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Institutional Revolutionary Party state legislator Gregorio Barreto, 58, died of a heart attack on Thursday in Tijuana. The overweight politician suffered the heart attack in his hotel suite at Pueblo Amigo, owned by former Tijuana mayor and gambling magnate Jorge Hank Rhon.
Barreto was elected to the Baja California legislature in 2010 and had pushed for the death penalty for kidnappers; the transportation businessman had been kidnapped for 49 days in 2008 and had two fingers cut off before a ransom was paid.
Barreto's transportation company could always be counted on to bus in or help organize the busing in of huge numbers of supporters for PRI rallies, including rallies suporting Hank last year after Hank was arrested on illegal weapons possession charges that were later dropped. "Hank is my man," Barreto said at an event last year featuring one of Hank's rivals for next year's PRI gubernatorial nomination, Sen. Fernando Castro Trenti.
Photo: Gregorio Barreto, his left hand missing two fingers, watches from the front row as Ensenada Mayor Enrique Pelayo speaks March 23, 2011 in Tijuana's Lomas Taurinas neighborhood on the 17th anniversary of the assassination of PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio. Pelayo paid his respects to Barreto in Tijuana on Thursday, and again on Saturday.
Zeta reported that Barreto suffered the heart attack shortly before a meeting that reportedly was to discuss a possible run for Tijuana mayor next year.
Barreto's position in the state legislature will be taken up by Elia Cabañas (right), who was elected to the federal Chamber of Deputies on July 1. She had been on the PRI ticket as Barreto's substitute when he won the state seat in 2010. Barreto had considered running for the PRI nomination for the District 4 congressional seat Cabañas won, but Carlos Barboza was anointed; Barboza, however, then found himself substituted out for Cabañas so the PRI could meet the federal requirement that 40% of a party's candidates be women. Frontera reported that Cabañas' substitute, Virginia Victoria Martínez, will apparently go to the federal legislature in Mexico City, perhaps until Barreto's state legislative term ends in the fall of next year, at which point Cabañas would go to Mexico City to claim her seat.
Most of Frontera newspaper's first 12 pages were filled with stories, pictures and esquela memorial ads for Barreto.
Esquela paid memorial ad from state legislature (PDF). Esquelas from Gov. José Guadalupa Osuna Millán, Sen. Fernando Castro Trenti and Canaco (PDF). Equelas from the cities of Tijuana and Tecate (PDF). Esquelas from Jorge Hank Rhon's Caliente Group, cities of Rosarito and Ensenada (PDF). Esquela from the Tijuana Xolos, who play their first soccer game of the season Friday evening (They beat Puebla, 2-0; a minute of silence was held for him before the game at Estadio Caliente).
January: Barreto's mother dies.
November: Barreto's transport company called "nefarious."
November: Barreto draws loud cheers at event for Castro Trenti.
December: Barreto considered run for Congress this year.
March: Musical chairs for candidates to meet national gender quota.
Barreto's background, according to Frontera: He was born June 15, 1954, in Durango city, the capital of Durango state. He lived in Mazatlán and Guasave in Sinaloa state and Hermosillo, Sonora, before arriving in Baja California in 1970. There he was a welder, taxi driver and even a boxer until he discovered his affinity for the transportation business and started the company Calfia. He was long a key figure in the PRI. He also owned the Barretal nightclub.
After Jorge Hank Rhon was elected mayor in 2004, Barreto was chosen to head the city's Presa district until the next administration took office in 2007.
On Oct. 2, 2008, Barreto was kidnapped, had two of fingers cut off, and then released on Nov. 19.
In 2010, he was elected to the state legislature for District 13.
Frontera's story (PDF).
Zeta reports that he first moved to Mexicali in 1970 and then moved to Tijuana a year later.
State legislature President Alfonso Garzón Zataráin (right) lauded the late Tijuana legislator Gregorio Barreto at a memorial service Saturday at Tijuana's City Hall, saying Barreto had backed legislation to encourage Baja Californians to read, to eliminate fees to attend high school and to provide free breakfasts for poor students. Barreto died of a heart attack Thursday at age 58.
Garzón, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party like Barreto, said Barreto sought to improve workers' lives, and cited as an example Barreto and the legislature's move to restrict the building of homes less than 80-square-meters (861 square feet). Garzón said Barreto wanted to change Tijuana's image, and part of its negative image was the tiny homes occupied by many families. Garzón said Barreto thought the state's workers deserved larger, more dignified living quarters. But Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán of the National Action Party says requiring bigger minimum home sizes will price the state's low-income workers completely out of the housing markets. Story, El Mexicano (PDF).
Garzón noted that Barreto suffered firsthand from the crime that swept over Baja California by having been kidnapped in 2008 and noted that Barreto was involved in drawing up anti-crime legislation.
Also present at the memorial was PRI Sen. Fernando Castro Trenti. Fernando del Monte, the former Televisa news anchorman who also ran for mayor for the PRI in 2007 and is working with Castro Trenti, said the PRI has lost a powerful organizing force in eastern Tijuana with the death of Barreto.
Also in attendance at the service were the state's five mayors, all members of the PRI: Carlos Bustamante of Tijuana;
Francisco Pérez Tejada of
Mexicali; Enrique Pelayo of Ensenada;
Javier Robles Aguirre of
Rosarito; and Javier Urbalejo
Cinco of Tecate.
Left photo: Federal legislators-elect and state PRI President René Mendívil stand by Gregorio Barreto's coffin. At the right front is Elia Cabañas, Barreto's official substitute who also was elected to the federal Chamber of Deputies from Tijuana's District 4 on July 1. At far left is Chris López, elected to Congress from Tijuana's District 6. Mendívil is in the left foreground.
Center photo: The ceremony at City Hall was held by the Baja California state legislature.
Right photo: Andrea Guadalupe Aguilar Salcedo, the sister of Barreto's wife, Norma, holds little José Miguel Rodríguez Aguilar during the service. The woman in the striped shirt is Silvia Yolanda Aguilar.
Barreto's official photo for the state legislature was on display at City Hall with a mourning ribbon. However, the portrait showed what appears to be his left hand, which had had two fingers cut off during his 2008 kidnapping, with all five fingers, with the fingers of his other hand hidden; it was unclear whether the image had been flipped or Photoshopped, or both, although the flag does not appear to have been flipped. In the state legislature portrait, his watch is on the right wrist, while in an above photo, he was wearing his wristwatch on his left wrist.
Also at the Barreto service was Cuauhtémoc Cardona, a top state official until earlier this month. He said he left the office of government secretary to seek the National Action Party nomination for next year's gubernatorial race.
Federal Deputy-elect Elia Cabañas of the Institutional Revolutionary Party has decided to fill out the rest of the state legislative term of Tijuana Deputy Gregorio Barreto, who died last week. Cabañas was the official substitute for Barreto; if she does not fill the post, another election would have to be held.
Meanwhile, the leader of a PRI dissident group charged that Virginia Martínez González, Cabañas's official substitute for the federal legislature, is being pressured to resign to allow someone else to fill the post. State PRI leader René Mendívil denied that Martínez, or Cabañas for that matter, was being pressured.
Stories in Frontera (PDF).
Update, Aug. 18: Cabañas says that after being sworn in as a federal legislator, she will take a leave of absence to serve out Barreto's term in the state legislature. Story, Frontera (PDF).