October 9, 1998

Convicted Assassin of Candidate Claims Government Conspiracy

MEXICO CITY (AP) - A factory worker convicted in the 1994 assassination of Mexico's top presidential candidate is making a new assertion of innocence, claiming that he is the victim of a government conspiracy, Mexico City newspapers reported Monday.

In telephone conversations recorded by his family, Mario Aburto Martinez says his confession to the killing of Luis Donaldo Colosio came under physical and psychological torture.

``I was used as a scapegoat,'' Aburto is quoted as saying by the daily El Universal. ``We believe the government killed (Colosio) as part of a power struggle.''

Colosio, who had been widely expected to win Mexico's presidency, was shot at a campaign rally in the border city of Tijuana in March 1994.

Police arrested Aburto at the scene. He was convicted of homicide and sentenced to more than 40 years in prison.

But few Mexicans believe Aburto acted alone. Colosio was shot in the head and abdomen, from what some believe to have been two different angles. A special prosecutor, however, said the shots were fired by the same man, while Colosio's body spun in the air as he fell.

The government appointed a succession of four special prosecutors to investigate the case, but little has been produced.

Attorney General Jorge Madrazo told Congress last month his office continues to look for the masterminds behind the murder.

Aburto asked his relatives, now living in Long Beach, California, to seek the intervention of human rights watchdog Amnesty International. He says inmates at the top-security Almoloya de Juarez prison south of Mexico City have ``died due to medical negligence, or have been driven to suicide.''

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