President Who?

A question of office splits a venerable Hispanic organization

In fact, Valle says, Rios hasn't been heard from since he garnered a new term. A rumor circulated that he had planned to quietly resign at his aborted, invitation-only meeting. Whether this is true is hard to determine; neither Rios nor his October government have answered requests to hand over Comite notes or the Comite checkbook. And while the new, "legitimate" leadership has resolved to carry on business, their style is somewhat cramped by a lack of funds, and by a lack of around half their membership, whom they suspect may be continuing to meet privately, with Rios as their head.

"Mr. Rios has not said to anybody that he's not president," says Valle. "Nobody has heard anything from the other board at all." Unless Rios comes forward, Valle says, the issue may find its way into court. "You know, I think I would have accepted Mr. Rios as long as he did things properly," Valle says ruefully. "But he didn't."

What Rios has to say now on the dispute isn't known. He failed to return numerous phone calls from the Press, and though he at one time promised an interview, when the time for it arrived, he wasn't there. Where was he? Gone fishing, said the person who answered in his stead.

Rios' attorney, Frumencio Reyes, and Comite secretary Lupita Garcia categorically refused to comment on the fight. Close to deadline, though, former Rios vice president Rosalio Penas did call to introduce himself as the Comite's new president. Penas wouldn't elaborate, saying he first wanted to see the rival claims in print.

Meanwhile, the Comite's rebels pursue their alternative government, sans money and minutes. And who knows? Maybe they take strength in remembering the infinitely more consequential Mexican Revolution, which also involved a president who was reluctant to leave office. "Sufragio efectivo, no reelección," went the famous slogan of the Mexican revolutionaries. "Effective votes, no re-election!

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