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Mexico Expands Suspect List In Assassination Investigation

By Tod Robberson
The Washington Post

The Mexican government said yesterday that another two potential conspirators - one of them an internal intelligence agent - -are under investigation in the March 23 assassination of the country's leading presidential candidate.

The Interior Ministry and the special prosecutor investigating the killing of ruling party candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio said no additional arrests have been made but that they have positively identified Salvador Hernandez Tomasini as another a suspected co-conspirator in the assassination, which occurred during a campaign rally in the border city of Tijuana.

At least five men, including accused gunman Mario Aburto Martinez, already have been arrested and charged in Colosio's killing while another two are still being sought.

A source close to the investigation also acknowledged yesterday that members of Colosio's own Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) have been detained and interrogated in connection with the case.

Although investigators so far have come up with no coherent explanation for the killing, the expanded list of suspected co-conspirators and inclusion of PRI members in the investigation added to speculation among many Mexicans that Colosio's assassination was politically motivated.

At the same time, some Mexican officials have suggested that evidence points to a link between the alleged conspirators and a powerful Tijuana-based drug cartel.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that Jorge Antonio Sanchez Ortega, an agent of the National Investigation and Security Center, Mexico's internal intelligence agency under direct presidential authority, has been suspended from his intelligence-gathering job while he is under investigation for possible involvement in the assassination.

Sanchez has told police he was present at the Tijuana rally as part of his normal duties and that he was 200 yards from Colosio as the candidate addressed the crowd. Sanchez is quoted in a government communique as saying he rushed forward to assist in Colosio's evacuation after the shooting.

But police arrested Sanchez that day after noticing blood stains on his clothing, and a subsequent paraffin test showed positive traces of gunpowder on Sanchez's hand, suggesting he had recently fired a weapon. News of the positive gunpowder test prompted widespread speculation that a second gunman assisted Aburto in shooting Colosio.

In a separate investigation, special prosecutor Miguel Montes Garcia said that Hernandez, shown in videotapes and photographs wearing a black hat and sunglasses, approached Colosio and attempted to distract him just before the candidate was shot.

A Mexican official, who declined to be identified, said yesterday the government's investigation into the assassination "is pointing toward a connection" with major narcotics traffickers whose main base of operations is Tijuana.