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Mexican Cardinal's Murder Remains a Mystery 10 Years Later - 2003-05-21

Ten years after the death of a Catholic church official in Guadalajara, Mexico after being caught in the middle of an apparent shoot out between drug traffickers, his successor is trading charges with the man who once led the investigation into the case. The nasty dispute is keeping the case alive in the public arena.

Ever since Guadalajara's Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo died in a hail of gunfire at the Guadalajara airport on May 24, 1993, authorities have clashed with critics over whether this was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or an intentional murder.

Guadalajara's current Catholic Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez is accusing former Mexican Attorney General Jorge Carpizo of being part of a plot to kill the prelate. He says Carpizo and other government officials wanted Posadas dead in order to prevent him from testifying about links between drug traffickers and high-ranking officials in the government of then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

Cardinal Sandoval also accuses Mr. Carpizo of hiding or destroying evidence.

The former prosecutor has denied the charges and accuses the Catholic official of involvement in criminal activity. On Tuesday, Mr. Carpizo went to the Attorney General's office to ask for an investigation of Cardinal Sandoval.

He said Cardinal Sandoval has been involved with a businessman and well-known casino operator named Jose Maria Guardia, whom he calls "one of the czars of gambling in Mexico." Mr. Carpizo added that both men sought to establish casinos in Mexico and in Cuba, which he implies could have been used for money laundering.

Mr. Carpizo recently published a book in which he dismisses suggestions that there was some plot to kill Posadas. His view is backed by several other former prosecutors and investigators who say all evidence indicates the killing of the prelate was a tragic mistake made by gunmen who were attempting to kill a rival drug lord.

But also on Tuesday, a lawyer representing Cardinal Sandoval, Jose Antonio Ortega Sanchez, appeared before a federal judge here in Mexico City to present evidence that Mr. Carpizo and other authorities hid evidence in the Posadas investigation.

He said there were irregularities from the beginning of the investigation and that evidence disappeared without anyone looking into where it had gone or who had taken it.

The Posadas case was officially closed in the year 2000, but it was later re-opened after it was discovered that around 1,000 pages were missing from the case file. Federal agents currently investigating the case appear to be no closer than earlier investigators were to resolving the case definitively.

As the tenth anniversary of the Posadas killing approaches on Saturday, the Mexican public is left more confused than ever by the flurry of charges and counter charges.