Mexico: Murder Without Justice

Deposition of Raúl Salinas de Gortari

published in Epoca

Lessons of the Mexican Peso Crisis Foreign Relations, John C. Whitehead, Chairman, Marie-Josée Kravis, Project Director.

Report of an Independent Task Force sponsored by the Council on
Council on Foreign Relations, 45 pp., n. p.

The Mexican Shock: Its Meaning for the United States

by Jorge G. Castañeda
New Press, 271 pp., $13.00 (paper)

We have at last a certifiable official document which provides some information in the long scandal-ridden trial of Raúl Salinas de Gortari, currently identified as inmate number 0597-AJ-95 of the Mexican prison system. Until his arrest, in February 1995, he was somewhat less notorious—although well known where it counted—as the fun-loving, free-spending brother of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, president of Mexico from 1988 to December 1, 1994. Officially, it is only the former president’s older brother who is being judged, but the trial has really become an exorcism of the Salinato—the six dizzying, hopeful years in which Mexico was governed by Carlos Salinas and which ended in chaos and ruin.

In accordance with Mexico’s legal code, public information about the trial is limited, and consists mostly of brief declarations to the press by the accused’s lawyers and by his prosecutors, and of occasional leaks by the attorney general’s office, which is in charge of the case. Reporters cannot attend the trial itself. The document we now have before us is a transcript of sworn testimony by the president’s brother, in answer to questions presented last March by Swiss banking authorities regarding the money he deposited in their banks. The document was leaked (this time, perhaps, not by the attorney general) and then published in full in the July 8 issue of the newsweekly Epoca. It is not a particularly forthcoming declaration but, to the degree that it exists at all, it is immensely enlightening:

Question Number Nine: Who were your financial, commercial, et cetera partners in [the days when Raúl’s brother was in power]? Answer: …In this deposition I am not giving the name of these investors because I know that the Mexican authorities would use this information to proceed against investors who trusted me, and that they would even take advantage of this information for tax payment purposes….

Question Number Forty: Why is there no written documentation [of the terms of a $50-million loan made to Raúl Salinas by one of his business associates]? Answer: …Because these investors deposited the money for these loans out of their own accounts and not from their companies, and for them, as rich men, the concept of money is different from what it is for those who have to work for a salary.

As it happens, the one-time First Brother was not jailed on charges of fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, insider trading, embezzlement, or profiteering—all subjects the Swiss were interested in—but for something that does not come up in the 8,500-word transcript: murder. The Mexican attorney general’s office would like to convict Raúl Salinas of masterminding the killing of his former brother-in-law, José Francisco Ruiz Massieu. This murder, a central event in the recent turbulent history of Mexican politics, is itself part of such a complicated drama that a brief recapitulation might be helpful.

The victim, Ruiz Massieu, was not only a former member by marriage of the Salinas …

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