Another Blow To Mexico

Mexico's transition to a more open democracy is turning out to be bloodier than anyone had imagined. On Sept. 28, in this year's second shocking assassination, a gunman killed Jose Francisco Ruz Massieu, 48, the secretary-general of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Last March, the PRI's presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, was killed by a gunman while campaigning in Tijuana. Ruz Massieu, a close collaborator and former brother-in-law of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, was machine-gunned in daylight in Mexico City. He was slated to be the PRI's majority leader in the Chamber of Deputies.

The murder dimmed a surge of optimism over prospects for stability following August's elections--and sent jitters through Mexico's bolsa. Observers believe the killing reflects a battle between PRI reformers and hard-liners for party control--a contest sharpened by the vast opportunities for corruption open to officeholders. Ruz Massieu had been working closely with President-elect Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Len on ways to reform the party so that it would no longer be closely linked to the government, as it has been during 65 years of monopoly rule.

By contrast, PRI hard-liners viewed Zedillo's victory in the Aug. 21 elections as justification for maintaining the status quo. Just one day before Ruz Massieu's death, the PRI's reform wing had announced the start of consultations with PRI members on steps to modernize the party. Further challenging the old guard, election officials a week before had overturned PRI victories for the Monterrey mayorship and for two federal Congress seats, awarding the posts to candidates from the two major opposition parties.

Miguel Angel Granados Chapa, one of the six citizen board members of the Federal Electoral Institute that oversees elections, minced no words: "This is part of a power struggle within the PRI."

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