July 11, 2005

Trotsky murder weapon may have resurfaced in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The ice ax used to murder Russian
revolutionary Leon Trotsky in Mexico may have been recovered,
65 years after his death.

A Mexican taxi driver told reporters she has the ice ax
used by a Spaniard to kill Trotsky in Mexico City in 1940 on
the orders of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

The woman, Ana Salas, says the ax was handed down to her by
her late father, a policeman, but details are sketchy of how it
came to be in his hands.

Stalin threw his former comrade Trotsky out of the Soviet
Union in 1929 and he later emigrated to Mexico.

Spaniard Ramon Mercader, a secret follower of Stalin who
pretended to sympathize with Trotsky, smashed the
revolutionary's skull with the ice ax at his home on Aug. 20,
1940. Trotsky died in hospital a day later.

Trotsky's grandson, Esteban Volkov, says he suspects Salas
is attempting to sell him the ax, and does not even know if it
really is the weapon that struck down one of the greatest
figures in left-wing history.

Volkov, a retiree and resident of Mexico City, suggested on
Monday that Salas bring the ax to a museum in Trotsky's former
house to compare it with a photograph there of the murder

"That would be an initial test to see if it is the ice ax
or not," he told Reuters.

"There is quite a precise photograph of detectives holding
the ice ax and we could check the size of the handle in
proportion to the metal part," he said.

Volkov has offered to take a DNA test and compare it with
blood that Salas says is on the ax if she will donate it to the
Trotsky museum. But the pair have failed to agree on carrying
out the tests.

Salas said on Monday she would discuss with Volkov his new
proposal of a visual comparison with the photograph. "It is a
good idea," the taxi driver said.

Trotsky is buried in the garden of the museum in the arty
Coyoacan neighborhood, near the former home of Mexican artist
Frida Kahlo, who was briefly his lover.