From ................... National Catholic Reporter

August 26, 1994

page 9

By BILL and PATTY COLEMAN Special Report Writers

CUERNAVACA, Mexico -- In the final week of the hotly contested Mexican presidential campaign, Jesuits here and Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia were threatened with death by a group that calls itself "The Squadron for the Defense of the Catholic Faith and Peace in Mexico. "

These threats, most analysts here believe, are a part of a deliberate right-wing campaign to frighten and discredit any group that sides with the poor in opposing the government and the PRI, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has ruled Mexico for 65 years.

Almost 300 activist members of the opposition PRD, the Democratic Revolutionary Party, itself a poor people's movement, have been assassinated in the past six years, according to consistent public reports. Cuauhtemoc Cardenas is the candidate of the PRD.

This past week in major cities across the country, according to published reports, as many as 20,000 professionally prepared placards declared:

Placards with similar threats depicting Ruiz as a rattlesnake have also been seen throughout the country, especially since the National Democratic Convention held in the Lacandon jungle last week. More than 5,000 attended the gathering in a remote region near San Cristobal in the southern state of Chiapas, where a peasant revolt against the government began last January.

The convention, a grassroots gathering and not a political party, called on the country to vote against the ruling PRI party and the right-wing PAN, the National Action Party.

Delegates also called for demonstrations and work stoppages if the elections are fraudulent. Both the Mexican bishops' congress and the Mexico City archdiocese were taking the death threats seriously. Bishop Ramon Godinez Flores, secretary general of the bishops' conference, called the anonymous attack "cowardly" and the work of "ignorant people who know nothing of the word of God."

The Mexico City archdiocese responded with a letter to President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the members of his cabinet, the pope, the Mexican hierarchy, human rights organizations and the media.

The letter stated,

In an interview with NCR, a Jesuit theologian, who asked that his name not be made public for fear of government retaliation, insisted that this attack, far from being unique, was one of a series of threats carried out against anyone who sided with the poor in their fight against government policies .

Asked who authored these threats, Fr. Carlos Bravo, editor of the Jesuit magazine Christus, said, "It is fair to assume that they come from the same people who accused Bishop Ruiz of San Cristobal in January of being the instigator of the war in Chiapas. These attacks, we know, were the work of the Movement for Iberoamerican Solidarity, an affiliate of the Mexican Labor Party, which is, in turn, an offshoot of Lyndon LaRouche's international organization. " Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit arrived in Mexico City Aug. 15 to demonstrate his support for the embattled Jesuits and Ruiz.

As the Aug. 21 election neared, there was growing speculation about an opposition victory by Cardenas, a sentiment reported in Mexico's three major news papers. According to a poll reported Aug. 12 in El Financiero, Mexico's equivalent of The Wall Street Journal, if the election had been held that week, the opposition PRD would have taken 35 percent of the vote; the ruling PRI, 30 percent; and PAN, the right-wing party, 20 percent. The remaining 20 percent were undecided.

The government, meanwhile, was launching a furious attack on Archbishop Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara. The archbishop had disputed government claims that the death of Cardinal Juan Posadas Ocampo in May 1993 was an accident resulting from a shootout between two rival drug gangs. Although Sandoval offered witnesses and other new information, the government flatly refused to change its opinion. Many Mexican analysts believe that officials of the ruling PRI party were involved in the cardinal's death.