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Mexican presidential candidate shot during campaign

MEXICO CITY, March 23 -- Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party was shot twice Wednesday during a campaign appearance in the border city of Tijuana.

Colosio was shot once in the head and once in the abdomen at point blank range as he addressed a crowd of about 3,000 in a poor neighborhood of Tijuana, 1,375 miles (2,300 km) northwest of Mexico City across the border from San Diego, California.

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An official at the Tijuana General Hospital said Colosio had been successfully operated on for the abdominal wound and was undergoing surgery for the head wounds. The bullet entered his brain behind the left ear and exited.

Hospital officials described Colosio's condition as 'extremely delicate.'

A hospital spokeswoman in San Diego said Colosio, considered the overwhelming favorite in Mexico's Aug. 21 presidential elections, would probably be transferred to the University of California at San Diego Medical Center for treatment.

President Carlos Salinas de Gortari called the shooting 'a vile act, ' describing Colosio as a 'good, noble man who was seeking to serve others and his country.'

Salinas canceled a planned meeting Thursday with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who arrived in Mexico earlier Wednesday on a three-day official visit.

Attorney General Diego Valades traveled to Tijuana. The Attorney General's Office issued a statement saying 23-year-old Mario Aburto Martinez has been detained as a suspect in the 5 p.m. (8 p.m. EST) shooting, while another man, Vicente Mayoral Valenzuela, was at the state attorney's headquarters as a witness.

In Washington, the White House issued a statement saying: 'The president (Bill Clinton) is deeply shocked by the violence tonight. The thoughts and prayers of the president and first lady are with his (Colosio's) family.'

In television footage taken immediately after the shooting, Colosio was hidden by a mob of people. He was quickly whisked off to the hospital, reporters said.

A mob of bystanders gathered around the assailants and the two were detained.

The mob beat and pulled the hair of one of the men, who appeared bloody. Another man thought to be a police official in plain clothing held a gun at the suspect's head.

The shooting comes five months before Aug. 21 presidential elections.

Colosio, whose Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, has ruled Mexico for 65 years, has been considered the overwhelming favorite in the race.

The attack comes two-and-a-half months after the Jan. 1 uprising by Indians in the southern state of Chiapas who have called for electoral reforms to break the PRI's grip on power in Mexico.

Government and rebel representatives are currently trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the situation.

The opposition National Action Party, or PAN, and Party of the Democratic Revolution, PRD, announced a temporary suspension of their campaigns, while Fernando Ortiz Arana said the PRI was still hoping for 'the recovery our candidate.'

PRD presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas said in an interview on the Mexican television network Televisa that he would suspend his campaign until next week, but added, 'the political process must continue.'

Manuel Camacho, government negotiator in the Chiapas talks and considered a possible presidential challenger to Colosio until he announced Tuesday that he would not seek a presidential candidacy, also denounced the shooting.

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