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"The Cook"

     Tom Moore calls attention to the case of a Haitian child whose story, unlike that of Elian, has received very little attention. The reason is that the Elian story is really not about him but about Castro and US-Cuban relations. Often a minor character opens the floodgates of public opinion. Elian has received minimal attention in Mexico, where attention has been focused on a pathetic character named The Cook," whom few Americans have heard of. Today the whole TV newscast was devoted to him.
     "The Cook" (El cocinero), aka Luis Gabriel Valencia, worked as a cook in the restaurant where the TV star Paco Stanley had eaten before he was shot dead. It seemed to involve a drug gang, several of whose members were jailed. Apparently to keep him in a safe place, the Cook was taken to El Perote jail in Jalapa, the capital of Veracruz state. From there he was transferred to Puebla jail, where he was interviewed many times in odd circumstances.
     He first charged that the group in the Mexico City jail was responsible for the murder of Paco Stanley. He then changed his story, saying that the attorney general's office was behind it, which that office promptly denied. He then retracted this, and said he had been beaten in Perote jail to make him change his story. He showed his back to reveal the results of the beatings. He claimed to have received murder threats. Televisa carried out a poll asking viewers if they believed the Cook. A majority said they did not, but it was not clear what they did not believe.
     The whole scandal was really about the Mexican government. Was it tied in with the drug mafia? Two opposing groups had an interest in proving it was. The first was the city government, dominated by the leftist PRM, which wanted to discredit the PRI government of President Zedillo. The other was PAN presidential candidate Vicente Fox, a conservative whose chances of winning were greatly enhanced by the scandal.
     Both Elian and the Cook were bewildered by what had happened to them.

Ronald Hilton - 4/28/00