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Troubled Mexican Governor Resigns

May 13, 1998

CUERNAVACA, Mexico (AP) _ His top officials had been linked to kidnappings, and he had been accused of having ties to drug traffickers.

Yet the downfall of Jorge Carrillo Olea, governor of the central state of Morelos, once would have been unthinkable: a powerful ruling party governor outmuscled by a united opposition.

Carrillo announced Tuesday he would request an indefinite leave of absence _ tantamount to a resignation _ effective today, the day impeachment proceedings were to begin.

With the opposition bloc holding 18 of the 30 seats in the Congress, they were poised to force him from office.

``The era of just one party in power has come to an end,″ declared Antolin Escobar Cervantes, a legislative leader for the opposition Democratic Revolution Party.

For months, Carrillo insisted he wouldn’t quit and, in announcing his resignation, he did not admit wrongdoing. He said he was stepping down because of his ``desire to honestly contribute to resolving this complex, problematic political situation.″

Carrillo, elected in 1994, came under scrutiny last year after The New York Times linked him to drug traffickers. Similar accusations were made by opposition legislators.

Yet pressure on Carrillo didn’t build until January, when federal police caught the commander of Morelos’ anti-kidnapping unit and two other officers dumping the tortured, charred body of a kidnapping suspect on a road in neighboring Guerrero state. That led to revelations tying top police officials to a wave of kidnappings.

In a display of public outrage unusual for Mexico, protesters packed the main plaza of Cuernavaca, the state capital, demanding Carrillo’s resignation. Opposition parties held an unofficial non-binding referendum in March in which 94 percent of the 100,000 people participating said Carrillo should step down.

Some of his critics believe Carrillo had to know about the police links to kidnappings. But even if he didn’t, they said he needed to step down.

``Carrillo’s main problem was having closed himself in glass house and forgetting to govern,″ Escobar said.

Carrillo’s successor will be chosen by the state legislature. A quorum of 20 lawmakers is needed to select a governor, meaning legislators from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, could block the opposition vote.

The secretary of social development, Juan Salgado Brito of the PRI, is considered a top prospect, but some opposition members said they didn’t want anyone from the ruling party.

Politicians on all sides said they hoped an agreement could be worked out.

``The nightmare that people of Morelos have lived through in these last months is reaching its end,″ Escobar said.

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