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Tuesday, May 11, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mexican Policeman Held In Jail Death -- U.S. Citizen, Found Hanged In Cell, Was No Suicide

Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES - After 11 months of pressuring the Mexican government, a Los Angeles man's quest for justice in his brother's slaying in a Baja California jail paid off yesterday when Mexican authorities confirmed the arrest of a police officer on murder charges.

But though he has succeeded in drawing international attention to the case and to human-rights abuses in Mexican jails, Joe Amado said he was not satisfied with the arrest of just one officer in the slaying of his brother June 6. Mario Amado, 29, was killed in a jail cell in Rosarito during a vacation trip the brothers took to the seaside resort.

One U.S. official joined Amado yesterday in calling for further investigation and more arrests in the case, which was initially closed by Mexican authorities as a suicide before Amado began enlisting human-rights advocates, the media and U.S. lawmakers. Human-rights advocates said Amado's case is rare because he has taken on the Mexican government in a human-rights abuse, and won.

"I am relieved, but I'm still not happy," Amado, 50, said. "I won't be happy until the whole police force, all the people involved in the cover-up, are arrested for corruption."

Officials in the state of Baja California confirmed the arrest of Jose Antonio Verduzco Flores, 35, a Rosarito municipal police officer assigned to the jail. They said there may be other arrests, depending on Verduzco's testimony.

Verduzco was arrested Saturday afternoon as he arrived at work at the same police station where Mario Amado was found dead in his cell. Cmdr. Jose Encinas Filatoff of the Baja California state judicial police in Tijuana said he could not comment on the ongoing investigation. Other officials said they believe Amado was drunk and unruly and that he was beaten to death by officers trying to subdue him.

Mario, a rail-thin welder from Los Angeles, had been detained in the cell for less than hour on drunk and disorderly-conduct charges when he was hanged or strangled.

Mexican authorities initially insisted that Mario committed suicide by fashioning a noose from a pullover sweater and then hanging himself from a crossbar of the cell door. But Joe Amado maintained that his only brother was murdered, probably by police. He commissioned independent autopsies that ruled out suicide.

Because of Joe Amado's efforts to enlist the aid of human-rights advocates, U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and the media, Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari agreed in January to make sure those responsible for the murder would be prosecuted.

"We are deeply committed to fighting all human-rights abuses in Mexico," Salinas' spokesman, Gabriel Guerra, said, "and a point has been made of not allowing impunity in violations of human rights and other crimes by police officers or any others."

Officials with the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles and in Baja California said the arrest proves they are taking the case seriously and that they too will not tolerate human-rights abuses of U.S. citizens, Mexican nationals and others in police custody.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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