HOW SERIOUS WAS MEXICO'S NEAR COLLAPSE FOR THE U.S. FINANCIAL MARKETS AND FOR
THE WORLD ECONOMY?
|James R. Jones has been
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico since august 1993. |
Well I think that if President Clinton hadn't shown the courage to put together
the financial assistance package that there would have been a global recession
by now. My sense from my experience in the financial community is that the
money, investment would have dramatically flowed from the developing markets to
safe investments, and that would have triggered a serious recession starting in
the developing - emerging markets, which would have come back to bite the
SO IT'S POSSIBLE THAT CARLOS SALINAS'S POLITICAL AMBITION TO BE THE FIRST
PRESIDENT WHO DIDN'T DEVALUE THE PESO COULD HAVE TOUCHED OFF A WORLD WIDE
DEPRESSION OR RECESSION?
Well I think once the devaluation hit and once the flight of money occurred in
Mexico, it would have occurred in other emerging markets and I think that would
have created a global recession. The only thing that prevented that was to
reinstill the confidence which was done by President Clinton's financial
DRUG TRAFFICKING HAS BECOME A TOP PRIORITY OF THIS EMBASSY. WHY?
Well it's very simple. That when we succeeded as a government in closing off
the enormous lanes of narco trafficking from Colombia, etc. to the United
States through the Caribbean there was only one other natural route to take and
that's through Mexico. It started growing within the last 5, 6, 7 years and
when President Zedillo came in he showed a real willingness and a desire to put
a stop to it, to disrupt these narco trafficking organizations. And it was the
first real effort and a cooperative effort between our two countries to work
together to defeat narco traffickers. And so President Zedillo says it's the
number one national security problem for Mexico, we obviously believe it's a
very important security problem for the United States.
IS IT A NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE?
Well just stability, national security, trade. Every element of the
relationship is very intense and very important between the United States and
Mexico. So when they had their problems it had an effect on the United States.
If Mexico is in a situation where it can't get out from under this deep problem
that it has it affects massive immigration to the United States, it affects
corruption, it affects narco trafficking, it affects trade markets, it affects
the whole gamut of our relationship.
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT PRESIDENT ZEDILLO DID WHICH WAS A BREAK WITH THE PAST
WAS TO APPOINT AN ATTORNEY-GENERAL, ANTONIO LOZANO WHO WAS INDEPENDENT OF THE
AND YOU'VE COMMENTED IN THE PAST THAT THIS LED TO THE GREATEST COOPERATION
BETWEEN THE U.S. AND MEXICO IN 30 YEARS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT. BUT NOW HE'S BEEN
As I said after he left office, and as Attorney General Reno said, we had a
very good relationship. We had confidence in him, we believed in his honesty,
we believed in the direction he was going. President Zedillo obviously felt he
was not moving fast enough, that these high profile cases were not being
concluded. The investigations were sort of being ridiculed in the Mexican press
and the Mexican people were having a loss of confidence in those investigations
and the Zedillo administration felt it would be better to get someone else in.
That's an internal decision.
YOU DON'T SEE IT AS A STEP BACKWARD?
No I don't see it as a step backward. Actually Attorney General Madraso and
former attorney-general Lozano both have our confidence and both have the
confidence of our justice department and we hope that the reasons for this will
actually materialize and that is even more progress in fighting corruption and
BUT.... THE FIRING OF ANTONIO LOZANO, IT'S NOT A STEP BACKWARD?
......The one thing we were concerned about, and we're satisfied that this is
not the case, was that this event was a signal that there would be less
cooperation, less vigorous enforcement of the law, less vigorous efforts to go
after drug traffickers and we do not believe that's the case.
THE GENERAL ASSESSMENT IS THAT THESE CARTELS ARE OPERATING, --THAT IS THE ONE
OUT OF JUAREZ AND THE ONE IN TIJUANA--WITH RELATIVE IMPUNITY TODAY.
I don't totally agree with that. I think they have grown and they've
established networks both in the United States and in Mexico. The fact of the
matter is actions are being taken. We really only had this good cooperative
effort to jointly go after these cartels both in the United States and Mexico
since President Zedillo was elected. And so we're talking basically about a
two year program and at the time he came in, they didn't have the legal tools,
they didn't have evidentiary use of wiretapping, they didn't have witness
protection programs, they didn't have conspiracy laws, they didn't have the
money laundering criminal statutes. They now have those. They're in the process
of getting the technical equipment to be better investigators. And so we're
only talking about roughly a two year period in which we've been able to go
after them. Having said that, there has been some success. Are we satisfied?
MANY OF THE INVESTIGATIONS THAT HAVE GONE ON SUBSEQUENTLY - THE ARREST OF RAUL
SALINAS IN PARTICULAR, TOUCHED OFF ALL KINDS OF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIONS,
AND THE INCREASING EFFORT OF OUR GOVERNMENT TO ASSIST THE MEXICANS AND DEVELOP
OUR OWN INVESTIGATIONS. IT'S OUR INFORMATION THAT'S BEGINNING TO DEVELOP
TANGIBLE EVIDENCE THAT MAY IN FACT LINK RAUL SALINAS TO DRUG MONEY.
I think if that's the case they just have to prosecute.
YOU'RE NOT AWARE OF THOSE INVESTIGATIONS?
I'm not aware of the status of these investigations because they're supposed
to be kept confidential until they're brought into the public record which is
the right way to do it. I do know that there is a vigorous investigation and
that we're cooperating in every way possible to determine that question as to
whether or not there's an evidentiary tie-in to drug money. And I know from our
point of view and I believe from the Mexican point of view, they're going to
continue that vigorous investigation until they get to the root of it
THE SWISS HAVE EXPRESSED A CERTAIN DEGREE OF DISENCHANTMENT WITH THE UNITED
STATES. THEY SAY THAT THEY HAVE SEEN SOME OF THE EVIDENCE THE U.S. GOVERNMENT
HAS GATHERED - FOR THE SWISS THE NEED IS TO NOT ONLY SEIZE THE MONEY BUT KEEP
IT AND THEY ARE LOOKING FOR MORE COOPERATION FROM THE UNITED STATES BECAUSE
THEY SAY THAT WE DO HAVE THE INFORMATION THAT CAN PUT RAUL SALINAS TOGETHER
WITH VARIOUS DRUG CARTEL OPERATIONS.
I don't know specifically about the Swiss complaint. I do know that in the area
based upon past times in government, in years past, that it is not unusual that
law enforcement agencies of different countries have difficulty working
together and that stems from their domestic laws and various things like that.
One of the things I'm concentrating on is how our law enforcement agencies can
cooperate with Mexico in a common goal of defeating and disrupting narco
trafficking and we are making substantial progress in that.
RECENTLY PRESIDENT ZEDILLO HAS PUT THE ARMY ON TO THE STREET IN MEXICO AND
INTO VARIOUS LAW ENFORCEMENT ROLES.
---- IS THAT A GOOD SIGN, A BAD SIGN?
Well, what President Zedillo has said, and has said publicly about the
corruption in the civilian law enforcement agencies is that it has to be
cleaned up and that it has to be made more professional. And he has said in the
interim he wants the best possible people to try to start this clean-up
process, and he has confidence in the leadership of the military of defense
here in Mexico.
He said repeatedly this is not a permanent situation, that this is part of the
transition and he trusts these people to be able to bring some order out of the
chaos and some discipline and some ethics. That is their mission. Obviously if
you would say this is going to be carried to total militarization and if we
felt that this was going to be carried to the total militarization of Mexico
that would concern Mexicans, it would concern everybody. That is not what is
what we see.
BUT THE DANGER IS, ISN'T IT, THAT THE ARMY WILL BECOME AS CORRUPT AS THE LAW
ENFORCEMENT APPARATUS HAS BECOME?
President Zedillo has said that himself, that it is very important that you
develop an elite honest, professional civilian law enforcement apparatus
because anybody that's fighting the kind of money that exists in narco
trafficking is subject to corruption and he doesn't want his military corrupted
THE NEW YORK TIMES DID A STORY ABOUT A FORMER U.S. GOVERNMENT INFORMANT NAMED
GUILERMO GONZALES CALDERONI, WHO APPARENTLY, ACCORDING TO MY SOURCES, GOT SOME
OF OUR TAX MONEY WHILE HE WAS IN THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT. IN THE ARTICLE IT SAYS
THAT IN A MEETING WITH PRESIDENT SALINAS SOON AFTER MEXICO REQUESTED GONZALES'S
EXTRADITION, AMBASSADOR JAMES JONES REFERRED IN GENERAL TERMS TO GONZALES'S
CHARGES, THAT IS, THAT THE WHOLE REGIME WAS CORRUPT. GONZALES CALDERONI HAS SO
MUCH BAD STUFF ON YOUR ADMINISTRATION THAT IT COULD BRING DOWN YOUR GOVERNMENT,
JONES TOLD PRESIDENT SALINAS, ACCORDING TO THE OFFICIAL.
I'm not sure who that official was. I think Mexico clearly wanted -
DID YOU TALK TO PRESIDENT SALINAS ABOUT GONZALES CALDERONI'S INFORMATION?
First of all I would never comment on any private conversation I had with any
president, of our country or their country. I think what I was trying to say is
that we were trying to determine the motives of Mexico's desire for
extradition. It is our best judgment that the government of Mexico believed
that he was dishonest, that he needed to be brought to justice.
THIS IS GONZALES CALDERONI?
Gonzales Calderoni and they wanted him back there to bring him to justice.
Clearly he would be a very high profile case and so if they tried to do
something that was extra legal, it would have - it would have not been easily
hidden. So on that basis, our justice department worked and tried to help in
that extradition but it didn't occur.
IS IT POSSIBLE THAT IT'S CORRECT THAT YOU IMPLIED TO PRESIDENT SALINAS THAT
THIS COULD HAVE BROUGHT HIS GOVERNMENT DOWN?
Well Calderoni I think had said all those kinds of things publicly.
WHICH JUST BRINGS ME THEN TO ANOTHER QUESTION. THE SWISS POINT OUT TO US THAT
THEY SEIZED THIS MONEY IN SWITZERLAND BASED UPON COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE U.S.
GOVERNMENT CONCERNING INFORMATION THAT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT HAD ABOUT RAUL
SALINAS'S CONNECTIONS TO VARIOUS GULF CARTEL MEMBERS - DRUG CARTEL MEMBERS.
I think that's the kind of question you're going to have to ask out of
Washington because that wouldn't have come out of Mexico.
APPARENTLY THE COMMUNICATION CAME OUT OF THIS EMBASSY DIRECTLY TO BERN.
I'm not aware of it.
DOES THE U.S. GOVERNMENT HAVE INFORMATION THAT WOULD LINK THE SALINAS FAMILY TO
I'm not sure - there are all kinds of things that are given in terms of both
rumors and speculation and it's possible but I don't know for sure.
WOULD YOU BE SURPRISED IF CARLOS SALINAS RETURNS TO MEXICO?
I would be surprised quite frankly, or at least if he returns in the near