MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Javier Garcia Paniagua, a former top government official who had aspired to Mexico's presidency in the 1980s, has died at his home near Guadalajara. He was 61.

Garcia Paniagua, the national director of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party in 1981, suffered a heart attack Tuesday in Zapopan, Jalisco, according to Mexico City newspapers.

Born on Feb. 13, 1937, Garcia Paniagua was the son of Gen. Marcelino Garcia Barragan, who was Mexico's defense minister in 1968 when the military violently suppressed student democracy protesters.

In the 1960s, Garcia Paniagua managed a government agricultural bank. He went on to become a ruling party senator.

During the 1976-82 presidency of Jose Lopez Portillo, Garcia Paniagua led the Federal Security Administration, a powerful police agency that has since disbanded, and then served as deputy interior minister.

When the time approached for Lopez Portillo to pick his successor, as has been the party's tradition, Garcia Paniagua was widely seen as the likely choice. But economic turmoil led the president to tap his minister of budget and planning, Miguel de la Madrid.

The choice marked a watershed in Mexican politics, a point when the party's hard-line traditionalists began to lose power to foreign-educated ``technocrats.'' De la Madrid picked as his successor the Harvard-trained economist Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who in turned chose Yale-educated economist Ernesto Zedillo, Mexico's current president.

Garcia Paniagua, meanwhile, went on to brief terms as labor minister and as head of the national lottery.

He had spent recent years in retirement at his ranch in Jalisco state.

Funeral services were held Wednesday.

Garcia Paniagua is survived by his wife, Olivia Morales, and 10 children: Javier, Enoch, Dolores, Olivia, Claudia, Marisa, Laura, Adrian, Omar and Marcelo, the daily Reforma reported.