On March 23, 1994, Luis Donaldo Colosio (1950 – 1994), the presidential candidate of Mexico’s ruling party, arrived in Tijuana on the campaign trail for that year’s presidential election, which he was almost certain to win. He attended a rally in the poor Tijuana neighborhood of Lomas Taurinas.
The event was not originally on the candidate’s itinerary for that day. There, he was assassinated with a point-blank gunshot to the head.
The Netflix series “1994” provides ample background on the politics of Mexico in ’94 and describes how conditions in Mexico spiraled down hill after the assassination.
The story and case of Colosio’s assassin, Mario Aburto Martínez (b. 1970), is reminiscent of the case of Sirhan Sirhan’s assassination of presidential candidate Sen. Robert Kennedy. Martínez was arrested at the scene of the crime, but many people believe that a different man — “the real Aburto Martínez” — was convicted of the crime.
Millions of Mexicans doubted or outright rejected that Aburto Martínez was the mastermind of — or even committed — the crime. Most point to factions within the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) political apparatus, an inside job against a candidate who was trying to shake things up a little too much and made some powerful enemies in the process.
On March 6, about two weeks before he was killed, Colosio gave a speech in front of the Monument to the Mexican Revolution in Mexico City, where he spoke of social problems in Mexico and said that corruption and impunity existed within the PRI.
“I see a Mexico that is hungry and with a thirst for justice, a Mexico of mistreated people,” Colosio said, “women and men afflicted by abuses of the authorities or by the arrogance of government offices. …
“I declare that I want to be the president of Mexico to lead a new stage of change in Mexico.”
The speech is considered the moment in which Colosio broke ranks with then-president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (b. 1948), and it signaled that he would take the party and the country in a different direction.
As a member of the PRI, the political party that held power in Mexico for most of the entire 20th century, Colosio was the protégé of Gortari prior to his election as president, and Colosio served in Mexico’s Congress and Senate.
In 1988, Colosio was the manager of Salinas’ successful presidential campaign and, that same year, Colosio was chosen to lead PRI party president.
In 1992, President Gortari appointed Colosio to his cabinet as Social Development Secretary. In this capacity, Colosio became increasingly reform-minded. The PRI in this era handpicked its candidate, and Gortari “finger tapped” Colosio.
Gortari’s administration has been implicated in other political assassinations. In 1999, his older brother, Raúl Salinas de Gortari (b. 1946), was convicted of ordering and financing the September 1994 assassination of his brother-in-law, Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu (1946 – 1994), who was the secretary general of the PRI.
Miguel Montes, the first of five special prosecutors who worked on the case, believed that Aburto Martínez had not acted alone. He based this on the fact that Colosio was shot twice, and that the bullets had apparently come from different directions and were of two different calibers.
Four other men, including former police officer Vicente Mayoral Valenzuela and Jorge Antonio Sánchez Ortega, an intelligence agent for the now-disbanded Center for Investigation and National Security (Cisen), were arrested and later released in connection with the assassination.
Aburto Martínez allegedly suffers from borderline personality disorder and behaves erratically, changing his story even to this day. The official narrative has him confessing to the shooting, while claiming his intent was not to kill Colosio but rather injure him in the foot. Aburto, to our sensibilities, appears to be a weak, mind-controlled individual.
One of the theories surrounding Aburto was there was a double who fired the fatal head shot. Aburto Martínez’s mother, Maria Luisa Martinez, lent evidence to the claim.
On Aug. 20, 1996, a taped telephone conversation between Aburto and his father is broadcast on Radio Red:
“I was forced to write the confession in Tijuana … They took me to an office and dictated it to me. The director of the Federal Judicial Police, Adrian Carrera Fuentes, was there and he … is witness to the fact that I was forced to write it.”
Aburto says it was not a “mere coincidence” that Colosio and Massieu were killed within six months of each other.
“There are people in the upper echelons of government who want the public to believe I’m the only assassin… The government doesn’t want this case to escalate, because its party [the PRI] would be the one most damaged and they could lose the elections.”
The government, he claims, has three goals: “First, to convince everyone that I’m the only shooter; second, to claim that I’m crazy; and third, to assassinate me … and say I killed myself. That way everyone can forget about the Colosio case.” [Michelle Chi Chase, Mexico City News, 21 Aug 1996]
The same day, an editorial in Mexico City’s Roman Catholic Archdiocise newspaper Nuevo Criterio claimed that the Colosio hit was the result of a conspiracy within the PRI.
“The resources used to carry out the crime, but especially the way it was handled afterward, make it clear that … the mastermind was in the highest circles of power.”
An ever-present manifesto, or book, materialized that is purported to have been written by Aburto. His siblings and mother claimed it wasn’t his handwriting. In the book, Aburto referred to himself as “Caballero Aguila” (Eagle Knight), a term he never acknowledged.
Graciela Gonzalez Diaz (b. 1967) said she was Aburto’s girlfriend at the time of the shooting told authorities that he was a member of a secret political group in which he was known as “Caballero Aguila.”
Three days later, she withdrew the claim and denied they were romantically involved.
The protection of Colosio on March 23, 1994, was beyond criminally negligent. In fact, it’s similar to the hit on JFK in that it looks completely set up.
After giving a stump speech in the middle of a crowd, rather than leaving behind the stage to his transportation, he was guided out into a packed crowd of onlookers. There, he was hemmed in and left as a sitting duck. His bodyguards lagged behind him when the assassin shot with a pistol.
Colosio is illustrated in blue below.
Colosio is wearing a white jacket in the video below, and he has a few bits of white confetti on top of his head. Notice that, par for the course for inside jobs, the video goes off focus right as the gun approaches Colosio’s head, thus making a clear determination of who delivered the shot and what transpired problematic. This pattern is a major red flag in our analysis of events. This is the last image before the video cuts out.
Marco Antonio Jacome, an agent of the Baja California Judicial Police, was instructed by his chief, Raul Loza Parra, to videotape the event.
Setting up the Snake-Pit Hit
On Feb. 27, 1994, Manuel Salvador Gonzalez, 37, and Antonio Trejo, 35, are murdered on Interstate 5 highway near Gorman, California, about three hours north of Tiajuana. The two men are believed to have been key bodyguard security personnel for the Colosio campaign.
[Los Angeles] Sheriff’s Department investigators suspect that the two men, one of whom was carrying credentials purportedly issued by the office of the president of Mexico, worked as security guards for the Colosio campaign and maintained residences on both sides of the border. Although the investigation, including interviews of witnesses in the United States and Mexico, suggests that the double murder may be related to the subsequent slaying of Colosio, the motive remains unclear, deputies said. [Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1994]
Security in Tijuana was then handled by a secret governmental organization called “Grupo Omega.” At the moment of the assassination, Colosio was surrounded by an assortment of dubious characters and former corrupto police.
After the shooting, Aburto is knocked to the ground by the head of Colosio’s civil security, Fernando de la Sota, and by Alejandro Garcia Jinojoso, 25. Sota is the head of Group Omega. Jinojoso is also a member of the security detail and of the group.
Others near where the shooting occurred seized Valenzuela. Allegedly, Aburto pointed Valenzuela out to them and said, “Fue el ruco, fue el ruco” [“It was that guy“].
On Aug. 3, 1995, The New York Times reported that aforementioned Sota was a paid informer of the CIA from 1990 to 1992.
Sota, age 45, was also a former DFS agent with a criminal record. He apparently accepted a payoff from a top drug trafficker – and DFS Zone Commander – in Ciudad Juarez, Rafael Aguilar Guajardo, according to magazine “El Financiero” in its August 1995 edition.
In addition to Aburto Martínez, authorities detained Valenzuela, who was the former head of the homicide division of Baja California State Judicial Police in Tijuana, according to Mexico City News on March 24, 1994, and Jose Antonio Sanchez Ortega.
Ortega tested positive for powder burns and had bloodstained clothing. He was an active member of CISEN (Center for Investigations and National Security), the successor organization to the DI (Direccion de Inteligencia), and to the notoriously corrupt DFS. DFS members trafficked in drugs, stole cars and assassinated journalists, Andrew Reding reported for “The Nation“ on July 27, 1995.
Ortega was released after being detained for 24 hours.
Mexico Gen. Domiro Garcia Reyes, deputy chief of the presidential military staff and head of Colosio’s military security team, found his path blocked and his access to the candidate separated by Tranquilino Sanchez, a 58-year-old policeman from Sinaloa. Sanchez (no relation to Ortega) was arrested five days later on suspicion of complicity in the crime, according to the book “Ya Vamos …” [pp. 192, 235].
Sanchez, Vanlenzuela and his son 24-year-old son Rodolfo — who allegedly obstructed the path of military Col. Antonio Reynaldos del Pozo during the shooting — were all hired as security guards by PRI member Jose Rodolfo Rivapalacio Tinajero, a member of a secret society of Tijuana cops called “Grupo Tucan” [“Ya Vamos …” p. 223].
On April 14, 1995, Sanchez was released from high security prison, his sentence for participation in the Colosio homicide having been reversed [“Ya Vamos …” p. 235].
Reynaldo Merin Sandoval, who, like Gen. Reyes, became separated from Colosio prior to the shooting, disarmed a man with a gun who stood over Colosio’s body. The man was not identified; however, another Grupo Omega member, Rafael Lopez Merino, “lost” his .38 simultaneously [“Ya Vamos …” pp. 183-3, 227-8].
Special prosecutor Miguel Montes Garcia announced that at least seven people appeared to have been involved in the assassination, based on analysis of videotapes that showed the men blocking Colosio’s path and cleared a way for Aburto. At least five people had been arrested and jailed in connection with the hit, he said [Associated Press, June 4, 1994].
Baja Gov. Ernesto Ruffo Appel called for more investigations into the background of Aburto and of the ex-policemen involved with Colosio’s bodyguard – particularly those arrested after the assassination.
April 28, 1994, Federico Benitez Lopez, the chief of Public Security in Tijuana, who had been investigating the Colosio murder, was assassinated. The alleged hit-men were Ismael Higuera, a principal in the Arellano Felix gang, and Judicial Police agents Rodolfo Garcia Gaxiola and Jacome, the same agent who was sent to videotape the Colosio event [“Ya Vamos …” pp. 159-161, 221].
In February 1995, Dr. Jorge Mancillas, a professor at the University of Los Angeles and supporter of the Aburto Martínez family, claimed that new photographic evidence (taken by American photographer Robert Gauthier of the Los Angeles Times and analyzed by Dora Elena Cortes and Manuel Cordero, investigative reporters for El Universal) shows Aburto at the time of the shooting was about 12 to 18 feet away from Colosio, standing right beside Valenzuela.
“We took the photographs of the assassin and compared them to a man who was killed four hours after Colosio, and there is a direct resemblance. His name is Ernesto Rubio and he was also 23 years old.”
According to El Universal, Rubio worked for the Federal Judicial Police and for Grupo Omega chief and CIA informant Sota.
The Rubio murder was being investigated by Federico Benitez, head of the Municipal Police in Tijuana. Benitez himself was assassinated on April 28, 1994 [AVA, Feb. 14, 1996]. Benitez was at the rally and arrested the likely shooter suspect Ortega that day. He’s portrayed as a central character and good cop in the Netflix series “The Candidate.” His elimination worked to truly siderail the investigation.
One of the Mexican Attorney General’s top advisers, Eduardo Valle Espinoza, quit his position and asked in his letter of resignation:
“When are we going to have the courage and political maturity to tell the Mexican people that we suffer from a sort of narco-democracy?”
Espinoza asserted that Colosio was murdered by drug cartel forces after he refused to meet with a brother of Juan Garcia Abrego, head of the Gulf Cartel.
“I cared a great deal for Colosio” Espinoza wrote. “It cannot be permitted that they announce that a lone assassin killed him and that they leave it at that. I believe Colosio was killed because he did not [negotiate] with the drug traffickers or the ‘narco-politicians.'”
Valle expressed suspicion about two Colosio security chiefs, both former federal police officers with alleged criminal pasts and who were instrumental in the non-existent security on March 23, 1994 [Los Angeles Times, Oct. 1, 1994].
On Nov. 24, 1994, Mario Massieu, the brother of the assassinated Jose Massieu, resigned as Deputy Attorney General, alleging a government coverup in the Colosio case, which he blamed on anti-reform elements within the PRI.
On May 26, 1994, it was announced that Ruben Aburto, father of suspect Aburto, was willing to give testimony to Spec. Prosecutor Garcia, if his safety was guaranteed. Miguel Angel Sanchez de Armas, the Special Prosecutor’s spokesman, said that investigators were “even willing to go to Los Angeles” to interview Aburto, who had said publicly that in the weeks before the shooting, his son met as many as four members of Colosio’s security entourage [Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1994].
Then suddenly and rather inexplicably, Spec. Prosecutor Montes Garcia announced that there was little evidence of a conspiracy in the Colosio murder. Prosecutors still had some evidence to support the theory that three guards were involved, and those guards would remain in prison. But the cases against at least three others fell apart [Associated Press, June 4, 1994].
Aburto was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the murder of Colosio. Primary witnesses against him were the two sketchy security officers: Valenzuela, who claimed to have tackled Aburto seconds after the shooting, and Sota, the former leader of the secret Grupo Omega. When their depositions were taken hours after the murder, both men testified under oath that they had not seen who shot Colosio. Later at the trial, Valenzuela and Sota both swore they saw Aburto shoot Colosio twice.
Winter Watch Takeaway
You can’t make this stuff up.
I utilized this source for some of the chronological links.