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FEUD BETWEEN FORMER PRESIDENT CARLOS SALINAS & PRESIDENT ERNESTO ZEDILLO HIGHLIGHT PROBLEMS FOR LONG-GOVERNING P.R.I.

The Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) is facing a series of crises that could seriously damage whatever credibility the long-governing party still has among Mexicans.

One of the most prominent problems that has surfaced for the PRI in recent weeks is the very public feud between former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) and President Ernesto Zedillo. Salinas has accused Zedillo of mishandling the economic crisis that followed the devaluation of the peso in 1994. Salinas made the accusations in his newly published 1,300-page book, which he promoted during a five-day tour in Mexico in October.

"There was a deliberate campaign by the present government to place the responsibility for this economic catastrophe on my government instead of on the errors committed by Dr. Zedillo's administration," Salinas said in an interview with the Mexico City daily Reforma.

Salinas blames Zedillo for economic crisis

In an earlier interview with Time magazine, Salinas accused Zedillo of providing advance notice of the devaluation to the private sector, which caused the run on deposits and short-term investments that ultimately brought the economy to collapse.

"It all started with the peso devaluation in December 1994 when Zedillo's government provided inside information to a small group of Mexican businessmen that the devaluation was coming," Salinas said. "And in a matter of hours, Mexico lost US$6 billion--half its total foreign-exchange reserves."

But Salinas' attempt to blame Zedillo appears to have failed, since many key financial experts who served in both administrations, including Banco de Mexico's chief governor Guillermo Ortiz Martinez, came to Zedillo's defense.

Ortiz, who was finance secretary during the Salinas administration, blamed the crisis on "structural instabilities" that had existed during the time Salinas was in power.

Zedillo has declined to publicly respond to the charges, but appears to have quietly struck back at Salinas. Shortly after Salinas' trip to Mexico, the contents of a recorded conversation between the president's brother Raul and sister Adriana were mysteriously leaked to the news media.

Mysterious recording damaging to Salinas

In the tape, Raul acknowledged to Adriana that he illegally transferred money to bank accounts in Switzerland. But he said these transfers were made with the full knowledge of Carlos, who was then president.

"I think it's very stupid of [Carlos] to say that he's going to demand a precise clarification [of the funds], and I'm going to give it to him, Adriana," Raul said on the tape.

"Carlos shows great cowardice...The money is his. And then he says he doesn't know anything about it," said Raul, who is serving a lengthy sentence for his role in planning the 1994 assassination of his former brother-in-law, PRI official Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu. Ruiz Massieu was gunned down in October 1994 as he emerged from a party fund-raising event (see SourceMex, 1994-10-05).

Neither Raul Salinas nor Adriana Salinas disavowed the contents of the conversation but denounced the Zedillo administration for making the secret recording.

The recording, reportedly made by the federal government's national security agency (Centro de Investigacion y Seguridad Nacional, CISEN), raised the question of whether other conversations have been taped under Zedillo's watch.

In September, the daily newspaper El Universal published a transcript of a secret recording of a conversation between President-elect Vicente Fox and top aide Martha Sahagun. The newspaper said the recording came from the government's security agencies, but would not disclose the exact source.

Zedillo administration accused of telephone espionage

While the conversation between Fox and Sahagun contained no compromising information, the president-elect angrily denounced the Zedillo administration for conducting telephone espionage.

In both instances, the Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), via deputy interior secretary Dioniso Perez Jacome, denied that any federal agency, including CISEN, had conducted or authorized the recordings.

But Perez Jacome's denials failed to convince Mexican legislators, including members of the PRI, who have proposed a handful of initiatives to prohibit the federal government from conducting such activities. In a resolution approved in late October, all delegations in the Chamber of Deputies demanded that the Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR) and SEGOB conduct an exhaustive investigation of the recordings and prosecute all responsible parties.

Meanwhile, the feud between Salinas and Zedillo is only one example of the growing divisions within the PRI. Both politicians have been the targets of resolutions to expel them from the PRI. Salinas continues to be identified with the economic crisis of the mid-1990s and with economic policies that promoted corruption and greed. Zedillo is also linked to those policies, but is primarily held responsible for the opposition's rise to power in this year's elections.

However, Salinas' recent attacks on Zedillo may have eased some pressure to purge the president from the party and brought renewed efforts to expel Salinas from the PRI. Similar efforts have failed in the past when party leaders dissuaded fellow members from proceeding with the expulsion of Salinas. This appears to be the case again this year.

"This was resolved by the party's Commission on Honor and Justice in 1996," PRI president Dulce Maria Sauri Riancho told party members. "As long as there are no new elements to proceed with this action, that prior decision stands."

Tabasco elections also sparks feuds within PRI

The feuds among PRI members have extended to the state level. In Tamaulipas state, PRI rank-and-file members have refused to recognize the newly installed party leadership and have called for new elections in November.

The party fractures are even more apparent in the state of Tabasco. Some party members, including outgoing Gov. Roberto Madrazo Pintado, have called for the expulsion of the PRI's former federal legislative leader Arturo Nunez Jimenez and other legislators for endorsing Raul Cesar Ojeda of the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) in the recent gubernatorial election.

Nunez and other PRI members in Tabasco have struck back at Madrazo, filing their own motion to expel the outgoing governor from the party. The resolution accuses Madrazo of violating party rules and employing "anti-democratic" practices in the state.

Electoral authorities awarded a narrow victory to the PRI in the Tabasco election, but the results have been officially challenged by opposition parties (see SourceMex, 2000-10-18).

The opposition parties, which have appealed their case to the state electoral tribunal (Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federacion, TEPJF), claim they have enough evidence that Madrazo not only manipulated the vote by bribing and coercing voters, but also that outright fraud was committed by adding unauthorized names to voter rolls and manipulating the computer system used to count the votes.

At least some electoral officials agree that the election was sufficiently tainted to warrant annulling the results.

"We do not have sufficient elements to declare any candidate the winner," said Joaquin Diaz Esnaurrizar, a member of the Instituto Electoral de Tabasco (IET). Diaz has called for new elections.

Madrazo's questionable tactics in supporting his hand- picked candidate Manuel Andrade and the smaller-than- anticipated margin of victory could sink the outgoing governor's aspirations to become party president.

Madrazo has attempted to portray himself as the one PRI member who could unite various factions of the party. But many party faithful resent the Tabasco governor for his negative campaign tactics while seeking the PRI nomination for the July presidential elections. The nomination was eventually won by Francisco Labastida, who was backed by most of the party establishment (see SourceMex, 1999-11-10).

Some PRI members are concerned that a party led by Madrazo could have difficulty forging alliances with the PRD in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate in a center-left coalition to serve as a counterpoint to Fox's pro-business policies. PRD Sen. Demetrio Sodi de la Tijera has already served notice that his party could not in good conscience enter into any legislative accords with a Madrazo-led PRI.

If the PRI's narrow victory in Tabasco is allowed to stand, it would only be the second important race won by the party this year. The PRI previously won municipal and state legislative elections in Veracruz state in September (see SourceMex, 2000-09-13).

The most significant loss for the PRI was the presidential race on July 2, which Fox of the Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) won by a comfortable margin (see SourceMex, 2000-07-05). The PRI also lost gubernatorial races in Morelos and Guanajuato in July and in Chiapas in August (see SourceMex, 2000-07-05, 2000-08-23).

The PRI's next test will be the gubernatorial race in Jalisco state on Nov. 12. But even here the PRI's fortunes appear to have taken a downturn. Despite widespread criticism of the authoritarian policies of PAN Gov. Alberto Cardenas, recent polls show the center-right party is gaining the upper hand in the race.

The latest public opinion survey, conducted in early October by Grupo Reforma, showed 52% support for Francisco Ramirez Acuna of the PAN, compared with only 37% for Jorge Arana of the PRI. An earlier poll conducted in August showed Ramirez held only an 11-point advantage over Arana.

PRI loses credibility with final report on Colosio killing

Other recent developments have also served to discredit the PRI. One was the release of the "final" report on the 1994 assassination of PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, which said there was no evidence to override the original theory that a lone assailant killed Colosio during a campaign rally in Tijuana (see SourceMex, 1994-03-30).

In this report, released in mid-October, PGR investigators said they could uncover no evidence to implicate anyone in Colosio's assassination beyond convicted gunman Mario Aburto Martinez.

"There has been no impunity in the investigation into the homicide of Luis Donaldo Colosio," special prosecutor Luis Raul Gonzalez told a press conference.

The investigators said their final report was based on nearly 2,000 interviews and more than 68,000 pages of evidence obtained from witnesses, experts, and suspects.

But the report, which officially closes the books on the case, is not expected to convince many Mexicans. In many public opinion polls, Mexicans overwhelmingly support the theory that Colosio was the victim of a conspiracy, which could have included high-level officials of the PRI. At least one theory suggests former president Salinas may have had a hand in the assassination, or at least had far more knowledge of the plot than he has been willing to admit.

"[The PGR] might as well have thrown the money used for this investigation in the trash," said columnist Julio Hernandez Lopez. "I don't believe it, and the majority of Mexicans don't believe it."

President-elect Fox has promised to keep the investigation alive through the transparency commission that will be established in his administration. "The commission will re-establish the legitimacy of Mexican institutions and give people clear evidence of accountability in their country," said Fox adviser Adolfo Aguilar Zinser. (Sources: Time, 10/08/00; The Dallas Morning News, 09/22/00, 10/08/00, 10/12/00; The News, 10/13/00; Siempre, 10/19/00; The Washington Post, 10/09/00, 10/21/00; Los Angeles Times, 10/10/00, 10/12/00, 10/21/00; Associated Press, 10/08/00, 10/10/00, 10/13/00, 10/18/00, 10/22/00; Proceso, 10/15/00, 10/22/00; Reuters, 10/08/00, 10/10/00, 10/11/00, 10/17/00, 10/18/00, 10/23/00; El Financiero, 10/12/00, 10/18/00, 10/23/00; The New York Times, 10/08/00, 10/19/00, 10/24/00; Notimex, 10/09-11/00, 10/23/00, 10/24/00; Reforma, 10/10- 13/00, 10/17/00, 10/18/00, 10/23/00, 10/24/00; Novedades, 10/10-13/00, 10/17/00, 10/23/00, 10/24/00; El Economista, 10/10-13/00, 10/23/00, 10/24/00; Excelsior, 10/12/00, 10/18/00, 10/23/00, 10/24/00; El Universal, 10/10-13/00, 10/16/00, 10/17/00, 10/19/00, 10/20/00, 10/23-25/00; La Jornada, 10/10-13/00, 10/17/00, 10/20/00, 10/23-25/00; CNI en Linea, 10/12/00, 10/18/00, 10/23-25/00)
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Publication:SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico
Date:Oct 25, 2000
Words:2003
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