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Mexican ruling party loses congressman, former attorney general

September 26, 1997

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Mexico’s ruling party saw its force in Congress erode further this week with the announcement that a newly elected deputy was defecting to the opposition.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI, also lost a former federal attorney general, Ignacio Morales Lechuga, who said he will try to run for Veracruz state governor on behalf of an opposition party.

The departing PRI deputy, Sergio Valdes Arias, announced he was leaving for the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party.

Valdes won office in the July 6 elections that saw the PRI lose its outright majority in the lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, for the first time in its 68-year history. Opposition parties formed an alliance to deny the PRI control of the Congress, and the PRI has struggled to cope with its unprecedented secondary role.

Valdes’ defection Thursday leaves the PRI with 238 seats and boosts Democratic Revolution to 126. Other parties have 136 seats.

Dozens leaders have defected from the PRI during the last two years, some retiring quietly and going into private life and others joining opposition organizations.

Thousands of rank and file have also torn up their PRI party cards during the past year. The PRI has since had a difficult time struggling to maintain unity within its ranks.

Democratic Revolution has attracted many former PRI members, in part because its leftist, populist ideology is similar to that espoused by the PRI for most of its history before a series of pro-free-market presidents gained control of the party in 1982.

``The doors here are open for all citizens who struggle in good faith,″ said Democratic Revolution Secretary-General Jesus Ortega.

Morales Lechuga, who was federal attorney general from 1991 to January 1993 and later Mexican ambassador to France, announced Wednesday that he was leaving the PRI.

His departure had been widely expected because party rules adopted last year blocked him from seeking the governorship of his home state of Veracruz in 1998.

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