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How Colosio Can Be Honored

March 27, 1994|Carlos Fuentes | Carlos Fuentes' most recent book is "The Orange Tree" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).

MEXICO CITY — Mexico is bleeding at both extremes, on the border with Central America in Chiapas and on the border with the United States in Tijuana. The solution to violence in both places is democracy.

In Mexico, there is widespread revulsion against violence as a result of the assassination, in Tijuana, of Luis Donaldo Colosio, the presidential candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. A unanimity of opinion rarely seen in Mexico has condemned this act. The nation feels wounded by what happened.

There is also heightened pressure to conclude the pact, agreed to in principle on Jan. 25 by Colosio and the leaders of the other parties, that would, for the first time, establish an impartial electoral authority free of the government and the PRI. This is the top priority for the country right now. Even before Colosio's assassination, this mechanism of establishing the credibility of elections was key to resolving the issues raised in Chiapas.

The most prickly problem of all is how to choose the PRI's new candidate. As a result of the assassination, the PRI, at least in the short run, has regained strength as the "party of stability." But the sacrifice of Colosio must mean some- thing. It cannot just assure the continuation of authoritarian politics, the politics of el dedazo , the "big finger" of the president who alone points to his heir.

There is another way, no matter how nervous it might make the financial markets, that must now be tried. In the PRI's statutes, it says that in the event the anointed candidate is unable to perform his duties because of sickness or death, the party should go to an open-nominating convention to choose a replacement. This is the PRI's big chance to pay homage to Colosio by democratizing the nomination process.

All the currents of the party should be able to openly present their programs and name their candidates. If this were to occur in the next two to three weeks, it would be a big boost for the democratic future of Mexico. Then Colosio's sacrifice will not have been in vain.*

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