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Gunman Claims He Only Tried to Wound Colosio : Mexico: Aburto tells investigators he wanted to call attention to pacifist views. He implies he didn't act alone.


TIJUANA — Mario Aburto Martinez, the accused assassin of Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, told investigators that he intended only to wound Colosio and call attention to his own pacifist views, said the gunman's lawyer and a human rights official on Friday.

And although Aburto refused to tell interrogators whether he had accomplices, he implied that he did not act alone, said Xavier Carvajal, a prominent Tijuana lawyer who represented Aburto during a three-hour interrogation after the assassination Wednesday.

"He never said who, but he insinuated that others were involved," Carvajal said Friday. "However, he gave no reasons, no names, no places."

Aburto was arraigned Friday in a court near the capital, accused of premeditated murder and carrying a gun without a permit. He will face a minimum of 40 years in prison if convicted, said Hugo Morales, a spokesman for the attorney general's office in Mexico City.

It was also revealed that Aburto, who worked and lived on both sides of the border in recent years, was politically active in both Mexico and the United States. Although he was not a legal resident, Los Angeles County voter records indicate that he was a registered Democrat and may have voted in U.S. elections.

Both Carvajal and state human rights ombudsman Jose Luis Perez Canchola, who was also present during Aburto's questioning, said his confession gave them the impression that others were involved. They said Aburto also admitted to practicing for the attack at a Tijuana shooting range and wanted to draw press attention to his views, specifically mentioning his hopes for coverage by a Spanish-language television tabloid show.

Federal authorities say Aburto emerged from a crowd and shot Colosio twice, once in the head at point-blank range, after a campaign rally at a Tijuana shantytown. Perez and Carvajal's accounts were the strongest indication so far that Aburto may not have acted alone.

Although Mexican federal law enforcement officials say Aburto was the only gunman, they have not explicitly discussed a motive or ruled out a plot involving others.

"The investigation is continuing, and we will not engage in speculation," Morales said.

The explosive case now proceeds to a trial phase. In Mexico, this involves exchanges of declarations and hearings before a judge and can last as long as a year. The suspect was flown Thursday from Tijuana to the Almoloya de Juarez prison outside Mexico City, a maximum-security facility where some of Mexico's most notorious drug traffickers are serving time. Aburto is being held without bail.

The case is being investigated by special federal prosecutor Miguel Montes Garcia, whom President Carlos Salinas de Gortari named to the job Thursday. Some of Colosio's supporters have openly accused his political rivals of masterminding the assassination. The newly contentious, uncertain climate of Mexican politics--plagued earlier this year by an Indian uprising in the southern state of Chiapas and the kidnaping of a prominent banker--has fostered doubts and conspiracy theories.

Perez said he does not believe that the gunman acted alone.

"I doubt that he acted alone because of the circumstances of the crime," said Perez, a respected figure in Baja California. "For one, the fact that he practiced to shoot him. He needed information to get there and be there at the right spot. We are talking about a maquiladora worker. All of this makes me believe that he needed other people. This is the type of act that lends itself collective involvement."

Aburto said he practiced at a Tijuana firing range during the weeks before the incident. He said he bought the gun from a person whose identity he refused to disclose, according to the accounts. Investigators still have not determined precisely where or when Aburto obtained the Brazilian-made, .38-caliber Taurus revolver allegedly used to kill the candidate, according to Mexican officials.

New details emerged Friday about the alleged assassin's life on both sides of the border.

A 23-year-old with a junior high school education, he reportedly belonged to the Assn. of Committees of the People, one of the many grass-roots political organizations that thrive in Tijuana's working-class neighborhoods.

He possessed current voting credentials issued by the Mexican federal government and the Baja state government, according to Tijuana press reports Friday that included photos of the identification cards.

Strangely, he was also registered to vote in California--even though non-citizens are barred from voting. Though a citizen of Mexico, he may have voted in U.S. elections while residing in San Pedro, according to county voter registration records. The law prohibits non-citizens from participating in federal elections and most local elections.

Mario A. Martinez of San Pedro, born on Oct. 3, 1970--the suspect's birth date--appears on current Los Angeles county voter registration rolls. He registered to vote as a Democrat on Sept. 1, 1990, the records show.

The FBI has joined the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in an investigation in Southern California, where Aburto worked and lived intermittently.

"We are doing an investigation with the Mexican government following up leads after the incident," an FBI spokeswoman said.

Times staff writer Sebastian Rotella also contributed to this story.

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