A National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, biotechnology researcher was gunned down in Cuernavaca, a city in central Mexico, the university said.

Ernesto Mendez Salinas was a "victim of the climate of violence and social erosion" that the country is experiencing, the university said.

The 51-year-old Biotechnology Institute researcher was murdered on Tuesday night, the UNAM, Mexico's leading university and one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in Latin America, said.

Mendez Salinas, a member of the Mexican National Researchers System, was attacked while driving in Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos state.

The researcher, who had earned chemistry, pharmacy and biology degrees, had studied at Washington University, in St. Louis, Missouri.

The UNAM called on the "authorities to conduct an investigation to punish the individual or individuals responsible, and to offer results as soon as possible."

Mexico has been dealing with a wave of violence since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country's drug cartels.

On Aug. 8, the UNAM, Latin America's largest university, released a report calling for a broad political and social pact to deal with the violence plaguing Mexico.

The 36-point report, "Elementos para la construccion de una politica de Estado para la seguridad y la justicia en democracia" (Elements for the Creation of a State Policy for Security and Justice with Democracy), was prepared by 88 experts who met in June at the UNAM.

The report calls for, among other measures, "crafting a broad political and social pact that reorients security and justice institutions to deal with the crisis of violence," the university said.

The government, however, has not adopted the report's recommendations or those of other sectors of society that have criticized the militarization of the war on drugs.