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Surplus of Motives in Top Politician’s Murder

October 4, 1994

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Lawmakers took the first steps Monday toward stripping the immunity of a fugitive congressman accused of masterminding the murder of the incoming congressional majority leader.

Prosecutors claim the Sept. 28 murder of Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu was plotted by members of his own party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has held power in Mexico since 1929.

Ruiz Massieu, the party’s the No. 2 man, was slated to head the PRI’s congressional delegation in the upcoming session.

Prosecutors have posited a broad array of motives for the slaying, including opposition to political reforms, drugs and vengeance.

A congressional subcommittee met Monday to consider the attorney-general’s request to strip the congressional immunity of Manuel Munoz Rocha, a deputy from the Rio Bravo area of Tamaulipas state along the Texas border.

It would be the first time in a decade that Mexico’s congress has removed immunity from any deputy. The subcommittee must report to a committee on jurisdiction, which will decide whether to call a full session of congress to debate the request.

But in yet another twist to the case, a man identifying himself as Munoz Rocha phoned congress and offered to turn himself in, saying he had proof that someone else was behind the killing, according to a statement late Monday from the congressional press office.

″It was a message taken by a secretary, and we’re not sure if it was even him,″ said Marianna Pria, a congressional spokeswoman. She said officials decided to make the conversation public to encourage Munoz Rocha to turn himself in.

PRI president Ignacio Pichardo Pagaza denied Monday that the killing pointed to a power struggle within the party and tried to separate the suspected plotters from the PRI.

Pichardo called it ″a pain, an injury″ that a PRI deputy would be suspected of the crime.

On Sunday, Munoz was named as mastermind of the murder plot by Jorge Rodriguez Gonzalez, one of at least nine people so far implicated in the case, according to the attorney general’s office.

Rodriguez said he was recruited into the plot by his brother Fernando, a legislative aide to Munoz. Both the aide and the congressman are being hunted by police.

Rodriguez said the congressman wanted to kill Ruiz Massieu because as legislative leader, he could ″put into action a series of political and administrative reforms″ opposed by Munoz, according to a bulletin from the attorney general’s office.

Rodriguez said his brother told him Munoz had a list of other ″important people in Mexico who would have to die″ because they backed political reforms.

But the attorney general’s office also drew links to vengeance and drug trafficking as possible motives.

It reported that Rodriguez said the plotters believed the death of Ruiz Massieu would weaken the slain man’s brother Mario, who is in charge of anti- narcotics efforts for the attorney general’s office.

Rodriguez also said that while plotting the murder, Munoz was in contact with Abraham Rubio Canales, a former PRI official jailed for fraud while Ruiz Massieu was governor of Guerrero state.

Rodriguez said Rubio expressed interest in ″eliminating″ Ruiz Massieu because he blamed him for his imprisonment.

Prosecutors also noted that Rubio has family ties with Raul Valladares del Angel, a member of the Gulf Cartel of drug dealers.

The caller to congress Monday also named Rubio as the man behind the assassination plot.

The avalanche of motives is in contrast to the official denials of conspiracy in the March 23 killing of PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio and the claim the May 1993 slaying of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo was accidental.

Polls have indicated that most Mexicans doubt the official version in each case.

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