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jose luis perez canchola

Jose Luis Perez Canchola is Vice President of the Mexican Academy of Human Rights.
ONE OF MEXICO'S WEALTHY CITIZENS, MR. JORGE HANK ROHN, TOLD US THAT CORRUPTION, SCANDAL IS NOTHING NEW. IT'S JUST THE MEDIA, GETTING EXCITED ABOUT SOME BAD NEWS.

Of course, bad news is around any area like this one, any big city. But no, we are talking about . . . attacking the institutions. There is attacking of the political government. There is attacking of public officials, like in Columbia, for example, and we don't want our scenario to become similar to Columbia's. In this city, every week one or two or three dead bodies appear around the city with signs of torture, with their hands tied, with plastic bags covering their faces, with shots in the head. That always happens. But these incidents happen to people that are not known to the public. Some of them are not identified. But when we talk about public officials, chiefs of police, or public lawyers, that's something else because they represent the law and they have to act to defend the interests of society. And if they are afraid, you can imagine how society reacts.

HOW MUCH OF THIS IS A LEGACY OF THE SALINAS ADMINISTRATION?

I think that his administration is very, very responsible for all this because the drug organizations moved around $40 billion a year during his administration. The economic crisis was less crude because of this money. The money laundering business was very strong in those years. Many politicians were involved with, and had family ties to, these drug lords, even some governors, senators, and deputies, in his administration. So I think that he is not only responsible for what is going on Mexico right now in moral and political terms, but also in historical terms.

WHAT MORAL MESSAGE WAS GIVEN BY THOSE YEARS, BY THE PRIVATIZATIONS, BY HAVING A BROTHER IN JAIL. YOU SPOKE OF MURDERS AND CONSPIRACIES.

Well that we were ruled by a group of bandits for six years. When Salinas took office only two families were billionaires in dollars. When he left office, 24 families were billionaires in dollars. That's a huge concentration of wealth and richness in this country. And at the same time, according to public figures, we ended the Salinas administration with 45 million Mexicans living in poverty. The Catholic church says there are 60 million Mexicans living in poverty because of the concentration of riches in this country. And only a few benefited from the economic policy of the Salinas administration.

AND WHAT IS YOUR PROGNOSIS FOR WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN IN MEXICO? ARE THINGS GOING TO GET BETTER?

Oh, I don't have an answer for that. The situation is so confusing. Of course I hope that the Mexican people will find a way out. And I think that as long as Washington supports this economic policy, and supports Zedillo with the same kind of policy, there is nothing much to do. The opposition in this country is disintegrating. The PAN, and the PRD are weak parties. This is the legacy of almost 70 years of a single party controlling all of public life in this country. So the unions are corrupt, the unions are part of the system. The church is divided. We don't trust the justice institutions. The rural areas are in crisis. For the next 15 years, according to the government, 11 million Mexican peasants will lose their jobs. So from the human rights perspective I don't see a solution to this scenario.

AN AMERICAN JUSTICE OFFICIAL WAS MORE OR LESS SAYING THE US IS REALLY ONLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE ECONOMIC AND TRADE ISSUES.... IS THAT HOW YOU SEE IT?

Well, the U.S. is always interested in business, investment, and profits, in the flow of goods. But this also has to do with people. I think that an economic policy that doesn't take the people into account is not a good economic policy, and that's the kind of policy Salinas enacted with the help of Washington. They know that Salinas didn't win the election in 1988. Inside the Mexican government, they know it. He knows he didn't win the election, and he became president against the will of millions and millions of Mexicans. I think that's another reason we are paying the consequences of this crisis.

NOW HIS SUPPORTERS WOULD SAY EVEN TODAY THAT HE MAY HAVE MADE SOME MISTAKES, BUT NONETHELESS HE DID MODERNIZE MEXICO, THAT THE TELEPHONE SYSTEM WORKS BETTER, THE BANKS ARE EVENTUALLY GOING TO BE BETTER.....

Only the economic elites are still behind him. But the ordinary businessmen are very much against him. You have to realize that from 1992 until now, an average of 500 companies shut their doors every month in this country because of the crisis, because of the banks and the bad economic situation in this country. So I think that he lost most of the support that he had in 90-91-92.

But the reality is that there is nothing he can do now to change this situation. It's a historical process and I think that Zedillo doesn't have the answers to all of this. They are still talking about foreign investments, and privatization, now with the railroad companies. They don't have other statements. They make the same kind of offers that Salinas made.

SALINAS IS IN SELF-PROCLAIMED EXILE IN IRELAND. DO YOU THINK HE COULD EVER COME BACK TO THIS COUNTRY?

I think not. He really is rejected by the majority of the Mexican people. Wherever he is seen, he is treated poorly--bad words, signals, in the Mexican style, you know. I think that in this country he is a not wanted person.

HOW DEEP IS THAT RESENTMENT?

From the business people to the workers. There is something all these people understand, that he is very responsible for the economic situation. He created a dream starting from a false position.

GIVE ME A SENSE OF HOW SERIOUS THE DEVALUATION WAS IN 1994. WHAT WERE THE CONSEQUENCES?

Well, the majority of the Mexican people lost the wealth that they had accumulated by working for the past 20 years. The banks received 8% of the gross national product so as to resist the bankruptcy. At the same time, 4% was invested in education, and less than 4% in public health. So a few groups of bankers received more support from public money than the whole education and public health system. This also created a concentration of public money. And more than half the jobs that were created during the Salinas administration were lost in a few months of 1995. So that's why the sentiment against this politic is very strong right now.



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