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Colosio, Donaldo

by Catlin Connor

Born in 1948 to a poor ranching family, Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta was educated on scholarship at the University of Pennsylvaniain the United States. He also studied in Austria and then returned to Mexico. Colosio rose from the land and strode into Mexican politics. Colosio was a "self-made man" (María Emilia Farías). Colosio was elected into Mexican congress in 1985. Colosio was a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). After time in congress, Donaldo Colosio served as a senator and was appointed the PRI party head from 1988 until 1992. Thereafter, President Carlos Salinas, who held office from 1988 -1994, made Donaldo Colosio the Social Development Secretary, under his presidency. Donaldo Colosio held this position until 1993. In November 1993, President Salinas "pointed the finger" at Colosio, thus making him the "destapado" or the "unveiled one" (Canada & the World), i.e. the current president's choice for the presidential candidate of the upcoming term. There began much of the turmoil, which was to result in the end to Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta. There were many opponents of the PRI, and there even was opposition to Donaldo Colosio from fellow PRI party members.

Donaldo Colosio's greatest mentor was President Salinas. The two men were great friends and Salinas groomed him to be President for many years prior to his actual "finger pointing." This matter of fact was viewed upon with much distaste by many. Citizens of Mexico were not fond of Colosio from the beginning. Colosio formed a bitter rival out of Manuel Camacho Solir, a potential presidential candidate, by outing him of the position of mayor because Donaldo Colosio felt that Camacho would be too powerful a rival in the campaign for president. Camacho, in return, upstaged Colosio in handling the Chiapas situation. This "situation" was in fact a rebellion, which exposed the problems that the Mexican government was unable to cover up. The economy was in shambles. In addition, in the area, the military trained and encouraged a rightwing paramilitary group to rid the area of government opposers. This paramilitary group was loyal to PRI (Chiapas Conflict). Many people felt that President Salinas would drop Colosio as his "chosen one," because honor and respect are so great a force in Hispanic culture and government. However, of course, he did not and Colosio remained the presidential candidate. The Chiapas revolt took away all respect and authority Colosio might have ever gained. The revolt revealed the weakness of Salinas and his economic plan. This economic plan was Colosio's entire platform. The working class Mexican held Colosio with what seems as much disdain.

The Chiapas revolution attributed to a lot of dislike aimed at PRI. Chiapas is the poorest state of Mexico. This region has caused the most trouble and inspired the most political interest for the Mexican government. The Chiapas revolution started on New Year's Day in 1994. This rebellion exposed the economic problems that the Mexican government was unable to cover up. This up rising placed Colosio's chances of becoming President into jeopardy. The Chiapas revolt has been attributed as the cause of the PRI's loss of political supremacy. The Institutional Revolutionary Party used government money to weaken the Zapatista movement. Zapatista headquarters were located in Chiapa. This caused a great political divide in Mexico and contributed significantly to the state's poverty.

On the twenty-third of March 1994, Donaldo Colosio was assassinated in Tijuana by Mario Aburto Martínez. Colosio was shot once in the head and once through the stomach. The .38 caliber pistol from which the bullets were fired was at an extremely close range. Aburto was a twenty three year old mechanic from a plastic plant in the San Diego border. Initially, the public assumed Aburto to be a "lone, crazed gunman." However, the motive was unknown and many questions about his political connections came about. Aburto placed himself into speculation by claiming to be a pacifist, and by declaring after his capture that he "had saved Mexico." Thus began the conspiracy theories. Many blamed the assassination on the right wing of the PRI who did not wanted clean, more democratic, presidential elections. The EZLN argued this view by saying that Colosio's death was caused by "the hardliners and the military opposition inside the government" who wanted to "end all the peaceful intent of democratization of the country."

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had a lock on the Mexican presidency for more than sixty years. PRI was formed in 1929 by President Plutarco Calles. It was a party created to unite governmental, agricultural, and military leaders in a program for socioeconomic reform. PRI generally affirmed that the party would stay in the Mexican presidency by a process called dedazo, literally meaning, "the pointing of the finger," President Salinas "pointed the finger" at Donaldo Colosio. Theoretically, this 'chosen candidate' has to go through an election campaign with opponents and democratic votes. However, it has never worked out in this fashion. PRI was not dominate party in Mexico for over six decades because of popularity reasons, but rather because they rigged elections. A Mexican president has one, six-year term, in office and cannot be reelected. Members of PRI embraces dedazo so they can stay in power, since a single president is not allowed more than one term. This is an idea that appears democratic, that has been corrupted by the need for single party dominance. The biggest rival of PRI is the Emiliano Zapata Liberación Nacional (EZLN) movement. The presidential election of 1999 was the first time, since PRI's supremacy, that the process of dedazo was not used. Mexico held presidential primaries, and in 2000, a non-PRI candidate was elected. Thus ending the tight hold PRI had on Mexican politics.

Colosio's assassination was the starting point for a new beginning in the Mexican government. With the death of one, disliked, presidential candidate came the unraveling of an entire political party. The PRI's strong hold was weakened with exposure to democracy. The people of Mexico needed order in the time of chaos. This particular event has been likened to the Kennedy assassination in the U.S. "In the face of such a crisis, you run for order," said Lorenzo Meyer, a history professor at Colegio de Mexico. Such a tragedy for a single man was in fact the beginning of better times for Mexican politics.

"Colosio Murrieta, Luis Donaldo." Alacntude, LLC. 2003.

McDonald & Caragata. " Gunned Down." Maclean's. Vol. 107, Issue 14. April 4, 1994. P. 24-27.

"Mexico." Canada & the World. Vol. 59, Issue 9. May 1994. P. 4-9.

Sady, Scott. "Chiapas Conflicts." Chiapas: the people, the land, the struggle. 1997.