Carlos Salinas
Overview
 
Carlos Salinas de Gortari (ˈkarlos saˈlinaz ðe ɣorˈtaɾi) (born April 3, 1948) is a Mexican
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 economist and politician affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party
Institutional Revolutionary Party
The Institutional Revolutionary Party is a Mexican political party that held power in the country—under a succession of names—for more than 70 years. The PRI is a member of the Socialist International, as is the rival Party of the Democratic Revolution , making Mexico one of the few...

 (PRI) who served as President of Mexico
President of Mexico
The President of the United Mexican States is the head of state and government of Mexico. Under the Constitution, the president is also the Supreme Commander of the Mexican armed forces...

 from 1988 to 1994. Earlier in his career he worked in the Budget Secretariat all the way up to Secretary. He was the PRI presidential candidate in 1988, and was elected on July 6, 1988.
Cárdenas
Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas
Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano is a prominent Mexican politician. He was a former Head of Government of the Federal District and a founder of the Party of the Democratic Revolution .-Biography:...

 registered as an opposing candidate from a left-wing coalition called Frente Democrático Nacional.
Encyclopedia
Carlos Salinas de Gortari (ˈkarlos saˈlinaz ðe ɣorˈtaɾi) (born April 3, 1948) is a Mexican
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 economist and politician affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party
Institutional Revolutionary Party
The Institutional Revolutionary Party is a Mexican political party that held power in the country—under a succession of names—for more than 70 years. The PRI is a member of the Socialist International, as is the rival Party of the Democratic Revolution , making Mexico one of the few...

 (PRI) who served as President of Mexico
President of Mexico
The President of the United Mexican States is the head of state and government of Mexico. Under the Constitution, the president is also the Supreme Commander of the Mexican armed forces...

 from 1988 to 1994. Earlier in his career he worked in the Budget Secretariat all the way up to Secretary. He was the PRI presidential candidate in 1988, and was elected on July 6, 1988.

Elections

Cárdenas
Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas
Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano is a prominent Mexican politician. He was a former Head of Government of the Federal District and a founder of the Party of the Democratic Revolution .-Biography:...

 registered as an opposing candidate from a left-wing coalition called Frente Democrático Nacional. He rapidly became a popular figure, and became the first opposing candidate to fill the Zócalo
Zócalo
The Zócalo is the main plaza or square in the heart of the historic center of Mexico City. The plaza used to be known simply as the "Main Square" or "Arms Square," and today its formal name is Plaza de la Constitución...

with sympathizers and to seriously threaten the PRI which had won all presidential elections since its inception in 1929. The Ministry of Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación
Secretaría de Gobernación
The Secretaría de Gobernación , often shortened to SEGOB is the Cabinet-level agency of Mexico responsible for administering the country's internal affairs, similar to other country's interior ministries...

), through its Federal Electoral Commission, was the institution in charge of the electoral process, and installed a modern computing system to count the votes. On July 6, 1988, the day of the elections, the system "crashed", and when it was finally restored, Carlos Salinas was declared the official winner. Even though the elections are extremely controversial, and some declare that Salinas won legally, the expression se cayó el sistema (the system crashed, lit. "the system fell down") became a colloquial euphemism for electoral fraud.

The process involved two suspicious shutdowns of the computer system used to keep track of the number of votes. Suspicions later grew as Congress voted (with support from the Revolutionary Institutional and National Action
National Action Party (Mexico)
The National Action Party , is one of the three main political parties in Mexico. The party's political platform is generally considered Centre-Right in the Mexican political spectrum. Since 2000, the President of Mexico has been a member of this party; both houses have PAN pluralities, but the...

 parties) to destroy without opening the electoral documentation that could prove otherwise. Other people believed that Salinas, in fact, won the ballot, albeit probably not with an absolute majority as the official figures suggested, although that is not required under Mexican election law.

During an interview for television in September 2005, Miguel de la Madrid
Miguel de la Madrid
Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado is a Mexican politician affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party who served as President of Mexico from 1982 to 1988.-Biography:...

 acknowledged that the PRI lost the 1988 elections. However, he immediately cleared his comment by saying that the PRI had "at least lost a significant amount of voters". Asked for comment on De la Madrid's statements, Senator Manuel Bartlett, who was the president of the Federal Electoral Commission (Comisión Federal Electoral) during the de la Madrid administration, declared Salinas won the election albeit with the smallest margin of any PRI candidate before him. He attributed De la Madrid's remarks to his old age (71 years old ) and the remarks being taken out of context by journalist Carlos Loret de Mola
Carlos Loret de Mola
Carlos Loret de Mola Álvarez is a Mexican journalist. He is a popular news anchor in Mexico, hosting a show called Primero Noticias on Televisa channel 2, as well as a news radio show "Back" on Radio Formula....

.

Economic reforms

  • By the end of his term, inflation had been reduced to 7.05% in 1994, the lowest figure in 22 years. Shortly after leaving office, due to the December Mistake, inflation rose to 51.48%.
  • During his term, the peso devalued from 2.65 MXP to 3.60 MXN, by November 30, 1994, the last day of his term; thus the peso devalued far less than it had in the two previous terms. (The peso was later devaluated from 4 per dollar to 7.2 in a single week due to the December Mistake.)
  • Negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement
    North American Free Trade Agreement
    The North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA is an agreement signed by the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994. It superseded the Canada – United States Free Trade Agreement...

     (NAFTA), with the United States and Canada.
  • Arguably, Salinas might have privileged him, as many critics point out, in the same way he had privileged Salinas Pliego with the privatization of Imevisión (later TV Azteca
    TV Azteca
    Azteca, is the second largest Mexican television entertainment. It was established in 1983 as the state-owned Instituto Mexicano de la Televisión , a holding of the national TV networks channel 13 and 7 and was privatized under its current name in 1993 and now is part of Grupo Salinas...

    ) over the rest of the bidders; all those deals were suspected of corruption by the majority of the Mexican population. As a result, the number of state-owned industries continued to drop, from approx. 600 in 1988 to a minimal 250 in 1994.

Political reforms

The 1994 elections
Mexican general election, 1994
General elections were held in Mexico on 21 August 1994. The presidential elections resulted in a victory for Ernesto Zedillo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, whilst the PRI won 300 of the 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 95 of the 128 seats in the Senate...

 were the first to have international observers, and were considered, at that time, the fairest elections in the century, though not free of controversy. He reformed the Clerical Laws which had forbidden religious ministers from voting, and established a new relationship between State and Church, which had been severely damaged after the Cristero War
Cristero War
The Cristero War of 1926 to 1929 was an uprising and counter-revolution against the Mexican government in power at that time. The rebellion was set off by the strict enforcement of the anti-clerical provisions of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 and the expansion of further anti-clerical laws...

. The new laws also allowed churches to own their own buildings (which had been nationalized).

Salinas' spending spree

Carlos Salinas's popularity and credibility at the time was high. The economic bubble gave Mexico a prosperity not seen in a generation. This period of rapid growth coupled with low inflation prompted some political thinkers and the media to state that Mexico was on the verge of becoming a "First World nation". In fact, it was the first of the "newly industrialized nations" to be admitted into the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an international economic organisation of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade...

 (OECD) in May 1994. It was a known fact that the peso was overvalued, but the extent of the Mexican economy's vulnerability was either not well known or downplayed by both the Salinas de Gortari administration and the media. This vulnerability was further aggravated by several unexpected events and macroeconomic mistakes made in the last year of his administration.

Several economists and historians, amongst them Hufbauer and Schoot (2005), have analyzed some of the events and policy mistakes that precipitated the crisis of December 1994. In keeping with the PRI election-year tradition, Salinas launched a spending spree to finance popular projects (and thus bolster support for his own party), which translated into a historically high deficit. This budget deficit was coupled with a current account deficit, fueled by excessive consumer spending as allowed by the overvalued peso. In order to finance this deficit, the Salinas administration issued tesobonos, an attractive type of debt instrument that insured payment in dollars instead of pesos. This may have been a response to three important events that had shaken investor confidence in the stability of the country: the aforementioned Zapatista uprising, the assassination of PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio
Luis Donaldo Colosio
Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta was a Mexican politician, and PRI presidential candidate, who was assassinated at a campaign rally in Tijuana during the Mexican Presidential campaign of 1994.-Political history:...

, and the assassination of José Francisco Ruiz Massieu
José Francisco Ruiz Massieu
José Francisco Ruiz Massieu was a Mexican political figure. He was governor of Guerrero from 1987 to 1993. He then served as the secretary-general of the Institutional Revolutionary Party in 1994...

, Salinas' former brother-in-law who was also the Secretary General of the PRI, and whose murder was never solved during Salinas' presidency, even when Mario Ruiz Massieu (Francisco's brother) was the attorney general
Attorney General (Mexico)
The Attorney General of Mexico is the head of the Office of the General Prosecutor and the Federal Public Ministry , an institution belonging to the Federal executive branch that is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of...

 in charge of the investigation.

These events, together with the increasing current account deficit fostered by government spending, caused alarm amongst Mexican and foreign T-bill (tesobono) investors, who sold them rapidly, thereby depleting the already low central bank reserves (which eventually hit a record low of $9 billion). The economically orthodox thing to do, in order to maintain the fixed exchange rate functioning (at 3.3 pesos per dollar, within a variation band), would have been to sharply increase interest rates by allowing the monetary base to shrink, as dollars were being withdrawn from the reserves (Hufbauer & Schott, 2005). Given the fact that it was an election year, whose outcome might have changed as a result of a pre-election-day economic downturn, the Bank of Mexico decided to buy Mexican Treasury Securities in order to maintain the monetary base, and thus prevent the interest rates from rising. This, in turn, caused an even more dramatic decline in the dollar reserves. These decisions aggravated the already delicate situation, to a point in which the crisis became inevitable and devaluation was only one of many necessary adjustments. Nonetheless, nothing was done during the last five months of Salinas’s administration even after the elections were held in July of that year. Some critics presume this was done in order to maintain Salinas’s popularity, as he was seeking international support to become director general of the WTO. Zedillo took office on December 1, 1994.

The December Mistake

See also 1994 economic crisis in Mexico
1994 economic crisis in Mexico
The 1994 Economic Crisis in Mexico, widely known as the Mexican peso crisis, was caused by the sudden devaluation of the Mexican peso in December 1994....

.


A few days after a private meeting Zedillo suddenly announced his government would let the fixed rate band to increase 15 percent (up to 4 pesos per US$), by stopping the unorthodox measures employed by the previous administration to keep it at the previous fixed level (e.g., by selling dollars, assuming debt, and so on). This measure, however, was not enough, and the government was even unable to hold this line, and decided to let it float. While experts agree that devaluation was necessary, some critics of Zedillo's incumbent 22-day old administration, argue that although economically coherent, the way it was handled was a political mistake. By having announced its plans for devaluation, they argue that many foreigners withdrew their investments, thus aggravating the effects. Whether the effects were aggravated further or not, the result was that the peso crashed under a floating regime from four pesos to the dollar (with the previous increase of 15%) to 7.2 to the dollar in the space of a week.

Mexican businesses with debts to be paid in dollars, or that relied on supplies bought from the U.S., suffered an immediate hit, with mass industrial lay-offs and several suicides . Businesses whose executives attended the meeting at Zedillo's office were spared the nightmare – forewarned, they quickly bought dollars and renegotiated their contracts into pesos. To make matters worse, the devaluation announcement was made mid-week, on a Wednesday, and for the remainder of the week foreign investors fled the Mexican market without any government action to prevent or discourage it until following Monday when it was too late.

Salinas faced widespread criticism in Mexico. He was blamed by the majority of the population for the collapse of the economy, and his privatization of several government-run businesses (which had benefited a few of his friends, like Carlos Slim). Salinas privatized Telmex, the government owned provider of telecommunications service and placed the owner of the newly formed company into the name of a formerly unknown person by the name of Carlos Slim Helú
Carlos Slim Helú
Carlos Slim Helú is a Mexican business magnate and philanthropist who as of 2011 is the richest person in the world, for the second year in a row...

.

With respect to the collapse of the economy he rapidly responded by blaming Zedillo's "inept" handling of the situation, coining the term "December Mistake" to refer to the crisis and Zedillo's mistakes. He then argued that he had talked to Zedillo of a possibility of "sharing the burden" of the devaluation by allowing the peso to devaluate a certain percent before his term was over, and the rest of the necessary devaluation would have been done during Zedillo's administration.

The December Mistake caused so much outrage that for a long time, Salinas did not dare return to Mexico (he was campaigning worldwide for World Trade Organization
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization is an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade , which commenced in 1948...

 (WTO) head at the time, which he lost). The incident also served to make it clear that his influence (if any) on the Zedillo administration was over. Meanwhile his sister-in-law was detained in Switzerland for trying to withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars using a fake passport. The issue of how the Salinas family had millions of dollars in foreign banks while most of the country's population was suffering a severe financial crisis became a national debate.

Salinas was blamed for allegedly ignoring the economic problems of his administration, and, his prestige lost, he exiled himself to Dublin, Ireland, where he eventually married again. Although he is free to return to Mexico and does so from time to time, he always stirs controversy. His brother Raúl went to jail, accused of masterminding a political assassination of José Francisco Ruiz Massieu
José Francisco Ruiz Massieu
José Francisco Ruiz Massieu was a Mexican political figure. He was governor of Guerrero from 1987 to 1993. He then served as the secretary-general of the Institutional Revolutionary Party in 1994...

, a member of their own party, and of committing fraud while working for the government during Carlos's presidency.
The sister-in-law was not really his sister-in-law, she was actually a lover of his brother Raul. Raul Salinas also collected checks as an instructor at a San Diego, California university and never worked there full-time for the money, and why he still was paid until two years ago is questionable.

Corruption

Salinas has been dogged by charges of massive corruption since leaving office.

In 1991, U.S. prosecutors indicted Mario Ruiz Massieu, a politically influential Mexican deputy attorney general under Salinas. Ruiz Massieu, who had close ties to the family of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and the indictment charged that Ruiz Massieu used his position as Mexico's top anti-drug official during 1993 and 1994 to obtain large bribes from drug traffickers.

In 1995, Swiss authorities discovered more than $100 million stashed in the European bank accounts of Carlos Salinas's brother Raul. He has said repeatedly that he knew nothing of the wealth stockpiled by Raul while the older Salinas was working as a midlevel civil servant. The older Salinas was convicted of complicity in a political assassination. Although none of this has ever been correctly proven by authorities.

Salinas' book

In the last years of Zedillo's term, Salinas returned to Mexico to announce the publication of his highly controversial, thousand-page book, "Mexico: The Policy and the Politics of Modernization". Written during his stay in Ireland and full of quotes from press articles and political memoirs, it defended his achievements and blamed Zedillo for the crisis that followed the Salinas administration. Denying all accusations against him, including plotting Luis Donaldo Colosio
Luis Donaldo Colosio
Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta was a Mexican politician, and PRI presidential candidate, who was assassinated at a campaign rally in Tijuana during the Mexican Presidential campaign of 1994.-Political history:...

's murder, his visit shocked Mexico's political scene with surprise interviews in major media. A few days later, however, illegal recordings of a conversation between jailed brother Raúl and one of his sisters were leaked to the media, and their conversation about who really owned the family fortune and Raúl's imprisonment quickly put an end to the affair.

The book – a thick volume with small print, every page filled with footnotes and margin notes – proved as controversial as Salinas himself. Its objective value is questioned since it is clearly a document written in self-defense, but it still remains a prime source of material for the scholar, clarifying how Salinas viewed himself. One group of bank debtors formed after the December Mistake (El Barzón
El Barzón
El Barzón is a movement of low and low-middle class private business and farming interests in Mexico.A Barzón, in terms of agriculture, is the yoke-ring to which a rope or chain is attached to pull a farm plow; a hitch-ring, connecting-ring, a pull-ring. The name comes from a Mexican revolutionary...

) declared their outrage at what they saw as profiteering from their tragedy and took the decision to transcribe the whole book, respecting even its layout, and to give it away electronically, in spite of legal threats from the publisher. Salinas probably did not mind – he had already announced that he would donate a copy to each public library in the country.

The book is actually 775 pages long with about 200 pages of references.

Later years

He divorced and married again. He seems to spend most of his time in London with regular travel to Mexico, but he is no longer the media sensation he was. Former Mayor of Mexico City, Andrés Manuel López Obrador
Andrés Manuel López Obrador
Andrés Manuel López Obrador , also known as AMLO or El Peje, is a Mexican politician who held the position of Head of Government of the Federal District from 2000 to 2005, before resigning in July 2005 to contend the 2006 presidential election, representing the unsuccessful Coalition for the Good...

, of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution
Party of the Democratic Revolution
The Party of the Democratic Revolution is a democratic socialist party in Mexico and one of 2 Mexican affiliates of the Socialist International...

 (PRD) usually blamed him for being the mastermind of what he perceives as confabulations against his government and presidential ambitions, not calling him by name but as the unmentionable.

On December 6, 2004, Salinas's youngest brother, Enrique
Enrique Salinas
Enrique Eduardo Guillermo Salinas de Gortari was the youngest brother of former president of Mexico Carlos Salinas....

, was found dead in Huixquilucan, Estado de México, inside his car with a plastic bag strapped around his head. At first authorities were reluctant to talk of homicide, but later admitted it was, while denying any political implications. As days passed, authorities believed it was either an accidental killing in an extortion attempt by a close friend or associate, or a passion crime involving a member of his family. In either case, it probably was either improvised or carried out by inexperienced criminals. Enrique's body was abandoned in his car in a zone with surveillance cameras. The tapes show confusion and disorientation by the people who drove Enrique's car to the place and left in another vehicle. Enrique's cell phone was used after his death, and left in the car. Unknown fingerprints were left in the car, and human hairs were found in Enrique's fist. It was determined he was knocked unconscious and killed by suffocation, but not by the plastic bag found with his body. Apparently he knew his attackers and it is possible that he voluntarily met with them.

Many members of his family were called to testify, including jailed brother Raúl, but not Carlos. Some years ago Enrique was suspected of being financial cover for his elder brothers Raúl and Carlos and had an account in a Swiss bank frozen, but most of the time Enrique held a low profile, being uninvolved with politics and mostly an entrepreneur practically unknown to the public. After his death, it was revealed he was being investigated in France and by Interpol
Interpol
Interpol, whose full name is the International Criminal Police Organization – INTERPOL, is an organization facilitating international police cooperation...

; that he had financial problems, and shortly before his death he wrote a letter where he explained in vague terms that he was subjected to terrible pressure by leaks (presumably a magazine article published) and friends, and was afraid for his and his family's well being.

In January 2005, authorities confirmed the media leak that there was the possibility Enrique was killed by agents of the Agencia Federal de Investigaciones
Federal Investigations Agency
The Federal Investigations Agency was a Mexican federal agency that existed to fight corruption and organized crime, through an executive order by President Vicente Fox Quesada. The AFI replaced an earlier agency, the Federal Judicial Police...

 (AFI) (Mexico's federal criminal police force). According to this hypothesis, he had financial problems with his ex-wife and was advised by his lawyer to hire some AFI agents the lawyer knew to fix the problem. Enrique contacted them but later reached an agreement with his ex-wife and tried to forget the matter, but the agents blackmailed and ultimately murdered him. Authorities also acknowledged they were suspicious of members of Enrique's family because they gave conflicting testimony regarding the hours before the murder. Their relationships with Enrique were also difficult. At roughly the same time, French authorities revealed they were prosecuting brother Raúl and other members of the family for money laundering
Money laundering
Money laundering is the process of disguising illegal sources of money so that it looks like it came from legal sources. The methods by which money may be laundered are varied and can range in sophistication. Many regulatory and governmental authorities quote estimates each year for the amount...

.

Salinas re-married soon after leaving office, to Ana Paula Gerard, and moved his residency to Ireland for a few years. He has six children: Cecilia, Emiliano
Emiliano Salinas
Emiliano Salinas is a Mexican political activist and the Vice President of Prorsus Capital.-Life:Emiliano Salinas is the son of former Mexican president, Carlos Salinas de Gortari and wife Cecilia Occelli....

 and Juan Cristobal from his first marriage; Ana Emilia, Patricio and Mateo from his second marriage.

In May 2009 former Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid
Miguel de la Madrid
Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado is a Mexican politician affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party who served as President of Mexico from 1982 to 1988.-Biography:...

, accused Salinas de Gortari and his family of stealing millions of dollars from public spending. He went on to say the Salinas Family had close links with the drug cartels and mafia. De la Madrid later withdrew his comments.

As of May 2010, Salinas lives in Dublin, Ireland.

External links

Extended biography and presidential tenure by CIDOB Foundation Response of Manuel Bartlett to de la Madrid remarks.
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