Charismatic Mexican Politician Manuel Clouthier Dies in Car Crash
Former presidential candidate Manuel J. Clouthier, the fiery, heavy-set leader of the conservative National Action Party, was killed in an automobile crash Sunday on the way from his hometown of Culiacan, Sinaloa, to a campaign rally in Mazatlan.
Clouthier, 55, died along with Javier Calvo, the National Action Party’s Sinaloa state chairman, at about 11:30 a.m. when the car they were riding in collided head-on with a truck, a party official said.
Other details of the accident were not immediately known.
“This is very painful for us,” said Luisa Maria Calderon, a federal deputy for PAN, as the party is universally called here. “He was totally committed to the party and worked with so much energy.”
The white-haired, bearded “Maquio,” the childhood nickname by which he was known, was the PAN candidate in the presidential election of July, 1988. His style was blunt and aggressive, and he prided himself on colorful straight talk, which sometimes turned crude in informal moments.
During the campaign, Clouthier toured the country in a mobile home with his wife and several of his 10 children. His robust size and blustery manner always attracted attention as he sought to broaden the party’s appeal beyond its middle-class roots.
Although the party came in third with 17% of the vote, Clouthier remained a charismatic figure and prominent in national politics.
After the presidential election, Clouthier joined leftist leader Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in charging that the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party rigged the results to hand victory to President Carlos Salinas de Gortari and fraudulently capture a majority in the federal Chamber of Deputies.
Clouthier led several marches to protest the alleged fraud and went on a weeklong fast in an encampment he set up on Mexico City’s main boulevard, Paseo de la Reforma. Afterwards, a pro-government newspaper ran the headline “Maquio Ends Diet.”
Salinas was confirmed as president, but after weeks of negotiations the ruling party recognized that PAN had won 101 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, more than ever before. And in July this year, PAN made history when its candidate, Ernesto Ruffo Appel, won the governorship of Baja California.
When he is sworn in Nov. 1, Ruffo will become the first opposition governor in the 60 years that the PRI, as the ruling party is known, has governed Mexico.