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carlos salinas

(Excerpted from Bordering on Chaos - Guerrillas, Stockbrokers, Politicians and Mexico's Road to Prosperity. By Andres Oppenheimer. First published by Little, Brown & Company. Reprinted with permission of International Creative Management, Inc. Copyright (c)1996 by Andres Oppenheimer. All rights reserved.

Attorney General Lozano Gracia faced an awkward task: telling President Zedillo that the mastermind of Pepe Ruiz Massieu's killing had been the former presidents brother. It was an accusation that Salinas, the man who had picked Zedillo for the presidency, would surely take as a personal attack on him. As opposed to the Ruiz Massieu brothers, who had been distant from one another, Raul and Carlos Salinas were as close as brothers could be. They were the oldest of five children by former Commerce and Industry minister Raul Salinas Lozano, and they were inseparable.

Raul, who as firstborn was honored with carrying his father's first name, was only one year and seven months older than Carlos. As children, they shared the same room, went to the same elementary and high schools, took piano lessons together, and even shared the burden of a childhood tragedy: When Raul had just turned five and Carlos was three years old, they had together with an eight-year-old friend killed the family maid with a .22-caliber rifle.

According to December 18, 1951, Mexico City newspapers, the children had "executed' the twelve-year-old maid, named Manuela, with the rifle, which their father had left loaded in a closet. The published reports, which had mysteriously disappeared from Mexican libraries by the time Salinas had become a public figure, said that it was not entirely clear which of the youngsters had pulled the trigger. The children had been playing war games, and Manuela was condemned to death. They had asked her to get down on her knees, and one of them had shot her.

"Carlos, when asked what had happened, said, 'I killed her with one shot. I m a hero,' the daily El Universal said at the time. La Prensa lashed out against "the irresponsibility of a father who having children under age, allowed them to get near a .22 caliber rifle." It said the children's crushed mother, Margarita Salinas Lozano, was spending the day and night at the police station next to the children, "who, totally ignorant of the intense drama they had caused, were running around last afternoon along the corridors of the Eighth Delegation police station."

In the end, however, the incident was ruled an accident. nobody was ever charged, and the later destruction or forced removal of the old newspaper copies from libraries throughout Mexico would raise questions as to whether the shooting had ever taken place. During Salinas's presidency a flattering Salinas biography written by Nicaragua's former Sandinista Interior minister, Tomas Borge, a frequent recipient of the Mexican president's generosity, told the story but pinned the blame on the eight-year-old friend of the Salinas brothers, who was presented as "the author of the accident." That had been the new official story until, once Salinas stepped down, the old Mexico City newspaper clippings materialized as mysteriously as they had disappeared and were reprinted by Mexican newspapers.

As teenagers, Raul and Carlos had taken horseback riding lessons together, as well as karate and guitar lessons. They vacationed together every year at their uncle Alfredo's ranch in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, where they would hunt and prepare for international horseback riding competitions. When Raul had finished high school at age seventeen, their father a cabinet minister by then had sent the two children and their sixteen-year-old cousin Guillermo on a trip to the United States and Europe.

The three had visited Washington, Chicago, Boston, and New York, and from there had traveled by ship to London to continue their travels through Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, and the Soviet Union. With Raul driving a Volvo they had rented in Spain, they shared the kind of youthful adventures that mark one for life. Back in Mexico, they went to collegeADRaul to study engineering, Carlos economicsADand were accepted together into Mexico's national steeple chase team, which took them to represent their country at a competition at New York's Madison Square Garden and at the 1971 Pan-American Games in Cali, Colombia. When Carlos graduated from Mexico's National Autonomous University (UNTAM) he did not dedicate his thesis to his parents, but to his older brother. His dedication read, "To Raul, companion of a hundred battles."

Raul did not seem to resent Carlos' s phenomenal career in government: In fact, he supported him all along. He performed sensitive business and political missions for himADsometimes under an assumed identity, as when he traveled abroad using a passport he had obtained with his picture and the phony name of Juan Guillermo Gomez GutierrezADand took care of family affairs.

When Adriana complained to her brothers that she was being mistreated by Pepe Ruiz Massieu and wanted to divorce him, it was Raul who had taken up her cause and offered legal advice and protection. As far as the family was concerned, the older brother, who had driven the young men's rented Volvo during their trip though Europe in the sixties, was still at the helm thirty years later.

"They were much more than brothers," said a former Salinas cabinet minister who was among his closest friends. "They were best friends." When the attorney general entered Zedillo's office at the presidential palace and laid on a desk a folder containing the charges against Raul Salinas de Gortari, the president was shocked, Lozano Gracia told me later. But Zedillo could not step back: He had promised in his inaugural speech to turn Mexico into a country of laws and end the impunity that corrupt members of his party had enjoyed for decades. Even if he had been tempted to look the other way, he was being prompted to act by an opposition-party attorney General who could turn against him in the future and accuse him of covering up for the former president, just as every previous PRI president had done for his predecessor. Besides, the Zedillo government was beset by economic problems and badly needed a galvanizing political issue to restore its popularity.

After listening stone-faced to the attorney general's report, Zedillo kept silent for a few seconds. Then, according to Lozano Gracia, he looked him straight in the eye and said, "Conforme a deprecho. Proceda!" -- Whatever the law dictates. Go ahead!"

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