MEXICO CITY -- The son of a controversial Mexican politician was slain under mysterious circumstances in the border state of Coahuila on Wednesday, triggering an outpouring of condolences from the country’s political class as well as speculation about the motives behind the shooting.
The body of Jose Eduardo Moreira Rodriguez was discovered by police late Wednesday on a rural road outside of Ciudad Acuña -- across the Rio Grande from the west Texas town of Del Rio -- shortly after he was reported missing, according to Homero Ramos, the Coahuila state prosecutor.
Moreira, 25, was the oldest son of Humberto Moreira, the former governor of Coahuila and the former president of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Humberto Moreira quit as head of the national party, known as the PRI, in December after being embroiled in a financial scandal centered on falsified loan requests during his governorship, in which he left the state with more than $3 billion in debts.
His son had been employed as a social programs coordinator for the state government, which is headed up by his uncle, Ruben Moreira. As part of that job, Jose Eduardo Moreira was reportedly known for touring the countryside without bodyguards, according to Mexican news reports.
As a border state, Coahuila has struggled mightily with the drug cartels in recent years, particularly the ruthless paramilitary band known as the Zetas. In some cases, the criminals have sparred with state government forces; in others, they have allegedly collaborated with government employees.
Recently, Coahuila has been the scene of particularly intense clashes between government forces and various outlaw bands after an audacious prison break last month, believed to have been orchestrated by the Zetas gang, in which more than 130 inmates escaped through the front door.
On Wednesday afternoon, state government forces reportedly killed five alleged criminals during a shootout in the Coahuila city of Piedras Negras. That has fueled a theory that the slaying of Jose Eduardo Moreira could have been an act of reprisal against the government.
The administration of outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderon, while not endorsing this theory, issued a statement Thursday saying it would not tolerate “attempts at intimidation” on the part of criminals.
Ramos, the state prosecutor, said in a news conference Thursday that “no hypothesis will be ruled out” and added that federal police, prosecutors and military personnel were taking part in the investigation.
The finance scandal involving the victim’s father had been viewed as a public relations embarrassment for the PRI during this year's presidential campaign, in which its candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto -- now the president-elect -- promised that the party had turned over a new leaf.
The PRI ran Mexico for most of the 20th century in an authoritarian manner that was often marked by graft and political chicanery.
After leaving public life, Humberto Moreira has remade himself as an entrepreneur, rolling out a line of sugar-free jams and jellies.
“They killed my son Jose Eduardo, a clean young man, a social activist who was dedicated to working with the most humble people of Acuña, Coahuila,” Moreira said in a statement given to the newspaper Mileno.
Peña Nieto, the president-elect, said on his Twitter account that the slaying “should not go unpunished.”
Calderon, the outgoing president, called the slaying “a cowardly assassination.”
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--Richard Fausset. Cecilia Sanchez contributed to this report.
Photo: Jose Eduardo Moreira Rodriguez, who was found shot to death Wednesday. He was the son of a former Mexican governor and political party leader. Credit: Alberto Puente / Associated Press