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Opposition Candidate Calls Killing of Two Party Leaders Political With AM-Mexico-Elections,

July 4, 1988

Opposition Candidate Calls Killing of Two Party Leaders Political With AM-Mexico-Elections, Bjt

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Opposition presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas said Monday ″reactionaries″ he did not identify were responsible for kiling two leaders of his leftist coalition.

″I feel rage over these political crimes, committed by professionals, groups of assassins led by reactionaries,″ He told about 200 supporters after meeting with Interior Secretary Manuel Bartlett Diaz, Mexico’s chief political and security officer.

″These actions could be the beginning of an escalation of violence,″ he said, but urged his supporters ″not to be dragged″ toward violent action.

Francisco Javier Ovando, 45, national coordinator of his Democratic National Front, and Roman Gil Heraldez, Ovando’s 28-year-old aide, were shot Saturday night in a car in downtown Mexico City, the city attorney’s office said in a statement.

Some polls indicate Cardenas could finish an unusually strong second in Wednesday’s presidential elections to Carlos Salinas de Gortari, candidate of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI from its initials in Spanish.

Ovando was private secretary to Cardenas, the Front’s national coordinator and a congressional candidate from his home state of Michoacan, where he also had served as state attorney general.

Ovando and Gil, the aide, were instrumental in setting up a citizens’ watchdog group, the Effective Suffrage Assembly, to expose any fraud by the government and PRI in Wednesday’s elections.

Police said they had no leads and no immediate ideas about who was responsible.

Cardenas told reporters the interior secretary promised a complete investigation and invited the coalition to name a representative to participate.

To to the crowd outside the Interior Department, he said: ″We will continue our struggle to impose democracy in Mexico. We demand a full investigation to clarify these crimes, which are creating a climate of political intolerance and are encouraging violence in the country once more.″

An autopsy report said Ovando and Gil died instantly from .22 caliber bullets fired at point blank range - Ovando with four bullets in the head and Gil with one in the temple.

Earlier Monday, Cardenas urged outgoing President Miguel de la Madrid and Mexico City Attorney General Renato Sales Gasque in an open letter to clear up the case as soon as possible.

″It would be very serious if the government and official elements have answered the democratic actions of the opposition with terrorism and illegality. It will be your responsibility. It is now your turn to speak,″ said the letter, published as a paid advertisement in the liberal newspaper La Jornada.

The Front has mounted the strongest challenge to the PRI in more than 30 years to the PRI. The government party has not lost an election for president or a state governor since its founding in 1929, and critics say victories often were achieved by fraud.

According to Front officials, Ovando and Gil attended a meeting of coalition leaders to discuss plans for monitoring the vote-counting on Wednesday and left with Jorge Fernandez Martinez, another Front official.

They dropped Fernandez Martinez at a subway station and drove away, saying they were headed home, the attorney general’s news release said.

Their bullet-riddled bodies were found in the car at 11:45 p.m. by officers cruising in a patrol car, the news release said.

Luis Sanchez Aguilar, a senior official of both the Front and the watchdog group, also said the killings were politically motivated.

He said Ovando was carrying confidential documents about the opposition effort to detect election fraud, and the documents were not found.

Cardenas, son of the late President Lazaro Cardenas, was governor of Michoacan and a PRI member until last year. He broke with the party when the leadership rejected his group’s demands that candidates be chosen in primary elections instead of the traditional ″closed convention″ in which deals are made by party bosses.

He then became the candidate of the Front. the Socialist Party endorsed his candidacy this spring.

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