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Riot Reported in Mexican Border Town

September 17, 1985

DOUGLAS, Ariz. (AP) _ The City Hall of the Mexican border town of Agua Prieta was set afire Monday in a disturbance stemming from a political protest over the installation of its new mayor, according to U.S. authorities and witnesses.

Gary Dillard, managing editor of the Douglas Dispatch, said he crossed the border and saw the City Hall in flames about noon. He also said observers in a plane chartered by the newspaper saw groups of people in trucks roaming the city and beating other people.

According to Douglas Police Chief Alvaro Fragoso, reports from the Mexican city of 40,000 people indicated that police cars had been overturned in the disturbance.

Fragoso says some of the reports from witnesses conflicted.

″We haven’t been able to confirm anything yet from anybody,″ he said. ″We keep getting reports from people here and there. Who knows what their reliability is?″

Fragoso also said he was across the border in the Sonora city about 3 p.m. ″and it was quiet then, not many people on the street.″

The situation apparently began early Monday as Mayor-elect Bernardino Meza Ortiz, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI, tried to enter the city hall in Agua Prieta to take office shortly after midnight.

Witnesses said an angry crowd chased him off, while some members of the City Council who were members of the National Action Party or PAN, were carrying weapons inside City Hall, Fragoso said.

Meza was to have taken over from Leonardo Yanez of the PAN at 12:30 a.m.

As he got out of his car, he was reportedly surrounded by a crowd that shouted and pounded on his car, and he got back into the car and drove away, with the Agua Prieta police chief inside, Fragoso said.

In Phoenix, a special dispatch in the Arizona Republic’s Monday editions quoted Viola Corella, a PAN member of the Agua Prieta City Council, as saying the Sonoran governor, a PRI member, probably would declare Meza mayor without a ceremony.

Agua Prieta has been the scene of sporadic violence since nationwide elections July 7 in which the PRI claimed a sweeping victory over PAN, its strongest competitor. Agua Prieta and other northern Mexico cities have been considered PAN strongholds.

PAN supporters charged the PRI, which has controlled Mexican politics for decades, carried out wholesale fraud at the ballot box. PAN loyalists staged a weeklong blockade in July of the Douglas-Ague Prieta border in protest.

The Republic reported that Agua Prieta PAN Chairman Eduardo ″Lalo″ Corella told a rally of supporters last week that ″we will not allow an individual who doesn’t have the popular support of Agua Prieta to become its next mayor.″

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