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Former Mexico Mayor Seeks Asylum in United States

March 29, 1991

EL PASO, Texas (AP) _ A legislator from Mexico testified that a mayor who made history by defeating a member of Mexico’s ruling party would be killed if he returned to his homeland.

Ernesto Poblano, who walked across the border without immigration papers in January 1989, is seeking political asylum in the United States, a rarity among Mexican citizens.

A second day of testimony in Poblano’s deportation hearing was held Thursday. A third is scheduled May 3.

″It’s even more rare that Mexican political figures are here testifying (on Poblano’s behalf),″ said Carlos Spector, Poblano’s attorney.

Poblano’s election as mayor of Ojinaga, Chihuahua, in 1974 made him the first member of the National Action Party to defeat a mayoral candidate of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. Ojinaga is across the border from Presidio, Texas, about 200 miles southeast of El Paso.

Poblano says he was accused of causing too much trouble in Ojinaga by aalleging that officials engaged in drug trafficking. He was asked to give up the mayor’s post and become a tax collector in Nuevo Casas Grandes, he said.

Saul Ruiz Arriaga, a state congressional delegate in Chihuahua, testified in the hearing before Judge William Nail Jr. that the Mexican government now accuses Poblano and several of his political cohorts of being drug traffickers.

Ruiz said Poblano probably could return to Mexico and become involved in politics again. ″But I’m convinced that later we would be attending his funeral,″ Ruiz said.

Ruiz said Poblano’s troubles began in 1980 when Poblano was a popular candidate for mayor of Nuevo Casas Grandes, about 100 miles southwest of El Paso. Although Poblano’s name was removed from the election ballot, he still won the election, defeating the PRI candidate.

But Ruiz said the government forced Poblano to step down.

″They did this by issuing warrants for Ernesto Poblano Fernandez,″ Ruiz testified in Spanish. He said Poblano was ″invited to the funeral of his father who at the time was still alive.″

In October 1986, Poblano was accused of being a drug trafficker by Chihuahua Gov. Fernando Baeza, who remains in office, Ruiz said.

″When Fernando Baeza took power, since he came in on such a big scandal - he’s illegitimate, the people didn’t elect him - he thrust himself onto the state by arresting some of the leaders and accusing them of being drug traffickers in order to legitimize himself with the people,″ Ruiz said.

Ruiz said he is convinced Poblano is not a drug trafficker but he had no answer when Nail asked him how Poblano made his living.

Poblano said after the hearing he owns Mina San Francisco, a lead and zinc mine in Asencion, Chihuahua.

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