mexico and South America and was mere hours away to cities on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Two powerful drug cartels were especially at war to gain control over Santiago and many of Santiago's police were on the payroll for one of the cartels.

Cavazos was worried about the situation and he disciplined several police officers who he suspected were working for the cartel.

However, it was a fatal move because many of the corrupt police officers thought he was working for the other cartel and decided to eliminate him as he was like a 'rock' in their way.

On August 15, 2010, Cavazos was in Santiago's town square celebrating International Youth Day. It was the last time people saw him alive. With his family visiting relatives in Texas, Cavazos went back to an empty house. A security camera captured what happened next, CBS News reported.

The video showed the police officer who guarded the house at night approaching a line of cars, which pulled up in the front of the house and armed men got out.

Another camera caught the gunmen threatening Cavazos at the door. He was later pushed into the back seat of the lead vehicle. The police guard walked to the car and got inside. In less than three minutes the kidnapping was done.

The body of Cavazos was found dumped by the side of a road in Santiago two days after his kidnapping.

The message of the bad people is that, 'We don't stop with anybody. We can kill people. We can kill policemen. We can kill mayors. We can kill everybody,' said Attorney General Garza y Garza.

Cavazos was just one of 14 mayors murdered in Mexico in just the past year and, according to a report by the Mexican government, the death toll in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country's drug cartels four years ago has risen to 34,612.

According to the report, in 2010, the drug-related violence had claimed 15,273 lives compared to 9,616 deaths reported in 2009, making it the worst year in the country's four-year long war against drug cartels.

So far, six city police officers, including the man assigned to protect the Cavazos home, have been arrested in the killing of the mayor.

However, the arrests haven't prevented many police officers from joining drug cartels or taking money from them.

According to Jorge Domene, director of public security in the state of Nuevo Leon, many police officers cooperate with criminals in different ways and different affairs with some even acting as lookouts.

And, Domene said, many police officers won't even hesitate to join the cartels because the cartels pay double the salaries they get as police officers.

Moreover, the police officers are ill-equipped to fight against the drug cartels - while they only carry a pistol, the drug cartels are armed with AK-47, AR 15. You name it. Whatever comes to your mind, they have it, Domene said.

Does it mean Mexico is waging a losing battle?

No, feels Domene, who is heading a new effort to eliminate all local police departments in Nuevo Leon, including Santiago's. In their place would be a state police force that is better trained, better equipped and, even more important, better paid.

Professionals, he hopes, that won't be corrupted. In my opinion, my experience is a point in time that is not more money. It's your beliefs, your principles, Domene said.

But Garza y Garza feels the war against the drug cartels won’t be easy. We're in a war, all Mexico is in a war against the cartels, Garza y Garza said. But in this war, the bad guys, they don't have any rules.