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New Revelations And New Pressure On Zedillo


International Business

NEW REVELATIONS--AND NEW PRESSURE ON ZEDILLO

While Carlos Salinas de Gortari lives in self-imposed exile in Dublin, new revelations in Mexico threaten to destroy everything he once stood for. Most of these involve his older brother, Raul, who is charged with masterminding a political murder and inexplicable enrichment. He denies the charges. The huge sums allegedly bestowed on Raul by Mexico's business Establishment are stoking public anger and cynicism. There is a growing belief that fat cats paid off Raul to win favors during Carlos Salinas' six-year term. Carlos Salinas has denied knowledge of any such scheme.

The stakes go beyond damage to Carlos Salinas' reputation. These revelations could discredit some of the Salinas administration's most impressive accomplishments, such as the privatization of state companies.

In the latest piece of sensational news, prominent businessman Ricardo Salinas Pliego now acknowledges that he received roughly $30 million from Raul. Salinas Pliego got the money at about the time he bought a state-run TV station, Television Azteca, from the government for $628 million. This news has aroused speculation that Raul is a sleeping partner in Azteca and that other privatization deals were fishy.

"NOT MY PARTNER." Salinas Pliego, who is not related to the Salinas brothers, insists that Raul gave him the money for investment. He says he bought Mexican stocks for Raul and then gave him the certificates. He says there was no connection to TV Azteca's privatization. "Raul Salinas de Gortari is not my partner, he has no shares, nor does he participate...in any company...I hold," said Salinas Pliego in a press release dated June 29.

When news of Raul's Swiss bank accounts broke last November, Carlos Salinas issued a statement saying that Raul should be "firmly punished" if guilty of any wrongdoing. Many Mexicans, though, find it hard to believe that the former President was unaware of Raul's shenanigans. He certainly was aware that Raul was engaged in some questionable business practices, a Salinas family source says.

That is why Carlos Salinas pushed Raul to take a "sabbatical" at the University of California at San Diego in 1992. But the source denies that Salinas knew about his brother's offshore bank accounts and the hundreds of millions of dollars deposited there. The source suggested that the former President is "very angry" with Raul for his "excesses."

Carlos Salinas says that he is willing to give testimony to Mexican investigators whenever they wish. But so far, he has not been summoned, something that many Mexicans find strange. "It seems obvious to me [that Carlos Salinas should testify] because this is a scandalous situation," says Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, president of the National Action Party, the leading opposition party.

Some observers believe President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon is proceeding cautiously for fear of unleashing a witch hunt that could affect influential members of the business community. One of Zedillo's aides counters that Attorney General Antonio Lozano Gracia has been given "free rein" to investigate the Raul Salinas corruption charges "to their full consequences. He can call anyone he wants to testify, including the former President." As public clamor to get to the bottom of the scandal builds, Carlos Salinas may soon get his chance to explain.By Geri Smith in Mexico City


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