Carlos Salinas de Gortari
||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2010)|
53rd President of Mexico
December 1, 1988 – November 30, 1994
|Preceded by||Miguel de la Madrid|
|Succeeded by||Ernesto Zedillo|
|Born||Carlos Salinas de Gortari
April 3, 1948
Mexico City, Mexico
|Political party||Institutional Revolutionary Party|
|Religion||Roman Catholic|
Carlos Salinas de Gortari (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈkarlos saˈlinaz ðe ɣorˈtaɾi]) (born April 3, 1948) is a Mexican economist and politician affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) who served as President of Mexico 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.
Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano 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 with sympathizers and to seriously threaten the PRI, which had won all presidential elections since its inception in 1929. The Ministry of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación), 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 parties) to destroy without opening the electoral documentation. 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 a television interview in September 2005, Miguel de la Madrid acknowledged that the PRI lost the 1988 elections. However, he immediately clarified 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 as of 2005[update]) and the remarks being taken out of context by journalist Carlos Loret de Mola. Ex-president Miguel de la Madrid admitted that the elections had been rigged. 
Carlos Salinas' term made significant changes in the following areas:
- 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 again to 51.48%.
- During his term, the peso devalued from 2.65 MXP to 3.60 MXN per U.S. dollar 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 devalued from 4 per dollar to 7.2 in a single week due to the December Mistake.)
- The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), with the United States and Canada, was renegotiated.
- Arguably, Salinas might have favored a few of his closest friends, among them Carlos Slim, as many critics point out, in the same way he had favored Salinas Pliego with the privatization of Imevisión (later TV Azteca) over the rest of the bidders. All of those deals were flagrant corruption in the eyes of the majority of the Mexican population. As a result, the number of state-owned industries continued to drop, from approximately 600 in 1988 to a minimum of 250 in 1994.
The 1994 elections were the first to have international observers, and were considered, at that time, the fairest elections in the century, though not free of controversy. Salinas 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 during the Cristero War. The new laws also allowed churches to own their own buildings (which had been nationalized).
Election year and economic collapse
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 (OECD) in May 1994. It was known 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 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, 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 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 Zapatista uprising, the assassination of PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, and the assassination of José Francisco Ruiz Massieu, 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 and in charge of the investigation.
These events, together with the increasing current account deficit fostered by government spending, caused alarm among 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 $9 billion). The economically orthodox thing to do, in order to maintain the fixed exchange rate (at 3.3 pesos per dollar, within a variation band), would have been to sharply increase interest rates by allowing the monetary base to shrink, as dollars were being withdrawn from the reserves. Given the fact that it was an election year, whose outcome might have changed as a result of a pre-election-day economic downturn, the Bank of Mexico decided to buy Mexican Treasury Securities in order to maintain the monetary base, and thus prevent the interest rates from rising. This, in turn, caused an even more dramatic decline in the dollar reserves. These decisions aggravated the already delicate situation, to a point at which a crisis became inevitable and devaluation was only one of many necessary adjustments. Nonetheless, nothing was done during the last five months of Salinas’s administration even after the elections were held in July of that year. Ernesto Zedillo took office on December 1, 1994.
Soon after taking office, Zedillo announced that his government would let the fixed exchange rate band increase 15 percent (up to 4 pesos per US$), 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 unable to hold this line, and decided to let the exchange rate float. While experts agree that devaluation was necessary, some critics of Zedillo's 22-day-old administration argue that, although economically coherent, the way the crisis 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 United States, suffered an immediate hit, with mass industrial lay-offs and several suicides. 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 the flight until the following Monday, when it was too late.
Salinas faced widespread criticism in Mexico. He was widely blamed for the collapse of the economy and his privatization of several government-run businesses such as Telmex. 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.
Exile and Raúl Salinas controversies
Shortly after leaving office in 1994, Salinas staged a brief hunger strike to protest the arrest of his older brother Raúl Salinas de Gortari (see below) as well as the accusations of responsibility for the country's economic travails that his successor as President, Ernesto Zedillo, aimed at him. He abandoned his campaign, which had been backed by the United States, to become the Director-General of the World Trade Organization. He left Mexico for self-imposed exile and settled in Ireland. Beyond the disputes over responsibility for Mexico's economic problems, Salinas's reputation was to be further clouded by a series of controversies involving close family members.
In January 1999, after a four-year trial, Salinas's older brother Raúl Salinas de Gortari was convicted of ordering the murder of the PRI official (and Salinas brother-in-law) Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu and sentenced to 50 years in prison. In July 1999, an appeals court cut the sentence to 27 1/2 years. In June 2005 the conviction was overturned, and Raúl Salinas was freed
In November 1995, Raúl Salinas's wife, Paulina Castañón, and his brother-in-law, Antonio Castañón, were arrested in Geneva, Switzerland, after attempting to withdraw $84 million USD from an account owned by Raúl Salinas under an alias. Their capture led to the unveiling of a vast fortune spread around the world and amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, even though Raúl Salinas had never officially received an annual income of more than $190,000. A report by the U.S. General Accounting Office indicated that Raúl Salinas had transferred over $90 million out of Mexico into private bank accounts in London and Switzerland through a complex set of transactions between 1992 and 1994. In 2008 the government of Switzerland turned over $74 million, out of the $110 million in frozen bank accounts held by Raúl Salinas, to the government of Mexico. The Swiss Justice Ministry indicated that the Mexican government had demonstrated that $66 million of the funds had been misappropriated, and the funds, with interest, were returned to Mexico. The Salinas family would not receive back any of the frozen funds.
Salinas divorced his first wife soon after leaving office and married Ana Paula Gerard. He has six children: Cecilia, Emiliano and Juan Cristobal from his first marriage; Ana Emilia, Patricio and Mateo from his second marriage.
In the last years of Zedillo's term, Carlos Salinas returned to Mexico to announce the publication of his book, Mexico: The Policy and the Politics of Modernization. Written during his stay in Ireland and full of quotations from press articles and political memoirs, it defended his achievements and blamed Zedillo for the crisis that followed his administration. The book is 775 pages long, with about 200 pages of references.
One group of bank debtors 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 had already announced that he would donate a copy to each public library in the country.
As of May 2010, Salinas was still living in Dublin, Ireland. More recently he was spotted back in Mexico supporting the political campaign of the Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate for the 2012 presidential elections, Enrique Peña Nieto, according to Mexican journalists Francisco Cruz Jiménez and Jorge Toribio Montiel. Salinas also attended his son's civil wedding in Mexico City and promised to attend the subsequent religious wedding in late September.
- Camp, Roderic Ai (1995). Mexican Political Biographies, 1935–1993 (3 ed.). University of Texas Press. p. 641. ISBN 978-0-292-71181-5. Retrieved 2009-11-13.
- Valdés, Leonardo; Piekarewicz Sigal, Mina (1990). "La organización de las elecciones". In González Casanova, Pablo. México, el 6 de julio de 1988 : segundo informe sobre la democracia (in Spanish). Mexico City: Siglo Vientiuno Editores : Centro de Investigaciones Interdisciplinarias en Humanidades, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. ISBN 978-968-23-1651-7. OCLC 23953244. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
- Aguayo Quezada, Sergio (2008-01-16). "Las boletas" (in Spanish). Reforma. Retrieved 2009-04-19. "El 88 terminó siendo un detonante de la transición y caló muy hondo la ignominiosa quema de las boletas electorales de 1988 aprobada por el PRI y el PAN"
- "Perdió el PRI en el 88: De la Madrid" (in Spanish). Noticieros Televisa. Retrieved 2009-04-19. "No, más bien yo creo que la elección del 88 nos dejó otra serie de fenómenos, como la crisis económica que mi gobierno tuvo que afrontar con medidas de austeridad, con medidas que apretaron el bolsillo de la gente, yo creo que esa fue la razón por la que el PRI perdió las elecciones del 88, o por lo menos perdió una gran parte del electorado al que estaba acostumbrado"
- Barredas, Francisco (2005-09-20). "Refuta Bartlett declaraciones de Miguel de la Madrid" (in Spanish). Noticieros Televisa. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
- Thompson, Ginger (March 9, 2004). "Ex-President in Mexico Casts New Light on Rigged 1988 Election". The New York Times.
- Hufbauer and Schoot (2005)
- Hufbauer & Schott, 2005
- BBC. "Mexico frees ex-leader's brother". 10 June 2005. Accessed on 9/3/12 at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4079372.stm
- "Switzerland will return blocked Salinas funds to Mexico - swissinfo". Swissinfo.ch. 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
- "Cercano a Enrique Peña Nieto" (in Spanish). Carlos Salinas de Gortari: El padrino político de Enrique Peña Nieto. January 04, 2010. Retrieved April 10, 2012. "No lo digo yo. Lo dicen los periodistas Francisco Cruz Jiménez y Jorge Toribio Montiel en su libro "Negocios de familia: la biografía no autorizada de Enrique Peña Nieto y el Grupo Atlacomulco" publicado por editorial Planeta."
- Cruz, Francisco (2009). Negocios de Familia: la Biografía no Autorizada de Enrique Peña Nieto y el Grupo Atlacomulco (in Spanish) (11 ed.). Editorial Planeta. ISBN 978-607-07-0172-6. Retrieved 2012-04-10. "Enrique Peña Nieto se perfila como la carta más fuerte para enarbolar la candidatura presidencial del PRI en 2012. La trayectoria de Peña Nieto es también la de una gran familia: los apellidos Peña, Montiel, Nieto, Del Mazo, Fabela, González, Vélez, Sánchez y Colín, han dado al Estado de México seis gobernadores, todos ellos unidos por sólidos lazos familiares y de poder. Se han valido de la corrupción, compra de lealtades, imposiciones y otras maniobras similares para conservar y heredar el mando de generación en generación, a pesar de algunos intervalos. Como actual gobernador del Estado de México, Peña Nieto se ha convertido en la cabeza visible del Grupo Atlacomulco; su ascenso fue labrado escrupulosamente y está lejos de ser una obra del azar o una maniobra caprichosa de su antecesor Arturo Montiel. Negocios de familia desentraña la verdad detrás de la carismática figura de Peña Nieto y el entramado político para alcanzar la Presidencia de la República. La presencia cercana de Carlos Salinas de Gortari: llegó muy puntual al funeral de Enrique Peña del Mazo (padre de Peña Nieto), al velorio de Mónica Pretelini Sáenz, sus visitas secretas a la Casa de Gobierno, su asistencia a la toma de protesta de Peña Nieto."
- Salinas's book, print edition: Carlos Salinas de Gortari, México, un paso difícil a la modernidad (Mexico, a difficult step into modern times) Plaza & Janés, ISBN 84-01-01492-1.
- Mexico under Salinas, Mexico Resource Center, Austin, TX, by Philip L. Russell. ISBN 0-9639223-0-0
- (Spanish) Extended biography and presidential tenure by CIDOB Foundation
- (Spanish) Response of Manuel Bartlett to de la Madrid remarks.
Miguel de la Madrid
|President of Mexico
|Party political offices|
Miguel de la Madrid
|PRI presidential candidate
Luis Donaldo Colosio (assassinated)