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VAN NUYS : Slaying Victim’s Brother Attacks NAFTA Pact

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Joe Amado, whose brother died last year in a Rosarito, Mexico, jail, led a small demonstration in Van Nuys Monday against the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying it must be amended to force Mexico to halt human-rights abuses.

Amado, a Van Nuys salesman, spoke to reporters while seven friends and relatives stood in front of a federal office building, holding signs that urged Congress not to approve the treaty as written.

Since the death of his brother Mario, Amado has worked with other families who say their loved ones were killed or abused by Mexican police. He believes that the United States should use NAFTA to force Mexico to reform its legal system.

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“We’re opposed to the treaty because there are no human-rights provisions in it at all,” Amado said. “We’re using NAFTA for leverage.”

If it is approved by Congress, NAFTA would erase most trade and investment barriers among the United States, Canada and Mexico.

At Monday’s demonstration, the largest banner read: “Justice for Mario or No Free Trade.” Mario Amado, a 29-year-old welder from North Hollywood, was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct during a vacation in the Mexican resort town.

Rosarito authorities initially said he had committed suicide in his cell. But Joe Amado unearthed evidence that his brother was killed.

He kept up pressure on Mexican officials, leading to last May’s arrest of a Rosarito police officer on murder charges. Legal action against the officer is proceeding, but no verdict has been reached, Amado said.

Amado said he is disappointed that his congressman, U. S. Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City), supports NAFTA. Berman asserts that the treaty will help create new high-wage manufacturing jobs in Southern California.

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In addition to amendments to NAFTA, Amado said he supports a bill that would modify the legal immunity enjoyed by foreign diplomats and allow him to seek wrongful-death damages from Mexico in a U. S. court.

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