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Assassination Theories Abound As Number Of Suspects Grows

April 6, 1994

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A factory worker, a one-time nightclub security guard and three former police officers sit in jail - while authorities scramble to uncover the motive behind Mexico’s boldest political murder in decades.

What reason would the unlikely quintet have for conspiring to murder presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio?

The theories abound after the announcement Monday that at least seven men are linked to Mexico’s first political assassination since 1928.

Five men are in custody. Two others, identified in photos of the murder, are on the run. Colosio was killed by confessed assassin Mario Aburto Martinez on March 23 while campaigning in Tijuana.

If investigators are to be believed, the killing involved an elaborate plot to infiltrate Colosio’s security detail, distract the candidate’s personal security guards and help the trigger man get close enough for the fatal shot.

Colosio, who demanded light security as part of his populist image, traveled with a permanent group of security guards who were augmented at campaign appearances by men hired locally.

The man who hired the local guards, Jose Rodolfo Rivapalacio, and two of those he hired, Vicente Mayoral Valenzuela and Rodolfo Mayoral Esquer, were to appear this week before a judge, who would decide if there is reason to hold them.

Another locally hired guard, Tranquilino Sanchez Venegas, already has been indicted on conspiracy charges, which carry a possible prison sentence of 37 years.

The men were beind held at the high-security Almoloya de Juarez prison west of Mexico City.

Ernesto Ruffo Appel, the governor of Baja California state, whose office is helping in the probe, insists the seven men named Monday worked together.

″But up to now nothing has appeared that indicates drug traffickers or political groups,″ he said.

″There is a list of 46 that formed the security group,″ Ruffo was quoted as saying in the government newspaper El Nacional. He referred to the men hired by the ruling party only for the rally.

″There are peculiar situations that draw attention, such as the fact that the name of Tranquilino Sanchez had been written in by hand below the list made by typewriter.″

Some theories point toward the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party.

″The PRI is its own worst enemy as it was the worst enemy of Colosio,″ wrote Maria Teresa Jardi, a human rights advocate who has worked for the federal attorney general’s office, in the newspaper La Jornada.

She noted that when a tree was planted in Colosio’s honor after the murder, top PRI officials were conspicuously absent.

″Most probably it will never be known who ordered his death,″ she said.

There are emerging reports of two shadowy organizations, ″Group X″ and ″TUCAN,″ the Spanish acronym for Everyone United Against National Action. Some of those in custody are said to belong to the groups, which are made up of current and former police officers.

Many state police officers were fired after National Action Party member Ruffo won the Baja California governor’s race in 1989.

Colosio was president of the PRI at that time, when the party’s national leadership decided to recognize the National Action victory. It was the first time the PRI had accepted any defeat on a statewide level since it was founded in 1929.

Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, the presidential candidate for the center- right National Action noted that for three months Subcomandante Marcos, a leader of an Indian peasant rebellion in the southern state of Chiapas, dominated front pages.

With the assassination, he noted, the charismatic Marcos, who captured the imagination and sympathy of much of Mexico, has virtually vanished. But he wouldn’t go so far as to say the PRI ordered the assassination.

Fidel Velazquez, the head of the powerful government-backed Mexican Workers’ Confederation, said ″only a dirty, twisted mind″ would question whether the PRI was behind the killing.

″Of course it was a conspiracy. But of enemies, not the PRI.″

Special investigator Miguel Montes blamed the assassination on ″various subjects who undertook a concerted action.″

But he gave no indication as to who may have ordered the killing.

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